Monitoring industrial machinery: When it comes to transmitting large amounts of sensor data over long distances in real time in a highly secure manner, some IoT solutions reach their limits. This use case shows how a multifunctional edge device makes it possible.
The challenge: Sensor and camera data monitor wear and should reduce downtimes
L&H Industrial designs and manufactures machinery for applications in the mining and oil, gas and rail industries. The company’s sites are located in North America, Mexico and Chile. The present project is concerned with the mobile lower parts of giant excavators in mining operations. As a service to its customers, the company wants to be able to monitor machine wear and ensure that no damage and downtime occurs. In the medium term, predictive maintenance should also be possible. Since the environmental conditions during machine operations are very harsh, and there is usually no electronics engineer on site, the system used should be very easy to operate and install – plug and play. In addition, only a very robust housing that meets the IP67 safety standard was considered. Due to the work situation, the communication had to be wireless and work worldwide – ideally as a private network, like a 5G campus network. L&H also wanted a tracking function. The solution was to be highly secure in data transmission; machine learning elements were planned for the medium term. The data should be hosted in the US, the architecture should be scalable and extensible, and the device management should be handled by the solution provider without having direct access to information about the device or the use of the device.
The solution: Robust plug-and-play device delivers sensor data to a 5G campus network
Round Solutions, a leading provider in the IoT/M2M industry, was entrusted with the implementation of this project. In addition to system integration, Round Solutions provides connectivity and handles hardware and software development. From this project request, the company developed the 5G IO-Gate. The rugged IP67 housing is designed and suitable for extremely harsh environments. 5G IO-Gate is powered by the Debian Linux operating system and features high-performance embedded hardware, such as the gateway for transmitting sensitive sensor data. With four IO-Link ports, Ethernet for IO-Link masters or IP cameras and 4 digital inputs and outputs, the device provides all interfaces required for the task. IO-Link sensors provide the raw data on machine conditions and wear. This IO-Link sensor data is transferred wirelessly via MQTT to the user’s private campus network. Storage also takes place there – from there, the data is then made available worldwide for analysis purposes.
At startup, IO-Gate automatically connects to Round Solutions Device Management and the information appears in the dashboard, which can be accessed online. The dashboard was a Round Solutions in-house development in terms of software and graphics. When you log in, you can see the location of a selected device on a Google Earth view, and the dashboard lists which devices are online and which are offline – as well as other defined data. For the device management in the present case AWS IoT Core is used but the system is agnostic with respect to the platform, i.e., it is open and can also be used with other cloud services. In this way, IO-Gate ensures permanent monitoring of all important processes. Edge security is provided by a highly effective cryptographic controller. It has four digital inputs and outputs each, to which, for example, an IP camera can be connected. This is also the case here: Round Solutions worked with L&H’s mechanical engineers to figure out where on the unit such a camera could be mounted to accurately see and document wear on the unit.
The result: Real-time monitoring and improved performance through real-time monitoring of the machines
L&H receives a device that can be used as a plug-and-play component. The IO-Gate opens up the benefits of IoT even in harsh environments by guaranteeing stable data transfer between the IO-Gate and the device management platform. High-speed wireless data transmission with 5G (or 4G) also allows data-intensive applications. Edge functionality can be adapted to the user’s needs through the extended set of edge interfaces – 4 IO-Link ports, Ethernet for IO-Link masters or IP cameras, 4 digital I/O. Applications can be added to run autonomously on the device, even without a cloud connection. Since the machines L&H manufactures are very valuable capital goods, Round Solutions’ IoT solution also opens up a new business model for L&H: leasing the machines. With IO-Gate 5G IoT private networks, 5G communications can be easily established and leveraged to support faster and more secure communications on a 5G campus.