Your factory obviously reflects the profile of past capital investments and choices. The latest high tech equipment sits side by side with the most rustic machines, and all of them are indispensable for your processes or utilities… but they don’t necessarily all use the same communication protocols, from manual meter reading to wireless real-time reading. The advent of an energy efficiency plan will therefore engender a perfectly legitimate yet worrisome question: How to connect it all? “Don’t panic!”, answers Vincent Rémy, in charge of “Safety on Site & New Wireless” activities at INEO Energy & Systems.
What are the technical challenges today to collect the energy data in a factory or a workshop?
Let’s start right now by reassuring the industrial operators: There is always a way to be found to get a factory connected! The difficulty is more about the magnitude of choices you have at your disposal! And of course about the constraints linked to your existing equipment, the nature of your business activity, your specific energy-related issues, the company’s organisation… The challenge is therefore not so much to find A solution, but rather finding THE right solution, the solution that will be cost-efficient, sustainably viable and upgradable.
What kind of project phasing would you recommend?
First and foremost, you need to understand the purposes of energy efficiency performance: What data measurements are expected (nature, precision…), at which frequency, for which digital purpose, etc.? For instance, the choice between local data storage (digital factory) or cloud-based storage is highly significant for radio transmission solutions (Editor’s note: see insert). The must-have steps obviously involve listening to the needs and desired ambitions, prior to assessing the existing telecom infrastructure and the industrial IT network enabling the IoT coverage in situ, along with a study on radio coverage to determine which wireless radio technologies are the most suitable and which types of antennas to use. We are also particularly vigilant about delivering data in the right format: nobody wants to retrieve data on the gross voltage of a sensor, if what you actually need is data on the temperature! We therefore opt preferentially for “smart” sensors with the ability to send data that are directly usable. Ultimately, a data collection project is successful if the enabling system is transparent and can be ignored.
How do you access previously captured but non-connected data?
There again, there is always a solution! Some power units and PLCs can easily be interfaced. In addition, there are some recurring standards anyway: thus, our gateway (Editor’s note: centralising data from surrounding sensors and sending it to the server) is compatible with 90% of the sensors on the market. In the worst case, even if a sensor needs to be replaced or added, the cost remains very reasonable.
Talking about costs, is it expensive to connect your factory?
There is no single, absolute answer to this question. Conversely, I can confirm that the ROI is definitely real, and not only with energy savings. But to do so, two simple rules must be followed: do not install sensors everywhere just for the sake of it, and do not hesitate to work step by step, based on your resources; financial resources, of course, but also actionable resources: What are you going to do with the data? How are you going to present or disseminate the data, change practices, habits and mindsets…? But THAT is precisely the job of Blu.e!
| 4 must-have radio protocols for your connected factory
- BlueTooth Low Energy: Short range (200 m) but data transmission rate suitable for image transmission, e.g. for alarm verification (2 Mb/s). Suitable for 100% private/local use.
- LoRaWan: This open-source protocol, maintained by the LoRa Alliance, has a low sensitivity to interferences, with slow rate but long range transmission capability, suitable for very short and infrequent data. Private/local LoRaWan solutions exist.
- SigFox: Main competitor of LoRaWan in wireless operated networks; enables roaming (for mobile sensors transmitting from one country to another).
- LTE-M: This protocol, chosen by 9 of the world’s leading telecom operators (AT&T, Verizon, Orange, KDDI, KPN, Docomo, Telefonica, Telstra and Telus) is basically the 5G version of the IoT; highly standardised, offering low-cost devices, with low energy consumption and excellent coverage.
About INEO Energy & Systems
INEO Energy & Systems, a subsidiary of Engie Ineo since 2011, is an integrator of telecom and electronic solutions for industrial applications, and a pioneer in IoT. Its initial technology, now named “Personnel On Board by be-safe.com” (the distribution tradename of INEO Energy & Systems solutions), has reduced by a factor of four the time required to evacuate offshore oil platforms, while ensuring that no crew member would be left behind. Its client portfolio includes top Oil & Gas and Energy companies.
To read about the connected factory
In this era of Industry 4.0, industrial operators know that they can count on Big Data or Artificial Intelligence technologies to enhance the energy efficiency of their factories. Yet they are not always aware that the quality of available data prevails over their quantity in order to achieve optimum energy management outcomes. Discover our article on this subject: https://www.blu-e.fr/en/blog/big-data-quantity-is-nice-but-quality-is-better/