Things to Consider When Retrofitting the Internet of Things to Existing Industrial Equipment
The Internet of Things, or IOT for short is already known to the public through innovative products, such as body worn fitness monitors, that record and upload data to the internet.
In the industrial sectors, such as manufacturing, new systems are being developed to replace existing infrastructure, to improve efficiency.
However, what about perfectly good existing equipment that you, as a business, do not want to replace. The answer is to retrofit equipment, to make it ‘Smart’.
It is convenient to break down the IOT process in terms of:-
Therefore retrofitting the Internet of Things….tb continued
This is the first of our videos on retrofitting the Internet of Things to existing industries, such as factories, agriculture and cities.
Tools for the job – a buying guide
Some businesses are tempted to save money on their two -way radio equipment.
Whilst this is understandable, it can be a false economy in the longer term.
In mission critical environments, such as the marine or offshore industry for instance, cheap radio equipment can fail quicker.
The reason I say this, based on experience, is that cheaper equipment generally has a lower IP (Ingress Protection) rating.
Ingress protection basically refers to the radios ability to keep dust particles and water out.
In a damp marine environment for instance, you have high levels of moisture, and a salty atmosphere (on coast & sea).
A cheap radio will soon start to suffer from the corrosive and damp atmosphere, ‘attacking’ the internal circuit board.
This results in premature radio failure.
How to buy a good marine radio
You should look out for a high IP rating, such as IP67 or IP68.
Such IP ratings mean that the radio can be dropped in shallow water, with no i’ll effects on performance, or operation of the radio.
A good marine radio, such as the UK designed Entel HT series, has an IP rating up to IP68.
For ‘shore-side’ industries, Hytera or Motorola are rock solid recommendations.
Going of sledging or skiing this year?
Depending on where you are going will make a difference.
For example, if you are planning a commercial event in Aviemore, in the Scottish Highlands for example, then a licenced VHF handheld might be the best option.
These licenced hand-held radios typically produce 5 Watts of RF power output, and allow reliable communication over a wide countryside area.
These radios can be hired or bought from Yesway.
The licenced radio solution however does have some drawbacks for sledging or skiing events.
The main disadvantage is that licenced radios are only licenced for your particular country, in most readers circumstances, the United Kingdom.
Therefore if you are an event company that organises events in more than one country, you might want to consider PMR446.
PMR446 is a licence free handheld radio standard, that allows usage in the European Union & EEA countries.
Therefore a sledger or skier could move between european countries without the licencing headaches of having to apply in each country for a licence.
The downside is range. PMR446 handheld radios operate at UHF (Ultra High Frequency) frequencies. These generally perform less well than VHF (Very High Frequency), in terms of maximum communication range.
Another important downside of PMR446, is that the RF (Radio Frequency) transmit power output is only 1/2 Watt (0.5 Watt). This compares with typically 5 Watts (0.5 Watts) for a licenced handheld radio.
Whilst having 10 times the power, does not mean the signal traveling 10 times further, it does give it more ‘punch’. This ‘punch’ helps get the signal through obstacles, such as trees, which ‘attenuate’ the signal.
History of Two Way Radio
Radio communications systems started to appear in the late 19th Century, with pioneers like Marconi sending signals across the Atlantic by morse code.Radio communications systems started to appear in the late 19th Century, with pioneers like Marconi… Click To Tweet
Soon such systems were being rapidly adopted by both government and industry, as an alternative to the existing ‘Wired’ telegraph systems.
Radio offered advantages over the Telegraph system, due to cheaper infrastructure costs. This is because the telegraph system required purchase and installation of telegraph wires & poles.
Radio communications on the other hand, did not require expensive long distance wires, and the installation of many telegraph poles.
Radio proved to be particularly cost effective compared to the telegraph, for international communications, which required undersea cable installation.
There were some disadvantages of early radio communications systems however.
One such disadvantage was call privacy, as early radio systems did not use the modern encryption methods available on radio systems today.
This meant that confidential messages, could be easily eavesdropped, by ‘Third Parties’.
This was an issue for both government and business users, but modern systems have overcome this.
A famous early example of radio communications use, was the ‘Titanic’ ship disaster of April 1912. The Titanic being a state of the art ship, had been equipped with a two-way radio system, which used Morse Code for communicating messages.
As the ship was sinking, radio messages were able to be sent out for help, and it was the first time that the new emergency code ‘SOS’ was used.
Although there was a massive loss of life, many lives were undoubtedly saved due to being able to get the message out to rescue ships in the area that they were sinking.
Without radio communications, the first indication of the disaster would have been, when the ship failed to arrive in New York as scheduled.
In 1922 the BBC was formed in the UK, and for the first time the ordinary (non geek) public were able to experience radio. Although public broadcasting is only one way communication, it is worth mentioning as a milestone in the history of radio communications.
World War Two necessitated innovative approaches to communications, and the american company Motorola was the first to develop a handheld portable ‘Walkie Talkie’.
As the Transistor and solid state electronics were not invented till the 1950s, the wartime Walkie Talkie used ‘Thermionic Valves’ (Tubes in the USA). This meant that they were not particularly efficient, and quite large in size.
The Motorola designed Walkie Talkie was however an important step forward in radio communications development.
Private commercial use of Two Way Radio by businesses in the UK started just after the war in the late 1940s. This allowed businesses to instantly communicate with there drivers out on the road, and was very useful for Taxi firms.
Early equipment was not particularly efficient compared with the latest Digital & Analogue radios available now. Reasons for this include, inefficient use of frequency bands (wide bandwidth), and less efficient electronics available to the designers of the equipment.
In equipment prior roughly to the 1980s, the frequency that the radio was required to operate on (set by what is now OFCOM), was controlled by a ‘Crystal Oscillator’.
