LPWAN and Environmental Monitoring: 5 Use Cases for Industry 4.0

LPWAN and Environmental Monitoring

BehrTech Blog

LPWAN and Environmental Monitoring: 5 Use Cases in Industry 4.0

When talking about the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) or Industry 4.0, it’s not uncommon for manufacturers to interpret its value through the lens of factory automation. For many, a smart factory is a next-gen automation facility with advanced robotic equipment and enhanced real-time production control. High-bandwidth automation networks will have their place in the next industrial revolution, however they aren’t the only value creator. What’s most disruptive about IIoT is the ability to tap into unprecedented insights on the factory floor to optimize processes and boost productivity. And, a large part of these insights come from granular environmental wireless sensors.

Until recently, monitoring environmental conditions across industrial campuses had been prohibitive due to the costs and complexities of legacy wireless solutions. Environmental data is minimal in size, but the number of sensors needed to cover an entire facility is vast. Cellular and short-range solutions are too power-hungry and expensive for this type of low-bandwidth communications and therefore fail to scale with the required amount of end points.

Today, the advent of Low Power Wide Area Networks (LPWAN) introduces reliable and cost-effective connectivity for environmental monitoring. The technical design minimizes complexity and power footprint on the transceiver to lower device costs while enabling long battery life. Long range and a star topology additionally simplify deployment in large-scale, geographically dispersed facilities.

Environmental data delivers a whole new level of visibility into daily operations. By correlating contextual information with machine outputs and parameters, manufacturers can attain a holistic view of their production, identify bottlenecks and understand what is causing inefficiencies. Below are 5 examples of how LPWAN and environmental monitoring can help improve productivity and safety on the shop floor.

1. Quality Control

Ambient conditions have a significant influence on many industrial processes. For example, optimal air humidity and quality are essential for uniform coloring and painting tasks, alongside stable drying cycles and chemical reactions. Similarly, maintaining favorable room temperatures ensures precise fluid injections and optimal quality of 3D-printed components in industries like auto manufacturing. Having an environmental sensor network in place, manufacturers can oversee important ambient variables that impact production and respond timely to undesirable changes.

2. Worker Safety

Industrial workers are often exposed to a myriad of dangers. According to the International Labor Organization, work-related illnesses and diseases are estimated to incur USD$3 trillion of global economic losses each year. Monitoring workplace surroundings like air quality, combustible gases, heat, noise and radiation, can help better safeguard industrial workers. In conjunction with data from worker wearables, analysis of environmental data allows for identifying prolonged exposure to adverse conditions, out-of-tolerance incidents and potential workplace hazards. This enables managers to take counteractive measures accordingly to ensure worker’s health, safety and productivity.

3. Equipment Maintenance

A wide range of industrial and electronics equipment is subject to damage caused by unfavorable ambient conditions. Typically, excessive indoor humidity is conducive to condensation and corrosion of machinery, while too arid atmosphere leads to friction and electrostatic charge. Likewise, constant monitoring of the room temperature is vital to avoid equipment overheating that shortens its lifetime while presenting fire threats. Leveraging IoT sensors, businesses can have 24/7 insights into these critical environmental factors for effective regulation of heating and cooling devices.

4. Regulatory Compliance

In industries with treacherous extractive processes like mining, quarrying and oil and gas, rigorous environmental monitoring is integral in daily operations to minimize negative ecological implications. In this context, wireless sensors help automate monitoring tasks and deliver round-the-clock visibility to guarantee regulatory compliance. Specifically, they can report on underground water quality for early identification of acid drainage and prevention of widespread contamination. As another example, they can measure ground vibration, air quality and pressure during and after blasting to evaluate its impact on nearby residences and improve the future design.

5. Energy Management

Energy costs lie among the top operational expenses of industrial and commercial facilities. Despite the high overhead, statistics have shown that as much as 30 percent of the energy use is wasted. As companies constantly look to lower energy costs, granular IoT sensors offer an affordable approach to upgrade HVAC systems for higher efficiency. Instead of having a centralized and uniform HVAC setting, facility managers can leverage micro-zoned indoor climate data from IoT sensors to adjust heating and cooling on demand. Such a system helps circumvent the problem of HVAC overuse while optimizing occupancy comfort.

The power of IIoT goes far beyond what factory automation depicts. With ambient conditions having a significant impact on operational efficiency, safety and sustainability, IIoT is set to unlock this insight and open numerous opportunities to improve your business.

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mioty: The Answer to Robust Industrial IoT Connectivity

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The Importance of a Good IoT Monitoring and Alarm System

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3 Game-Changing IoT Applications in Sports

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Smart Museums: 6 Artful IoT Applications for Museums and Galleries

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IoT ROI: The Impact of Your Wireless Connectivity Choice

BehrTech BlogIoT ROI: The Impact of Your Wireless Connectivity ChoiceThe Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is weaving its way into almost every industry today, disrupting the way businesses and manufacturers have operated. All hype aside, embarking on an IIoT initiative is challenging. There is one thing all executives and decision-makers consider when justifying the business

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IoT and Sustainability: 7 Applications for a Greener Planet

IoT and Sustainability

BehrTech Blog

IoT and Sustainability: 7 Applications for a Greener Planet

Traditionally, advancements in technology and environmental sustainability have seemed mutually exclusive. We often think of technological advancements as having a negative impact on sustainability. Since the first Industrial Revolution in the mid 18th century, technological innovations allowed humans to exert a greater influence over natural resources. This combined with the ever-growing population resulted in a heavier usage of raw materials and an increased amount of production, leading to a significant resource depletion and rise in CO2 emissions.

Until now, the factors that propel digital innovation and sustainability have been disconnected. One is motivated by extensive technological change led by IoT, AI and robotics, all promising to transform industrial and commercial processes. The other is driven by climate and environmental deterioration as well as geopolitical instability, all of which demand a new approach that prioritizes resource conservation and environmental governance — and in particular intensifies efforts to de-carbonize the atmosphere.

However, with today’s advancements in IoT sensor technologies and wireless connectivity, the two concepts of digital innovation and sustainability have become mutually reinforcing. Companies must embrace digital transformation and its business-critical insights in order to pivot to more energy-efficient practices, use resources more responsibly and organize processes in ways that reduce waste.

Here are 7 impactful ways companies can use IoT for sustainability:

IoT and Sustainability

1. Smart Energy Management

While reduced costs and user comfort has been paramount in the design of HVAC and lighting systems since their inception, customers and communities have placed an increasing emphasis on sustainable technology. Energy consumption accounts for more than 40% of a commercial building’s total energy use. It’s no wonder so many facility managers (FMs) are finding ways to optimize this system’s efficiency.

Until recently, HVAC equipment has often been regulated in a uniform, predefined fashion, causing wasteful problems like overheating or under-heating across the property. In this context, real-time, granular IoT sensor data enables on-demand, micro-zoned equipment control to achieve higher energy efficiency. What’s more, leveraging occupancy data can also unveil important trends in HVAC and lighting needs to optimize equipment schedules. For example, if HVAC and lighting systems are set to operate until 8pm, but data reveals tenants don’t stay later than 7pm, facility managers can cut one hour of daily energy use to greatly reduce their carbon footprint.

