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Industrial IoT - Measurement technology moves into the cloud

Much more than a mailbox

What exactly is the Cloud? The actual cloud idea means to provide certain services beyond simple data storage. Cloud technology thus opens up completely new possibilities for measurement technology, especially for mobile and decentralized data acquisition. For example, measurements from vehicles can be processed in the cloud just as easily as meteorological data from weather stations or the condition of pumps in the desert. Wherever failures have to be avoided as far as possible, measuring in the cloud helps to take countermeasures before damage occurs.

Typical examples of already everyday cloud applications are mail data storage or office programs that are available as "software as a service" (SaaS). Where this takes place physically and where the data is located, the user usually does not know. In terms of technology, it makes no difference whether they are so-called public, private or hybrid clouds. Even if the server is located in an adjoining room, the type of access, not the location of the server, basically determines whether it is public or private. Of course, it can be safer to have the server in your own access.

A "measurement technology in the cloud" goes beyond the storage of measurement data, intermediate storage and retrieval. It is about transporting data live to another location. In an industrial plant, the components are typically connected via a fieldbus system or, increasingly, via an Industrial Ethernet using copper cables or fiber optic cables and then forwarded via an intelligent gateway or already analyzing monitoring system.

For remote or even mobile measuring points, other ways have to be found - wireless communication that works everywhere, is secure and delivers data in real time. But the cloud should do more than just provide communication. It should, similar to what Google, for example, offers, offer services specifically for the measurement case. Such services can already process and evaluate data in the cloud and make it available to users with different requirements as prepared results.

By networking a wide variety of data sources, quality, diagnostic options, early detection of possible damage or customer service improvements can be achieved. optiMEAS offers the necessary products and services for this purpose: powerful teleservice systems that combine data loggers, storage, pre-processing, alarming and communication with the cloud, software apps that are based on a mature software platform or optiMEAS' own cloud solution. They can serve applications in a wide range of areas, from black boxes in vehicle development to vibration measurements, construction machinery diagnostics, portable systems in medicine and monitoring systems in the energy industry.

Recording, analysing and forwarding vibrations

Measuring in the cloud has made considerable progress among geologists. optiMEAS offers the "smart GeoLog" system for this area, which was developed for geological, geophysical measurements and vibration monitoring in buildings. In mining areas, seismic events are determined over a large area using various vibration measuring points with corresponding sensors. The measuring system monitors both anthropogenic and tectonic causes that could lead to hazards.

Since movements or stress conditions can have a large-area effect, for example on buildings and road traffic, an early warning system must be very reliable in order to be able to initiate appropriate safety measures in a guaranteed manner. In the long term, seismic events can also be reduced by the knowledge gained. The mobile measuring system autonomously records, stores, analyzes and evaluates seismic data. Relevant data is automatically transferred to the Internet as required. Seismic events can thus be localized and qualified.

Appropriate alerts are also sent by SMS or e-mail. The smartGeoLog is equipped with a standard mobile phone modem based on LTE/UMTS with a correspondingly large bandwidth for the Internet connection. Up to eight vibration sensors can be connected via high-resolution inputs.

The sampling rate ranges from 10 Hz to 5 kHz and the storage capacity is 64 GB. Particularly interesting: Several distributed systems can be combined, as they have a GPS module and can be synchronized with microsecond accuracy. Thus, the collected data is always assigned to the correct time. The analysis and evaluation of the incoming measurement data is carried out by an integrated processor, which performs calculations such as RMS, filtering or frequency analysis.

HTTPS meets all requirements

There are different ways to communicate with a cloud. Existing data logging, monitoring or teleservice systems have no or only very limited possibilities themselves. Often, upstream PC systems take over the communication. VPN (Virtual Private Network) and CDA (Corporate Data Access) from the provider Vodafone are used in particular.

optiMEAS provides any desired communication channel. The standard is an LTE/UMTS module. However, any other communication module can also be installed in the devices so that, for example, communication in remote regions can be handled via satellite telephony.

Basically, the communication runs like through the Internet browser of a smartphone. Similar to a query to a search engine, the query automatically returns the route through the Internet, thus ensuring bidirectional communication. If a connection is not possible, for example due to shadowing, the device collects the data and automatically searches for the cheapest channel for subsequent data transmission at the next opportunity.

New standards, new options

With the introduction of the 5G network, further opportunities for measuring via the cloud are opening up. In future, it will be possible to book certain bandwidths and accesses on a contractually guaranteed basis. They offer the functionality of a dedicated line.

Such guarantees are important in areas where vital services requiring certain bandwidths are involved. Moreover, the already blurred boundaries between automation technology and physical measurement technology will continue to blur. This development could be accelerated by interface standardization for connecting measurement tasks to the cloud.