Transmitting data from sensors and test instruments improves processes, reduces cost and liberates resources.
Smart phones can now be used as sophisticated data terminals, gathering and processing information from a wide range of instruments and sensors as well as enabling engineers to get creative about how they monitor and communicate vital process parameters.
A flood of applications have already been developed for a number of industries including water pipe leakage monitoring, electric motor health assessments and industrial thermography but as the technology gains a foothold, wider usage across other applications is always on the horizon.
Bringing data to engineers
Using wireless technology to connect a measuring instrument to a router, the data can then be held in the cloud and accessed using software on a portable computer or an app on a tablet or mobile smart phone.
This enables real time data to be analysed from any location and removes the need for engineers to travel to the locations where the instruments are sited. The biggest advantage of this is the rapid recognition of problems with equipment and faster remediation.
Accessing the data can be as simple as downloading and configuring a smart phone app from the Apple iStore or Google Play. A pioneer in the use of mobile technology for accessing instrumentation data is Fluke, whose Industrial Tools division has developed the Connect system which transfers measurement data from test tools to the cloud. The system includes the Connect app which gives engineers access to records, logs and graphical trend analysis reports all on their mobile devices.
Analysing trends in instrument data is a fundamental part of monitoring the health of rotating equipment including electric motors. By measuring vibration levels over a period of time, changes in vibration patterns can be detected that can indicate deterioration of bearings that will eventually lead to failure. Trend analysis provides engineers with the information they need to plan preventive maintenance before a failure occurs.
The latest vibration meter from Fluke automatically stores measurement information securely in the cloud which can be accessed by maintenance engineers using the Connect app from any mobile device using the iOS or Android platform.
Real time pipe leak detection
An innovative use of wireless data transmission for preventive maintenance has been developed by SebaKMT, part of the Megger Group, for detecting leaks in water supply networks. The system involves the use of noise loggers which are attached to pipes within the network at critical locations and transmit data at daily intervals to a server using the mobile telephone network.
This technique replaces the previous reactive approach which was only used for the detection of existing leaks. Using wireless technology, water authorities can monitor the pipe network constantly and take preventive action when required or react more quickly when a leak unexpectedly occurs, thus reducing water service outages and contributing to a reduction in UK network leakages that some estimates put at 3000 million litres per year.
More can be read about this innovation in our article Detecting water leaks the smart way
Value and convenience
Previously largely confined to the domain of performing measurements in isolated, difficult or dangerous locations, wireless instrumentation has more recently become available to a wider range of applications and is justifiable in terms of both value and convenience.
The value comes from the ability to monitor conditions remotely and in real time, thus saving on the considerable cost of human resources. Constantly connected test and measurement instruments are also conveniently always in-situ, providing engineers with the data they need whenever they want it, regardless of what parameter they want to record.