When it comes to usage monitoring, wireless utility submeters help deliver consumption data at discrete building areas or even on individual assets – especially energy-intensive ones. Having these insights at their fingertips, facility operators can swiftly identify and locate bottlenecks for counteractive measures.

2. Air Pollution Monitoring

Most of the rising global attention to air pollution focuses on the impacts that ozone, particulate matter and other pollutants have on human health. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that air pollution inside and outside the home is responsible for about 7 million premature deaths worldwide. The majority of these deaths—4.2 million—are associated with outdoor pollution. It is a leading environmental risk factor affecting urban and rural populations around the world.

Outside of the devastating impact on health, air pollution also has significant ramifications on climate, water, weather, renewable energy, food and vegetation. Recent innovation in low-cost pollution sensors has enabled a new generation of air quality monitoring that provides actionable high-resolution data at a fraction of the cost of traditional monitoring systems. Companies now have real-time snapshots of where air pollution is coming from and traveling to, and who and what is most affected.

For example, methane, the primary component of natural gas, is a potent greenhouse gas accounting for 20% of global emissions. The largest source of industrial emissions is the oil and gas industry, which loses $30 billion worth of methane each year from operations. In this context, an air quality monitoring solution enabled by a low-power wide area network (LPWAN), can provide operators real-time insight into previously undetectable leaks in far flung, remote locations, as well as the ability to remotely control valves to prevent further methane leakage.

3. Smart Waste Management

As cities grow, so does the amount of garbage we produce. By 2050, the United Nations estimate that 68% of world population will live in urban areas and the World Bank that solid waste will increase by 70%. The inadequacy and inefficiencies of existing trash containers and landfills may lead to the accumulation of garbage on city streets and to illegal dumping, with serious consequences for public health. At the same time, more frequent waste collection means more air and noise pollution, traffic, and higher public costs.

Smart waste management has often been discussed in the municipality context, but its benefits and applicability for enterprises are just as far-reaching. It helps to tackle the persistent challenge of emptying schedules that aren’t aligned with actual demand. With waste production rates varying from one day to another at industrial and commercial facilities, pickup trucks often arrive just to offload half-full dumpsters. Needless to say, this introduces increased costs and wasted resources, not to mention the amount of carbon emission resulted from redundant truck trips. In other cases, waste containers may already be overfilled before the collection schedule, causing unhygienic conditions and the potential for more hazardous emissions.

Wireless IoT sensors can combat these issues by delivering various real-time data on trash receptacles at facility managers’ fingertips. Knowing the current fill level of each container, they can better foresee when one needs to be emptied, as well as understand how much and how quickly each type of waste is being disposed on a daily and seasonal basis. On top of that, temperature and humidity data reveal useful insights into undergoing microbial activities inside individual dumpsters. Having all this information at hand, businesses can optimize the pickup schedule of each waste type for higher efficiency, as well as lower transport costs and environmental footprint. At the same time, they can make informed decisions about the container capacity and location to adapt to the actual demand and avoid unwanted overfills.

4. Fleet Management

There’s an increasing focus on the environmental impact of different fuel types, particularly the affect diesel engines have on air quality. When combined with the ongoing drive to reduce CO2 levels across the board, fleet operators are under more pressure than ever before to make sure their fleet related decisions take environmental factors into consideration.

Location, fuel consumption, idle time, driver behaviour and vehicle health all play a role in the total emissions produced by a fleet. IoT sensors powered by low-power wide area networks provide critical insight into these metrics to better optimize routes, improve driving behaviours and ensure timely vehicle maintenance.

For example, real-time location data allows for more accurate and responsive route planning. This reduces the amount of time vehicles spend idling in traffic, producing harmful emissions. Likewise, IoT sensors can be configured to identify and track sudden acceleration or braking, speeding, high-speed turning, frequent stopping, and slow driving – all of which result in wasted fuel.

5. Smart Water Management

According to MIT Researchers, more than 50% of the world’s population will be living in water-stressed regions by 2050. It’s therefore vital that individuals, companies and municipalities find ways to reduce the amount of water wasted annually. On average 85% of properties waste 35% of their water consumption by means of leaks. At the municipal level, pipe leaks can account for 20-30% of total drinking water. In addition, when factoring in the flood mitigation system, one to two tonnes of material waste per square meter is produced from demolition due to floods. This also makes mitigating water loss essential to reducing the waste that goes into landfill as a result of floods. 

Advances in IoT sensors and wireless connectivity have dramatically lowered the cost of gathering, storing and analyzing data from specific equipment, like pumps or valves, or entire processes like water treatment or irrigation. Sensors can monitor fill levels, control the quality water and be used to detect leaks. For example, by installing leak detection sensors in high-risk areas throughout a building or plant, facility managers can be alerted upon the very first sign of a leak allowing them to take remedial action. Taken a step further, hooking this data into a building management system enables automated responses like shutting off the supply valve or HVAC equipment.

6. Smart Farming

Faced with tough challenges of exploding world population, dwindling arable lands and natural resources, alongside growing extreme climate events, the agriculture sector is under undue pressure. According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), worldwide food production will need to increase by 50 percent by 2050 to feed an expected population of nearly 10 billion.

Optimizing farming efficiencies opens the door to a sustainable food production system that can cater to global demand while reducing resource usage and environmental footprint. Powered by granular wireless sensors, smart farming systems deliver real-time data of soil conditions and various external factors that play into crop growth. An analytics platform then processes this data for demand-based, targeted execution of various farming practices like seeding, irrigation, fertilization and fumigation. Having enough reliable data at hand, predictive models can even be developed to help identify and prevent conditions unfavourable to crop health. With IoT technologies, farmers can also monitor their cattle’s well-being and get immediate alerts on the first signs of illness, from anywhere.

Besides reducing inefficient and error-prone human intervention, smart agriculture boosts yields while minimizing chemical, water and other resource utilization. This, in turn, translates into higher production rates at a lower environmental footprint.

7. Cold Chain Monitoring

Roughly one-third of the food produced globally is wasted, with much of that loss occurring along the global supply chain. Overall, that translates to 1.6 billion tons of food, worth about $1.2 trillion, down the chute.

Temperature is considered the most important factor affecting the quality of foods. Improper temperature control and settings in the food cold chain can accelerate the deterioration of food quality, which can increase the generation of food losses and food waste.

Traditionally, personnel along the supply chain have manually read and recorded the temperature of goods to ensure optimal conditions. While this pencil scribble method is highly prone to errors, there also arises the challenge of goods moving through multiple parties (loader, carrier, shipper, and receiver) all of which have a different record-keeping system. This process significantly increases the risk of spoiled products in the event that a log is recorded incorrectly, not on time or unchecked altogether.