These had to be custom made for a particular frequency, and then installed into the Two-Way Radio. Once installed, they needed to be set up using a Radio Communications Test Set.
Modern equipment does not require crystals to be purchased and installed, but does instead require the radio to be connected to a computer system and programmed to the required frequency and options.
Modern Two Way radio systems are sometimes also integrated into the internet, and it is possible to communicate using a handheld Walkie Talkie, from a field in the UK to a factory in Australia.
To do this the signal is recieved from the handheld radio by a Digital Repeater Base station located near and within range of the handheld radio. The voice signal is then fed onto the internet by the Repeater.
At the Australian end is another internet connected Repeater, which then transmits the voice signal out to the nearby Australian factory workers handheld Walkie Talkie.
When the Australian worker talks back, the process works in reverse.
Author: Craig Miles BSc( Hon’s), PGCE
craig.miles [at] yesway.co.uk
Tips for Organising a Successful Public event
A critical consideration when organising an event is how to effectively manage your staff.
While using mobile phones & shouting may be adequate at the pre event setup stage, problems can occur during the event.
One such problem is the noise levels that can be generated during the event.
Live music events present a particular challenge, as it can be hard to hear a mobile phone ring.
It is also hard to hear what is being said by the caller.
A hand-held, or hand-portable , two-way radio can utilise accessories , such as noise canceling headsets.
Another benefit of using two-way radio for management of events, is speed.
In an emergency situation, such as an accident, two-way radio allows the emergency message to be sent straight away.
By contrast, a mobile phone would require you to select the correct number, then dial and wait for an answer.
In an emergency situation, time can make all the difference.
Once you have decided to us radio communications at your event, you have further considerations.
What some people do at this point is Google it, and then look for the cheapest price.
Once a website has been selected to click on, the questions start.
Are you sure whether a VHF or UHF system will work best?
The answer is it could be one or the other, or both, or none!
Let me explain,
Generally a VHF system will give better communication range in Open Country.
As most events are outside, you may decide this is what you want, and need.
But wait! Will you also be operating inside metal framed buildings, or multi-storey buildings, or forested areas? If this is the case, then a UHF based system might be for you.?
The best way is to have a company come out to you and properly assess and radio test the event site before the event.
This way, any ‘black spots’ in coverage can be ‘engineered out’ by making the correct equipment choices. In collaboration with your radio communications engineer, problems can be eliminated before the event.
Sometimes whether you choose VHF or UHF, neither provide acceptable radio coverage & range.
This situation demands a radio engineering approach involving a device called a radio repeater.
A radio repeater is a device that boosts the range of a radio signal.
This is done by receiving & then re-transmitting the radio signal.
The repeater is connected to a high (usually mast mounted) aerial or antenna, via a low loss coaxial cable.
Having an antenna (aerial) mounted high on a mast helps with the radio communication range.
This is because radio waves at VHF & UHF frequencies are normally ‘line of sight’.
Therefore height helps with range.
Some of the discount two-way radio hire companies will hire you a repeater, with a couple ‘clip on’ antenna.
This in theory can work, as one antenna receives the signal, and the second antenna re-transmits the signal.
However, the repeater can become ‘DE-sensitised’ if the transmit & receive antennas are not enough apart.
From what I have seen on the discount radio hire websites selling this option, the antennas do not have enough length of coaxial cable to adequately space them apart.
A DE-sensitised repeater will give poorer range.
A cheap solution therefore will not give you maximum range.
The ‘proper’ way of using a repeater is to use only one single antenna, a suitable erected mast, and a device called a ‘duplexer’.
The duplexer allows one antenna to both receive and transmit at the same time.
This clever device (duplexer) provides better range & performance than the two antenna ‘cheaper’ systems, as less likely to suffer from DE-sensitisation.
You may also be given the option to choose between Digital, and Analogue systems.
Feel free to ask about the difference.
Finally, who needs to speak to who?
For example car park attendants, first aid staff, or organisers / management.
A range of sophisticated options and channels can be programmed into the radio equipment.
Again, feel free to ask for help.
To book equipment for an event click HERE
No business that stands still will thrive without constant change.
Back in the mid 1990s I produced a dissertation paper on the threats to the UK Royal Mail due to Socio-economic, Political, & Technological threats posed.
A good framework, that is used in Marketing is SLEPT analysis. SLEPT is short for Social, Legal, Economic, Political, Technological.
Try applying SLEPT analysis to your business.
Have consumer tastes changed, but your product offering has no kept pace?
Does the styling and functionality give potential customers what they demand?
Does your product or service comply with relevant, and changing legislation covering your target market?
What is the strength of the economy that you are, or wish to, sell your products to.
A product may be cheap in some markets, but highly expensive and unaffordable in your newly identified target market.
One solution might be producing a cheaper version of your product, with less functionality, for a particular target market.
Governments may be encoraging research and development in a particular area of the economy. Therefore there may be opportunities to develop products that leverage government help available, such as tax relief and grants.
Conversely, government policies may penalise certain products and industries, think cigarettes.
Back in the 90s, email emerged as a significant threat to the traditional letter service. It also had an impact on the manufacturers of FAX machines.
Your business needs to constantly be vigilant as to changes that could affect your future success.
Yesway Ltd can help research and develop practical solutions for your business to stay ahead, and further achieve competitive advantage using emerging technologies.
(c) Craig Miles 2016
- Explosive & Hazardous Gases
- Perimeter Access Control
- Presence of Liquids
- Radiation Level Monitoring
The above examples are some of the applications of wireless IOT monitoring possibilities.
For help with researching & implementing remote monitoring solutions to improve your business, get in touch.