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Powelectrics Blog


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Practical understanding leads to advanced architecture

At Powelectrics our solutions have been based on practical understanding and thanks to our application knowledge has led to us having a portfolio that enables us to deploy our solutions into a wide range of industries in many different ways.

By understanding how sensors work and how standard machine interfaces are presented then we are able to quickly and easily get data flowing with limited technical input from our clients. For example, rather than build a telemetry device that with a built in sensor, we can work with any sensor be it cheap or expensive, contact or non contact, ATEX or not, for big tanks or small tanks, underground or overground.The same goes for temperature and pressure and flow and many more parameters.

It doesn't stop there - the flexibility we have extends to how the data is presented, interfaced and delivered. From a quick email alert to customised web site, from excel imports via a macro to a bespoke data feed, or if you have a PC or Mac, a smartphone or a tablet.


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Accuracy, Repeatability & Stability - what really matters..?

Earlier this week we fitted a couple of level sensors to some pretty large kerosene tanks, each containing 200,000 litres. The sensors have an accuracy of 0.5% and then the telemetry device we use to connect these sensors to our internet platform have the same. There will be errors in the calibration as well, such as measuring the tank and the specific gravity of the product (we are using pressure sensors and therefore the density matters). It's pretty fair to assume then that you'd expect the system to be 1% or more out, so about 2,000 litres.

I looked at some data earlier as we are recording data every hour so we can see how much the readings vary over time. This was easy for me to do even though the tanks are more than 100 miles away from me as we have internet connected sensors so I could jump online and see the readings securely via our web portal. Over 48 hours we saw a change of just 321 litres, or 0.16% of the tanks capacity, so what does this mean..?

First we need to understand the different terms you often hear associated to the performance of instrumentation and sensors:

Repeatability deals with how consistent a particular sensor is against itself. It describes the ability of a sensor to provide the same result, under the same circumstances, over and over again.

Stability deals with the degree to which sensor characteristics remain constant over time. Stability is also known as drift, can be due to components aging or a decrease in sensitivity of components.
 
Accuracy relates to the uncertainty relative to a reference.During calibration, measurements are compared to a reference and accuracy is determined by performing a general expanded uncertainty analysis.

So what we have with this tank level monitoring system is excellent repeatability. In order to determine the accuracy then we would need to calibrate against a known source. Not easy but regular comparisons against a flowmeter either putting product into or out of the tank can give this. You then need to consider the calibration of the flowmeter, which opens up a whole new can of worms.


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Telemetry, space & time

 Watching ‘Martian’ last night with the wonderful Matt Damon reminded me of when I first heard about telemetry. I was in an instrumentation and communications lecture as part of my degree and we were looking at different modulation techniques. As I was studying Physics it was appropriate to look at relevant examples, and as the place I was studying at had a strong Astro-physics department then getting data back from space probes, rockets and satellites was the subject of the lecture. The telemetry word appears quite a bit in ‘Martian’ and not only was the movie fantastic but it also got me thinking about how telemetry has changed over time. More specifically over the time I’ve been involved with it and none more so though now, with the internet of things (for the industrial internet of things) showing signs of exploding.

Instrumentation and sensing has always fascinated me and no more so than now as the data we are gathering is being chewed and mixed with other data to deliver incredible benefits. Several months ago we introduced a plug in for Microsoft Excel meaning clients could get ‘live’ and historical data from our platform and start to analyse it themselves. They could look for trends and patterns, relationships between parameters across different devices. We see this as an important first stage in implementing an IOT solution.

We are also seeing far more collaboration as we work with more sensor suppliers and more IOT software solution platforms. As the IOT develops we will all need each other, just as Matt Damon needed his fellow astronauts in the end.


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Do It Yourself Internet of Things

As we deploy more and sensors and gateways into more diverse applications it is becoming apparent that the users don’t always know what to expect from the data. How does the differential pressure across a filter relate to when the filter needs changing? How does the temperature of a bearing vary with load and what is the impact of wear and tear? By getting data and then analysing so much more can be understood, and it is sometimes possible to use just a few sensors to get a large amount of useful information.

The processes, machines, vehicles, storage tanks or whatever else is being monitored are usally best understood by our clients and giving them the tools to 'play' with their data, investigating relationships, creating bespoke reports from calculated fields, looking at averages, maximums, minimums, comparisons and counts helps them get to a point where they can benefit quicker. To facilitate this we have developed a plug in for Microsoft excel meaning they can have a spreadsheet with ‘live’ and historical data from any number of devices and they can start to build up the formulae and reports themselves. Many users have good skills with excel and are loving the freedom this new tool brings. Thanks to the power of excel then we have been able to create reports, for example, on the number of deliveries made to tanks, the typical delivery size and how this relates to the size of the tank, so the clients can analyse where they can make improvements.

This approach suits small scale roll outs or can be used as a way of defining requirements before committing to a more involved software development. When coupled with the Metron hardware & software platform, which can take signals from any sensor anywhere and make it accessible securely via the internet, then getting reliable, accurate and useable sensor data has never been easier. From sensor to excel, in a proven, easy, flexible and affordable way giving you do it yourself internet of things.