Smart cold chains provide end-to-end visibility of the supply chain from production and pallets to cargo and retailers. Wireless IoT sensors can track ambient conditions like temperature, humidity, air quality, light intensity and other environmental factors in any location, from anywhere, 24/7. When a threshold is breached, alerts are triggered in real-time to prompt immediate mitigation and avoid any compromise to the product’s integrity.

While technology has plagued environmental sustainability efforts in the past, it has now become an ally to building a greener planet. The advancements in IoT sensors and wireless connectivity are enabling individuals, companies and government to move to energy-efficient practices, use resources more responsibly and organize processes in ways that reduce or reuse waste.

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mioty: The Answer to Robust Industrial IoT Connectivity

BehrTech Blogmioty – The Answer to Robust Industrial IoT ConnectivityThe adoption of communication technologies in manufacturing has evolved over several decades, with protocols such as Ethernet/IP, EtherCAT, and Profinet continuing to serve as a backbone for time-sensitive automation and control applications. Today however, the increasing prevalence of sensors connected via the industrial internet of things

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The Importance of a Good IoT Monitoring and Alarm System

BehrTech BlogThe Importance of a Good Monitoring and Alarm System for your IoT NetworkYour IoT network may have hundreds or even thousands of end devices (sensors) with each sensor sending messages on a regular basis. It’s important to make sure that sensors are getting to the gateway in a timely manner.  A robust and scalable

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3 Game-Changing IoT Applications in Sports

BehrTech Blog3 Game-Changing IoT Applications in SportsThe developments and successes of IoT are already widely touted throughout industrial and commercial environments as well as smart cities. However, the presence of IoT applications in sports has also led to the creation of innovative technologies that could revolutionize the entire industry. From shaping game strategy and analyzing

Posted on

Smart Museums: 6 Artful IoT Applications for Museums and Galleries

BehrTech BlogSmart Museums: 6 Artful IoT Applications for Museums and GalleriesWhile we often think of the Internet of Things has having a heavy presence in commercial and industrial environments, it also has reached widespread adoption in various public institutions like museums and art galleries. According to the American Alliance of Museums, museums contributed 50 billion

Posted on

IoT ROI: The Impact of Your Wireless Connectivity Choice

BehrTech BlogIoT ROI: The Impact of Your Wireless Connectivity ChoiceThe Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is weaving its way into almost every industry today, disrupting the way businesses and manufacturers have operated. All hype aside, embarking on an IIoT initiative is challenging. There is one thing all executives and decision-makers consider when justifying the business

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Where Do My IoT Sensors Live?

sub-GHz ISM bands

BehrTech Blog

Where Do My IoT Sensors Live?

An Overview of the Sub-GHz ISM Bands

We’ve heard the numbers; IoT devices will reach 50 billion by 2025 etc. Most of these devices will be wireless, but where will they reside on the radio spectrum? Within the radio frequency (RF) spectrum there are both licensed and unlicensed bands. While a few Low Power Wide Area Networking (LPWAN) solutions such as NB-IoT operate in the licensed portion of the spectrum, most other solutions such as MYTHINGS and LoRa operate in the sub-gigahertz (GHz), the one unlicensed portion of the spectrum reserved for industrial, scientific and medical (ISM) devices.

Operating in the unlicensed spectrum, sub-GHz ISM bands have some significant benefits for organizations such as reduced deployment cost as there is no need to pay for licensed bandwidth as well as the fact that the traffic resides in a completely different part of the spectrum from Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. However, there is still potential traffic from devices on the same LPWAN system, devices on different LPWAN networks, as well as traffic from other types of devices such as RFID tags and alarm systems. In this blog, we examine the history and characteristics of ISM bands.

Brief History of Radio Spectrum

Radio communication was invented towards the end of the 19th century. In its infancy, radio was mostly used for Morse communication largely for maritime and transoceanic communication. In those days, there was little-to-no regulation of radio traffic. The regulation of radio began in Europe in the early 20th century, however it wasn’t until the sinking of the Titanic, that the US adopted the Radio Act which legislated the requirement for radio station licenses.

The invention of AM radio and the ability to transmit voice led to the first commercial radio stations and with it, an explosion of amateur and commercial broadcasters. The invention of FM radio and its lower interference features made the radio spectrum much more dynamic. As the popularity of radio increased, the US government, in 1934 created the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to regulate the radio spectrum in the United States.

Introduction of the ISM Band and Regulations

In addition to the broadcasting of voice and music, new applications and technologies began to use the radio spectrum. Examples include microwaves for cooking food, industrial induction heating, as well as medical applications such as diathermy machines using radio waves to apply deep heating to the body. The International Telecommunication Union set aside a portion of the radio spectrum and established the Industrial Scientific and Medical (ISM) bands in 1947 to provide dedicated spectrum for non-telecommunication devices.

Initially, the ISM bands were limited to Industrial Scientific and Medical devices, and telecommunication usage was forbidden. However, over time, the explosive growth of microelectronics and computing along with the attractiveness of an unlicensed spectrum, several factors brought about the pressure to use these unlicensed bands for wireless communication. In 1985, the FCC in the United States decided to allow communications on the ISM bands. However, soon after, rules were put in place to require pre-certification of all new products using unlicensed bands. To enforce these new regulations, the European Telecommunications Standard Institute (ETSI) was created in 1988, and in 1989, new regulations were introduced within the FCC.

There are actually several bands within the radio spectrum set aside for ISM equipment. Some such as the 2.4 GHz band (used by Wi-Fi and Bluetooth) is of worldwide standards. Others are regional with specific ranges being governed by individual countries or regions.

As mentioned, LPWAN solutions operate in both the unlicensed or licensed bands. The unlicensed ISM bands used by LPWAN solutions operate below the 1 GHz level. The following figure displays the sub-GHz radio spectrum bands and the amounts of spectrum set aside by various regions around the world.

sub-GHz ISM bands

Other Uses of the Sub-GHz ISM Bands

In addition to LPWAN wireless solutions, many other technologies and devices operate within the same sub-GHz ISM bands. These types of devices include radio frequency identification (RFID) devices, garage door openers, cordless telephones, wireless drones, wireless microphones, baby monitors and alarm systems.

Regulations to Keep Usage Under Control

Because anyone can use the sub-GHz ISM bands, it becomes difficult to limit the number of devices operating within them. As such, regional and national regulatory bodies have created rules and regulations to control usage within these bands and prevent them from becoming saturated.

One common regulation is to establish a limit on the maximum transmission (Tx) power of the transmitting device. For example, in the US, the limit on Tx power is 24 decibels per milliwatt (dBm) which translates to 250 milliwatts. In Europe, the limit is more often 14 dBm (25 milliwatts).

