Farmers, mining engineers, highway transportation management personnel, operators of underground metro railway systems, waste management firms and utility substation operators can now use the digital economy and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) to drive profitability and efficiency gains.
A new generation of sensor devices now enables the transmission of a signal from a sensor to a remote transmission station up to 50 kilometers (31 miles) away. This transmission station relays the signal on to the cloud. Previous efforts using tactical radio based transmission protocols (such as Zigbee) were limited to only about 100 meters (110 yards). This new breakthrough introduces precise IIoT-based monitoring of remote systems such as agricultural irrigation or valves on remote piping systems.
Sensors are devices that detect and respond to environmental inputs (such as position, pressure, or other event-driven state changes) and then send a signal communicating that state change data to a remote device that converts the signal into readable information, usually on a display of some sort. In the industrial sector, many thousands of types of sensors exist. The sensor marketplace is inundated with lots of small players and a few big companies that have established a reputation over the years as quality producers of industrial-strength reliable products (such as the “Telemecanique Sensors” brand).
For several years now, IIoT has enabled factory floor and plant operators to gather sensor-driven “big data” and to consolidate that data into dashboards that enable sophisticated analytics, allowing for much more precise and efficient management of operations. However, in the realm of both wired and wireless communications, the ability to add sensors to remote devices (in mines, for example) has been limited because of the existing distance constraints of physical communication.
New LPWAN wireless technologies break through the 100-meter ceiling and reach way beyond, up to a 50-kilometer distance. As a result, IIoT benefits can now spread well beyond the factory floor. The new LPWAN enabled sensors connect to the cloud using antennas similar to mobile phone antennas that access traditional wireless networks via cell phone towers. Distance characteristics are very similar to mobile phone technology. All that is needed for these sensors to operate is a transmitter within the 50-kilometer distance. Once transmitted to the cloud, the sensor data is interpreted by applications that reside on our servers and then transmitted to a laptop or other mobile device application.