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Knowledge is Power

The phrase was used in Arabic texts as far back as the tenth century. Knowledge has always been a strategic asset, enabling better control and decision making, but whilst the concept is ancient, the way we gather data, the sheer volume of data and our ability to share and analyse data proliferates at a bewildering pace!

‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) and Machine to Machine (M2M) solutions collect, manage and organise information from a huge range of products and machines that are connected via the internet. This information often comes from sensors.

Powelectrics offer telemetry which interfaces with sensors, making data available via web portals and API’s, enabling data to be cost effectively collected from products and machines wherever they may be. We offer a range of hardware solutions and a powerful software platform. You can start receiving data within minutes of opening the box, eliminating development and integration costs.

  • Reliable, Proven, Secure, Flexible and Affordable

  • No Development, No Coding

  • Easily Branded Software and Hardware

  • Setup With a Simple Wizard

Compatible With Tens of Thousands of Sensors

Thousands of award-winning ‘Metron’ devices are deployed globally, in sectors including chemical and petrochemical, food production and distribution, transport, security, public transport, water and waste, environmental and factory automation.

Metron devices accept any sensor offering a 4-20 mA or 0-10 volt output, offering a ‘plug and play’ solution for monitoring tens of thousands of sensors, including flow, level, pressure, temperature, vibration, noise, wind speed & direction, humidity, pH and many more. Our technology supports analogue, digital and pulse inputs.

Flexible, Reliable and Affordable

Metrons are exceptionally flexible, able to use external power, internal battery or solar cell, meaning they can be used even in truly remote environments. Devices control power to the sensors and are remotely programmable, with a simple wizard for setup.

Metrons have four inputs, so you can use one device and SIM to monitor up to four sensors. The integral display helps with setup and test in-situ and units can be remotely configured via our software. Metron technology replaces chart recorders, data loggers, digital displays & costly local gauges and devices are weatherproof.

Metrons offer integral low-cost GSM/GPRS communications with intelligent power management that maximises battery life and signal, to ensure that communication is as reliable as possible.

See Your Data Wherever and Whenever You Need It

Powelectrics data collection and viewing platform, Metron View, is a web-based data logger, offering real-time data monitoring, via your preferred browser, direct to your computer, tablet or smart phone.

  • See graphs and tables quickly online.

  • Receive user-defined alerts if thresholds are breached.

  • Change configuration via the web - tag names, scaling, data frequency and more

  • Export data into other platforms

Metron View can be badged with corporate colours and logos, so it appears as your own. It can be customised, delivering bespoke data displays, reports and data exports to suit the way you work. Unusually, Powelectrics even offer an open protocol, with the API in place so that our solutions can be easily integrated into other control and management systems. Customers may also host our software on their own servers. “Micro sites” can be created quickly and affordably to present data in your preferred format.

Diverse Applications

Tank Level - Metron solutions accommodate any shape or height of tank – gas, liquids, powders and granules, cutting logistics costs, enhancing service agreements, helping tie customers in and preventing theft, run-outs and safety breaches. Projects include diesel, heating oil, LPG, milk, AdBlue, animal feeds, construction additives and waste.

Condition Monitoring – Metrons are used to monitor essential plant & machinery to give early warning of failure and prevent costly stoppages. Projects include monitoring temperature, humidity and vibration on airport x-ray units, monitoring level, pressure and flow in pumping stations and temperature in server rooms, cell towers, food stores and even ice-rinks!

Public Transport- Projects include monitoring fuel levels, bearing and rail temperatures, battery chargers, whistle boards and water dosing. A solution used by Virgin Trains incorporation our technology was highly commended at the 2015 Modern Railway Innovation Awards!

Counting – Metrons have been used to measure the number of people visiting showrooms and using public footpaths.

Public Safety- Metrons are used to verify that klaxons sound at pedestrian crossings when trains pass and that beacons are warning people when firing ranges are in use.

Powelectrics Metron telemetry solutions offer the simplicity, flexibility, reliability and affordability to be considered for an extensive and expanding range of applications. Please contact us on 01827 310666 to discuss your applications with a product specialist and arrange a demo of what our solutions can offer your business.

 


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We're going underground with the IOT

This week a colleague of mine was invited to undertake some tests to see how our devices worked when installed under manhole covers. We were told to expect poor results as others had struggled in the past but the device performed really well. We were presented with 3 types of manholes (light, medium & heavy) and we did some testing with both GSM (GPRS) and 169MHz radio equipment.

Things went really well with us being able to communicate from beneath all three types on manholes with both GSM (GPRS) devices and the 169MHz radio kit.

So why is it we have succeeded where others have failed..? First of all with the GSM (GPRS) equipment we have a well tuned antenna but more importantly we do some clever power management making sure the GSM device gets plenty when it needs it making communications as robust as is possible.

Frequency also has an impact. The higher the frequency the waves the harder they find it to burrow through objects such as manhole covers. Different GSM operators use different bands. We use multi network sim cards to give us the best performance possible. The frequency is also why the 169MHz radio equipment has worked so well.