A limit on transmission power may not be enough to protect bandwidth usage. If devices are allowed to take a very long time to transmit, and especially if there are many devices on the network, additional devices might be prevented from using the channel. To address this issue, some regions implement a duty cycle. A duty cycle represents a percentage of time that a device can be actively transmitting in the band. For example, a duty cycle of 1 percent means that a device can only actively transmit 1 percent of the time. In a given hour, a device could transmit no more than 36 seconds. Alternative and complementary policies can be used as well including “frequency hopping” which forces the radio technology to use different sub-channels within a band to prevent one channel from being saturated.

Still, even with limits on transmission power and duty cycles, there is the potential for a very large number of devices transmitting in a campus environment, such as a factory or a building. As such, you need to ensure that your LPWAN solution offers superior robustness and can scale as needed. MYTHINGS by BehrTech with its patented Telegram Splitting technology offers superior power efficiency, high distance, robustness, scalability and supports mobility of 120 km/h and beyond.

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This study will prove that MYTHINGS delivers significantly higher interference resilience than LoRa technology

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3 Advantages of IoT for Tank Monitoring in Process Industries

IoT for Tank Monitoring

BehrTech Blog

3 Advantages of IoT for Tank Monitoring in Process Industries

From wastewater, chemical and petrochemical industries to mining and agriculture, storage tanks are an integral part of process manufacturing. They come in different shapes and sizes, and their contents vastly vary from chemical fluids and liquids to bulk solids like cement, aggregates and cereals. Nevertheless, irrespective of their applications, effective tank level monitoring and control are imperative to any industrial operation.

At the very least, overfills result in material and production loss, while threatening to damage the silo itself. For tanks containing hazardous materials, spilling could also lead to disastrous environmental impacts and associated cleanup costs and fines. Failing to refill feedstock tanks in time could also cause businesses to run out-of-stock, which leads to delayed production and delivery.

The Search for A Versatile Tank Monitoring Solution

Despite its importance, industrial tank monitoring has been daunting and inefficient. Quite often, workers must manually collect level readings on site, which is time and labor-intensive and often unreliable. With manual checks done a few times per day or even per week, refilling or emptying is planned based on mostly speculation and guesswork. Adding to the challenge, many industrial silos are situated at remote sites, making field trips logistically difficult. Also, malfunctioning equipment and other unforeseeable factors may cause an abnormal change in the content levels which could lead to overstocking a site or dispatching trucks to offload only half-full silos. Worse, there could be stock depletion or material overflows, both of which are detrimental to running operations.

Industrial monitoring solutions using wired sensors have been introduced to provide more accurate insights into tank levels and eliminate the need for dispatching staff to the site. Nevertheless, trenching hundreds or thousands of meters of cables around complex industrial facilities is expensive and cumbersome. It often requires invasive changes to the physical infrastructure or shutdowns of running equipment. What’s more, once the network is in place, adding new sensors or moving around currently connected tanks could cause many complications. Not to mention, in many scenarios, the remote and challenging location of silos could mean that cabling isn’t an option altogether.

Leverage the Power of IoT for Tank Monitoring

Compared to wired communications, a wireless IoT solution for industrial tank monitoring prevails in many ways. Wireless connectivity is flexible, cost-effective and much less of a hassle to deploy. With a long-range and power-efficient solution like Low Power Wide Area Networks (LPWANs), you can easily connect hard-to-reach assets using sensors operating on independent batteries that can last for years.

Thanks to simple maintenance and low device and network costs, LPWANs can be implemented at a fraction of the cost of their wireless alternatives. A robust, scalable LPWAN technology also provides the seamless integration of new connections into the network with minimal complexity while not compromising Quality-of-Service. As such, you can connect a large number of storage tanks simultaneously and aggregate a wide array of sensor measurements at each tank. By unlocking 24/7 asset visibility and feeding this data into enterprise management systems, a wireless IoT architecture enables enhanced production planning, asset management and protection and operational safety.

IoT for tank monitoring

1. Improved Production Planning with Level Monitoring

Ultrasonic or non-invasive capacitive sensors attached to wireless transmitters can measure and communicate stock level data to the control center located kilometers away from the site. Once the level exceeds or falls below the specified threshold, an alarm is automatically triggered for timely dispatch of trucks to empty or refill the respective silos. For feedstock tanks, real-time level data assists in effective inventory planning to avoid out-of-stock conditions that lead to expensive production halts.

By aligning schedule and routes of field trips with actual production needs, operators can maintain optimum tank levels, eliminate emergency deliveries and maximize delivery/pick-up quantities. This translates into improved workers’ productivity and saved fuel costs while preventing overfills and production downtime. On top of that, continuous level measurements can help detect abnormal changes in the stock quantity potentially caused by malfunctioning valves or pumping components.

2. Leak Detection and Structural Integrity Control

Beyond level monitoring, IIoT architecture enables leak detection of storage tanks to avoid catastrophic incidents. Vacuum and pressure sensors can identify and alert a drop in pressure that indicates hazardous leaks and material release. Likewise, low-frequency acoustic sensors can detect small structural events like delamination, crack initiation and growth through generated sound waves. Synthesizing various sensor data enables the development of an early warning system and automated emergency workflows to mitigate dire consequences of tank failures.

Taking one step further, smart sensors can be installed to check on the structural health of tanks round-the-clock for anticipation and prevention of potential leakages in the long run. Wireless corrosion detectors are instrumental in detecting wear-and-tear like reduced wall thickness over time due to abrasion. Simultaneously, vibration sensors can diagnose unwanted events such as jolted tanks caused by nearby pick-up vehicles, while temperature readings help monitor unusual reactions inside chemical tanks that may cause structural instability. Leveraging advanced analytic tools, conditions that lead to failures can be identified over time. This allows operators to prioritize maintenance tasks based on the urgent needs of specific assets.

3. Thefts and Tampering Protection

Tanks used to store valuable commodities like fuel stocks are highly vulnerable to vandalism and theft. Despite the explosive danger of fuel compounds, thieves are still prompted to use perilous tools like drills and blow torches to extract materials out of the containers. Beyond product loss, the result of such an attempt may be a disastrous fire with irreversible damages. By deploying vibration and motion sensors, operators are instantly informed of any dubious activities on storage tanks, especially at night. To increase the reliability of the automated alert system, these sensors could also work in concert with level readings that signal unusual loss in content mass.

Implementing IoT for tank monitoring delivers tremendous benefits to process industries. Innovative wireless connectivity like LPWAN enables automatic data collection from even the most remote storage tanks without substantial capital and labor investment. Having complete insights into their assets, companies can make informed decisions to reduce costs and enhance operational efficiency and safety.

Part of this article was originally posted on Flow Control Magazine

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MYTHINGS Smart Sensor: 10 Powerful IoT Applications

smart sensor

BehrTech Blog

MYTHINGS Smart Sensor: 10 Powerful IoT Applications

This week, we announced the release of the MYTHINGS Smart Sensor, a demo platform to demonstrate MYTHINGS’s long-range, robust and power-efficient IoT communication. The MYTHINGS Smart Sensor is not just a powerful pilot test tool; with our reference design offering, it is also available for mass production and full-scale IoT deployments.

The MYTHINGS Smart Sensor is a self-contained, battery-powered unit with multi-sensing capabilities including accelerometer, temperature, humidity, pressure and GPS sensors. But, its most intriguing feature is that you can tailor these sensing functions to your specific needs. Depending on your use case, any of the sensing units can be switched off accordingly to drastically reduce power consumption and improve battery life. On top of that, the sensor also provides the option to collect custom payload through an open serial interface, delivering great deployment flexibility.

The Smart Sensor can be either affixed to an existing object or system to collect condition data (e.g. machine vibration and temperature, asset movement etc.) or installed as a stand-alone unit to collect your preferred ambient data. There are numerous scenarios where the sensor will prove to be a valuable part of your IIoT initiative and help you to improve processes and asset utilization, reduce costs and enhance safety. Here are 10 powerful IoT applications that can be enabled by the MYTHINGS Smart Sensor.

1. Indoor Climate Regulation

Thermal and humidity comfort is a major contributor to employee productivity at both commercial and industrial workplaces. The problem is, while temperature and humidity distribution are uneven across a large building, heating and cooling settings are often uniform and do not reflect actual indoor conditions. This could lead to occupancy discomfort and excessive HVAC use and energy waste. With the MYTHINGS Smart Sensor, you can capture real-time room temperature and humidity readings on a micro-zone level to accurately regulate the HVAC system within a large facility. Constant indoor climate monitoring also helps detect bottlenecks like a malfunctioning furnace or air conditioner at distinct building zones.

2. Machine Health Monitoring

Machine vibration can reveal a lot about its current health status and issues such as misalignments or loose parts. Using the accelerometer in the MYTHINGS Smart Sensor, you can constantly monitor vibration patterns of critical equipment to identify potential damage and execute maintenance in good time. Another way you can use the Smart Sensor to ensure machine health is by keeping air moisture in check. High humidity can cause condensation and corrosion in equipment, while overly an arid atmosphere can lead to frictions in electronic components. Monitoring and maintaining the room humidity within the industry-suggested range of 35% and 65% can help keep these problems at bay.

3. Optimization of Production Processes

Environmental conditions have a significant impact on industrial. For example, in auto manufacturing, fluctuating temperatures can cause inconsistent fluid injection or impact the quality of 3D printed components by accelerating the cooling phase. Continuously measuring ambient temperature and humidity on the shop floor helps circumvent unwanted environmental changes that potentially disrupt your production. Combining machine vibration and ambient data with recorded process parameters further unveil hidden inefficiencies that lower production output.

4. Cold Chain Monitoring

Beyond the production stage, many perishable products in industries like pharmaceutical and food and beverage, require a strictly controlled storage condition. By installing the MYTHINGS Smart Sensor in your storage facility, you can ensure the relative temperature and humidity are within the ideal range to avoid property distortion and optimize product lifetime. Continuous observation of the thermal trend also enables you to quickly pinpoint and act on issues such as, a door unintentionally left open or a cooling equipment failure.

5. Off-Road Fleet Management

Management of vehicles distributed over a large industrial premise can be a great challenge. Older fleets often come with limited, if no telematics ability at all. In this context, MYTHINGS Smart Sensors provide you a versatile option to IoT-enable your fleet without a costly overhaul. Simply attach the sensor on your vehicle and collect its vibration/acceleration data for analysis of moving, idling and engine-off time. With this visibility, you can uncover fuel waste sources due to excessive idling, or detect unauthorized vehicle uses outside the operational time. Having information on actual vehicle utilization at hand, you can also make strategic, informed decisions on the fleet size and composition.

6. Temperature Control in Data Centers

At a data center, excessive heat released from servers can shorten their lifetime by overloading inner fans, increasing energy use and even imposing fire risk. Due to the dynamic heat emission, measuring the overall temperature is less of a concern, but more importantly identifying specific hot spots within the server room. Low-power MYTHINGS Smart Sensors enable you to collect granular, rack-by-rack temperature data to create an accurate data center heat map for effective control measures.

7. Asset Tracking

Knowing where your assets allows you to streamline operations and improve productivity. With its GPS function, the MYTHINGS Smart Sensor can collect position data of any distributed asset on your industrial campus. In indoor environments, GPS signals can be unstable. Here, air pressure and accelerometer readings can help determine vertical and horizontal movements to a certain extent. This enables dead reckoning calculations from knowing the last GPS location.

8. Anti-Theft Protection

The accelerometer in the MYTHINGS Smart Sensor can also be a great instrument for anti-theft protection. For example, it can inform you if an important asset that should be stationed is moved. Just install the sensor on your critical asset and get notified when a suspicious movement is detected.

9. Intrusion Detection

Besides theft detection, the Smart Sensor can be part of your IoT-enabled security system to detect intrusion at night, outside operational hours or in areas with restricted access. By affixing the sensor to the outer edge of a door, acceleration of the door can be measured when it opens. Having an emergency workflow set up, an alarm can be then triggered to inform you of the potential intrusion.

10. Electrical Fire Safety

Electrical failures are the leading cause of fire incidents across commercial and industrial facilities. While useful in detecting overheating caused by circuit issues, infrared inspections of electrical panels and cabinets are typically done on an annual basis. This leaves power systems unattended for most of the time. With a Smart Sensor permanently fixed to the electrical enclosure; you can keep an eye on thermal changes in your distributed power system round-the-clock. Elevated temperatures can quickly be diagnosed for counteraction to prevent fire hazards.

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9 Interesting Wireless IoT Sensor Types and Their Applications

Wireless IoT Sensor

BehrTech Blog

9 Interesting Wireless IoT Sensor Types and Their Applications

Wireless sensors are the backbone of IoT and its industrial counterpart the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). In a previous blog post, we talked about some of the more popular sensor types such as temperature, pressure, and accelerometers. In this blog, we discuss a few more interesting wireless IoT sensor types on the market.

Wet Bulb Temperature

Whereas standard, or dry bulb temperature sensors do not take moisture in the air into account when reporting the temperature, wet-bulb temperature sensors provide measurements closer to the true (thermodynamic) temperature. A wet-bulb sensor is essentially a thermometer covered in a water-soaked fabric over which air is passed. In drier, less humid air, the water on the cloth evaporates more quickly, whereas in more humid conditions, the moisture in the air causes the water in the cloth to evaporate more slowly.

When used in conjunction with a dry bulb sensor, a wet bulb temperature sensor can calculate measurements such as relative humidity (difference between the two sensors) and dew point (the temperature at which water starts to condense and form droplets). These measurements are useful in number of applications for humidity control to help avoid condensation within a building which can lead to discoloration, mode/mildew growth and structural damage.

Enhanced Voice Recognition using Facial Vibrations

Voice recognition and applications that use it are everywhere, from virtual assistants to our phones, tablets, and automobiles. However, the voice recognition capabilities in these systems are not always reliable, as they might not understand our voices clearly enough in the presence of ambient or environmental noise.

A new hardware approach is being used to improve voice recognition. This technology uses a laser-based sensor to measure tiny vibrations in a person’s throat and face when they speak. The laser greatly augments the system’s accompanying microphone signal by filtering out background noises and providing an isolated near-perfect signal.

There are many use cases for this technology including, voice recognition in automotive, virtual reality, aviation, industrial handsets and wearables.

Structural Health Monitoring Sensors

Structural Health Monitoring (SHM) refers to the use of sensors for collecting and analyzing data, over the service life of structures such as bridges. Instead of reacting to damage that is already occurring, SHM is more about proactive maintenance through the continuous assessment of the structural integrity in bridges and other structures. For example, bridge design must consider factors such as vibration, wind, weather, and traffic alongside the damage that they can cause. Without SHM sensors, inspectors must rely on visual inspection.

There are many types of wireless IoT sensors used in Structure Health Monitoring. Accelerometers can help identify vibration-based damage, while anemometers on suspension bridges monitor wind speed and direction that potentially impact their integrity.

Ultraviolet Radiation Detection

Exposure to radiation can be deadly. When the exposure is high enough, it can remove an electron from an atom. If it reaches human skin cells, the risk of DNA damage and skin cancer is significant. People working with or around radioactive substances wear a device known as a dosimeter. Dosimeters contain phosphor crystals that are designed to trap electrons freed by harmful ionizing radiation.

When heated, the crystals release trapped electrons in the form of light. These electrons can be measured to determine the amount of radiation its wearer has been exposed to. On the consumer side, ultra-violet (UV) detection wearables, apps and stickers have recently been developed to monitor and prevent dangerous levels of sun exposure, and many of these devices use dosimeters.

Air Pollution Sensors

Air pollution is a major problem in cities around the world. While air pollution detection is usually handled by governmental agencies, advances in technology are allowing individuals and community groups to monitor and detect air pollution around their homes, schools, and parks. Two types of air pollution sensors are particulate matter sensors and gas phase sensors.

Particulate matter sensors can detect particulates using either optical particle counting or volume scattering. In the former, particles entering the sensor are individually sized and counted based on how they scatter light. In the latter, particles enter the sensor scatter light from an internal light source.

Gas phase sensors detect gasses such as nitrogen oxide and ozone using a number of different techniques. Ozone and nitrogen dioxide detectors use electrochemical cells to detect gasses as they pass through air or using a metal oxide semiconductor.

Snow Level Monitoring

Another interesting wireless IoT sensor use case is the monitoring of snow levels in real time. Snow-related sensors can help skiers determine the quality of ski tracks and can even help with avalanche prevention.

Snow depth can be measured using a variety of methods including ultrasonic and/or laser sensing. In the case of ultrasonic sensors, the sensor is placed at a point where the snow level is to be measured. This sensor continuously captures data on the snow depth and sends it to the microcontroller.

Identification of Storage Incompatibilities

In today’s global economy, goods are continually transported between continents using sea containers. Accidents with and mismanagement of these containers can cause significant problems to the parties involved in the transaction as well as the environment. One method of preventing problems is to use wireless IoT sensors to monitor the logistics of such operations.

Sensors within one container exchange information with other pallets or containers stored around it, using RFID and similar technologies. For example, if a pallet of dangerous goods is located next to a pallet with flammable materials, warning messages can be sent. This allows corrective measures to be taken before a problem occurs.

Water Quality

Poor water and sanitation conditions contribute to illness and millions of deaths worldwide. Conventional water monitoring processes are manual, time-consuming and do not provide real-time results. Wireless IoT sensor nodes offer a promising alternative as they can detect parameters related to water quality such as pH, electrical conductivity, oxidation reduction and turbidity. Like other use cases, real-time water quality monitoring enables early warning abilities and timely response in the event of water contamination.

Solar Radiation

Radiation from the sun is received as wavelengths known as the solar spectrum. A pyranometer is a type of sensor that converts received solar radiation into an electrical signal that can be measured.

There are several use cases / applications that use solar radiation measurements including:

  • Measuring the efficiency of solar panels in converting the sun’s energy into electricity.
  • Determining when solar panels need to be cleaned.
  • Golf and park maintenance including the scheduling of irrigation.
  • Weather prediction models in meteorology.

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How the Food Industry Improves Quality Control with Smart Cold Chain

smart cold chain

BehrTech Blog

How the Food Industry Improves Quality Control with a Smart Cold Chain

The Internet of Things (IoT) excels at monitoring everything, not only assets and people but also highly dynamic environmental conditions. While this used to be cost-prohibitive, reduced sensor costs and the emerging Low Power Wide Area Networks (LPWAN) now enable us to collect ambient data with unprecedented granularity. In the food industry, IoT-enabled environmental monitoring is now giving rise to the smart cold chain.

Witte Spezialitäten, a baked goods manufacturer based in Nuremberg, Germany, is an excellent example of how a traditional, family-owned business is turning to IoT and the smart cold chain to improve its business and create more value for its customers.

Founded in 1935, Witte Spezialitäten has been a renowned manufacturer of Nuremberg traditional gingerbread (“Lebkuchen”) and German bakery specialties for generations. Standing for handmade delicacies and fine craftsmanship, the company has strived to deliver products with the most pristine quality. Increasing competition and challenges of the seasonal business are now putting a strain on the family-run company.

Operational Challenges

Every year around the Christmas time, hundred-thousands of domestic and foreign tourists flock to Nuremberg for the famous “Christkindlesmarkt”. Among other regional specialties, Nuremberg Lebkuchen is a winter must-try for both tourists and local residents. With Lebkuchen being its pivotal product line, the majority of Witte Spezialitäten’s revenue is generated in only three months around Christmas.

Timely product delivery without compromising quality is a central mission of the company. Like other perishable products, the quality and durability of Lebkuchen are greatly influenced by ambient conditions during storage and distribution. A high atmospheric temperature can melt down its chocolate cover, while an unfavorably cold environment can harden its texture and spoil the taste. Similarly, excessive moisture levels spur mold and bacteria growth, while an overly arid atmosphere threaten to dry out the product.

To avoid stockouts during the holiday season, effective environmental monitoring, especially at storage and sales facilities is critical. Witte Spezialitäten has an HVAC system in place, but this is not always reliable. What if the HVAC equipment malfunctions or simply fails to maintain the optimal temperature or humidity? What if a door or window is unintentionally left open? What if there are hidden factors that impact environmental conditions? The company can’t risk selling mediocre goods that ruin the customer experience or impair its brand image.

Bringing Cold Chain Monitoring to the Next Level

Instead of reactively depending on the HVAC system, Witte Spezialitäten decided to improve its cold chain through digital transformation. Finding a versatile IoT solution that can be implemented on a budget is the very first step. After evaluating several options, the company’s technology partner, PixelMechanics suggested MYTHINGS by BehrTech for a pilot installation.

What was needed was an “out-of-the-box” connectivity solution that is reliable in indoor environments, cost-effective, and easy to install and manage. Given the small size of temperature and humidity data, Low Power Wide Area Networks (LPWANs) are a viable option, and MYTHINGS, in particularly, was considered as a dependable LPWAN solution.

Quick Installation

In January 2019, a MYTHINGS Starter Kit was implemented at each of the three Witte Spezialitäten sales facilities. The installation was successfully finished within one day. Immediately after the system is up, multifunctional sensors capture temperature and humidity data at both storage and shop rooms. Data is then communicated over MYTHINGS to the base station every 75 seconds.

smart cold chain

 

A User-Friendly and Easy-to-Maintain System

At the base station, incoming data is relayed to the PixelMechanics Platform where it is visualized on a user-friendly dashboard. The dashboard design is tailored to the specific needs of Witte Spezialitäten’s management and accessible round-the-clock using any Internet-connected device. Once temperature and humidity values exceed predefined thresholds, an alert is instantly triggered for proactive responses.

In addition to environmental data, the sensors also regularly update their battery status. As such, the technical team can watch out for low battery levels without having to perform any manual checks. On top of that, the ultra-low power consumption of the sensor connectivity eliminates the hassle of frequent battery replacement.

Actionable Insights for Product Quality Assurance

With the MYTHINGS network and PixelMechanics IoT Platform in place, Witte Spezilitäten now has real-time visibility into environmental conditions at their facilities. Management can timely root cause and act on any abnormal temperature and humidity changes.

For example, failure of HVAC equipment or an unintentionally open door/window that disrupts ambient conditions can be identified early. Likewise, unusual temperature patterns that continue over time despite proper HVAC functioning, suggest hidden causes like degraded insulation. With enough historical data, other influential factors like shopping traffic can also be pinpointed for further data-driven decision-making.

All of these insights are valuable to help Witte Spezialitäten stay on top of cold chain management. Maintaining ideal temperature and humidity throughout storage and distribution is expected to minimize the number of wasted goods while optimizing product quality and shelf life. This translates into cost savings, on-time delivery and high customer satisfaction, especially during high seasons.

Going Beyond the Smart Cold Chain

A smart cold chain is not the only compelling application that IoT connectivity and analytics can offer to Witte Spezialitäten. Following the success of this pilot, MYTHINGS has also been implemented in the company’s manufacturing line to gather vibration and temperature data of equipment. Leveraging PixelMechanics’s analytics capability, this data can be turned into useful insights for remote monitoring and predictive maintenance of critical production assets. Having a complete IoT solution with proven technical viability, Witte Spezialitäten can now move forward on its digital transformation path.

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Top 10 IoT Sensor Types & How They’re Being Used

IoT-Sensors

BehrTech Blog

Top 10 IoT Sensor Types 

Sensors are everywhere. They’re in our homes and workplaces, our shopping centers and hospitals. They’re embedded in smart phones and an integral part of the Internet of Things (IoT). Sensors have been around for a long time. The first thermostat was introduced in the late 1880s and infrared sensors have been around since the late 1940s. The IoT and its counterpart, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), are bringing sensor usage to a new level.

Broadly speaking, sensors are devices that detect and respond to changes in an environment. Inputs can come from a variety of sources such as light, temperature, motion and pressure. Sensors output valuable information and if they are connected to a network, they can share data with other connected devices and management systems. 

Sensors are crucial to the operation of many of today’s businesses. They can warn you of potential problems before they become big problems, allowing businesses to perform predictive maintenance and avoid costly downtime. The data from sensors can also be analyzed for trends allowing business owners to gain insight into crucial trends and make informed evidence-based decisions.

Sensors come in many shapes and sizes. Some are purpose-built containing many built-in individual sensors, allowing you to monitor and measure many sources of data. In brownfield environments, it’s key for sensors to include digital and analog inputs so that they can read data from legacy sensors.

There are many types of IoT sensors and an even greater number of applications and use cases. Here are 10 of the more popular types of IoT sensors and some of their use cases.

IoT-Sensor - Temperature

1. Temperature Sensors

Temperature sensors measure the amount of heat energy in a source, allowing them to detect temperature changes and convert these changes to data. Machinery used in manufacturing often requires environmental and device temperatures to be at specific levels. Similarly, within agriculture, soil temperature is a key factor for crop growth.

IoT Sensor - Humidity

2. Humidity Sensors

These types of sensors measure the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere of air or other gases. Humidity sensors are commonly found in heating, vents and air conditioning (HVAC) systems in both industrial and residential domains. They can be found in many other areas including hospitals, and meteorology stations to report and predict weather.

IoT Sensor Pressure

3. Pressure Sensors

A pressure sensor senses changes in gases and liquids. When the pressure changes, the sensor detects these changes, and communicates them to connected systems. Common use cases include leak testing which can be a result of decay. Pressure sensors are also useful in the manufacturing of water systems as it is easy to detect fluctuations or drops in pressure.

IoT Sensor Proximity

4. Proximity Sensors

Proximity sensors are used for non-contact detection of objects near the sensor. These types of sensors often emit electromagnetic fields or beams of radiation such as infrared. Proximity sensors have some interesting use cases. In retail, a proximity sensor can detect the motion between a customer and a product in which he or she is interested. The user can be notified of any discounts or special offers of products located near the sensor. Proximity sensors are also used in the parking lots of malls, stadiums and airports to indicate parking availability. They can also be used on the assembly lines of chemical, food and many other types of industries.

IoT Sensor Level

5. Level Sensors

Level sensors are used to detect the level of substances including liquids, powders and granular materials. Many industries including oil manufacturing, water treatment and beverage and food manufacturing factories use level sensors. Waste management systems provide a common use case as level sensors can detect the level of waste in a garbage can or dumpster.

IoT Sensor Accelerometer

6. Accelerometers

Accelerometers detect an object’s acceleration i.e. the rate of change of the object’s velocity with respect to time. Accelerometers can also detect changes to gravity. Use cases for accelerometers include smart pedometers and monitoring driving fleets. They can also be used as anti-theft protection alerting the system if an object that should be stationary is moved.

IoT Sensor Gyroscope

7. Gyroscope

Gyroscope sensors measure the angular rate or velocity, often defined as a measurement of speed and rotation around an axis. Use cases include automotive, such as car navigation and electronic stability control (anti-skid) systems. Additional use cases include motion sensing for video games, and camera-shake detection systems.

IoT Sensor Gas

8. Gas Sensors

These types of sensors monitor and detect changes in air quality, including the presence of toxic, combustible or hazardous gasses. Industries using gas sensors include mining, oil and gas, chemical research andmanufacturing. A common consumer use case is the familiar carbon dioxide detectors used in many homes.

IoT Sensor Infrared

9. Infrared Sensors

These types of sensors sense characteristics in their surroundings by either emitting or detecting infrared radiation. They can also measure the heat emitted by objects. Infrared sensors are used in a variety of different IoT projects including healthcare as they simplify the monitoring of blood flow and blood pressure. Televisions use infrared sensors to interpret the signals sent from a remote control. Another interesting application is that of art historians using infrared sensors to see hidden layers in paintings to help determine whether a work of art is original or fake or has been altered by a restoration process.

IoT Sensor Optical

10. Optical Sensors

Optical sensors convert rays of light into electrical signals. There are many applications and use cases for optical sensors. In the auto industry, vehicles use optical sensors to recognize signs, obstacles, and other things that a driver would notice when driving or parking. Optical sensors play a big role in the development of driverless cars. Optical sensors are very common in smart phones. For example, ambient light sensors can extend battery life. Optical sensors are also used in the biomedical field including breath analysis and heart-rate monitors.

Industrial Wireless Sensor - MYTHINGS Smart Sensor

MYTHINGS IoT Sensor

The MYTHINGS Smart Sensor is a self-contained, battery-powered multi-purpose IoT sensor that allows you to capture critical data points like acceleration, temperature, humidity, pressure and GPS. The smart sensor is integrated with the MYTHINGS Library – a hardware independent, small-footprint and power-optimized library of code, featuring the MIOTY (TS-UNB) low-power wide area network protocol. Learn more.

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6 Leading Types of IoT Wireless Technologies and Their Best Use Cases

IoT Wireless Technologies

BehrTech Blog

6 Leading Types of IoT Wireless Tech and Their Best Use Cases

The Internet of Things (IoT) starts with connectivity, but since IoT is a widely diverse and multifaceted realm, you certainly cannot find a one-size-fits-all communication solution. Continuing our discussion on mesh and star topologies, in this article we’ll walk through the six most common types of IoT wireless technologies.

Each solution has its strengths and weaknesses in various network criteria and is therefore best-suited for different IoT use cases.

IoT Wireless Technologies

1. LPWANs

Low Power Wide Area Networks (LPWANs) are the new phenomenon in IoT. By providing long-range communication on small, inexpensive batteries that last for years, this family of technologies is purpose-built to support large-scale IoT networks sprawling over vast industrial and commercial campuses.

LPWANs can literally connect all types of IoT sensors – facilitating numerous applications from asset tracking, environmental monitoring and facility management to occupancy detection and consumables monitoring. Nevertheless, LPWANs can only send small blocks of data at a low rate, and therefore are better suited for use cases that don’t require high bandwidth and are not time-sensitive.

Also, not all LPWANs are created equal. Today, there exist technologies operating in both the licensed (NB-IoT, LTE-M) and unlicensed (e.g. MYTHINGS, LoRa, Sigfox etc.) spectrum with varying degrees of performance in key network factors. For example, while power consumption is a major issue for cellular-based, licensed LPWANs; Quality-of-Service and scalability are main considerations when adopting unlicensed technologies. Standardization is another important factor to think of if you want to ensure reliability, security, and interoperability in the long run.

Learn more about the key considerations for this family of wireless IoT technologies here

2. Cellular (3G/4G/5G)

Well-established in the consumer mobile market, cellular networks offer reliable broadband communication supporting various voice calls and video streaming applications. On the downside, they impose very high operational costs and power requirements.

While cellular networks are not viable for the majority of IoT applications powered by battery-operated sensor networks, they fit well in specific use cases such as connected cars or fleet management in transportation and logistics. For example, in-car infotainment, traffic routing, advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) alongside fleet telematics and tracking services can all rely on the ubiquitous and high bandwidth cellular connectivity.

Cellular next-gen 5G with high-speed mobility support and ultra-low latency is positioned to be the future of autonomous vehicles and augmented reality. 5G is also expected to enable real-time video surveillance for public safety, real-time mobile delivery of medical data sets for connected health, and several time-sensitive industrial automation applications in the future.

Also recommended for you: IoT Connectivity - 4 Latest Standards That Will Shape 2020 and Beyond

3. Zigbee and Other Mesh Protocols

Zigbee is a short-range, low-power, wireless standard (IEEE 802.15.4), commonly deployed in mesh topology to extend coverage by relaying sensor data over multiple sensor nodes. Compared to LPWAN, Zigbee provides higher data rates, but at the same time, much less power-efficiency due to mesh configuration.

Because of their physical short-range (< 100m), Zigbee and similar mesh protocols (e.g. Z-Wave, Thread etc.) are best-suited for medium-range IoT applications with an even distribution of nodes in close proximity. Typically, Zigbee is a perfect complement to Wi-Fi for various home automation use cases like smart lighting, HVAC controls, security and energy management, etc. – leveraging home sensor networks.

Until the emergence of LPWAN, mesh networks have also been implemented in industrial contexts, supporting several remote monitoring solutions. Nevertheless, they are far from ideal for many industrial facilities that are geographically dispersed, and their theoretical scalability is often inhibited by increasingly complex network setup and management.

4. Bluetooth and BLE

Defined in the category of Wireless Personal Area Networks, Bluetooth is a short-range communication technology well-positioned in the consumer marketplace. Bluetooth Classic was originally intended for point-to-point or point-to-multipoint (up to seven slave nodes) data exchange among consumer devices. Optimized for power consumption, Bluetooth Low-Energy was later introduced to address small-scale Consumer IoT applications.

BLE-enabled devices are mostly used in conjunction with electronic devices, typically smartphones that serve as a hub for transferring data to the cloud. Nowadays, BLE is widely integrated into fitness and medical wearables (e.g. smartwatches, glucose meters, pulse oximeters, etc.) as well as Smart Home devices (e.g. door locks) – whereby data is conveniently communicated to and visualized on smartphones.

The release of Bluetooth Mesh specification in 2017 aims to enable a more scalable deployment of BLE devices, particularly in retail contexts. Providing versatile indoor localization features, BLE beacon networks have been used to unlock new service innovations like in-store navigation, personalized promotions, and content delivery.

5. Wi-Fi 

There is virtually no need to explain Wi-Fi, given its critical role in providing high-throughput data transfer for both enterprise and home environments. However, in the IoT space, its major limitations in coverage, scalability and power consumption make the technology much less prevalent.

Imposing high energy requirements, Wi-Fi is often not a feasible solution for large networks of battery-operated IoT sensors, especially in industrial IoT and smart building scenarios. Instead, it more pertains to connecting devices that can be conveniently connected to a power outlet like smart home gadgets and appliances, digital signages or security cameras.

Wi-Fi 6 – the newest Wi-Fi generation – brings in greatly enhanced network bandwidth (i.e. <9.6 Gbps) to improve data throughput per user in congested environments. With this, the standard is poised to level up public Wi-Fi infrastructure and transform customer experience with new digital mobile services in retail and mass entertainment sectors. Also, in-car networks for infotainment and on-board diagnostics are expected to be the most game-changing use case for Wi-Fi 6. Yet, the development will likely take some more time.

6. RFID

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) uses radio waves to transmit small amounts of data from an RFID tag to a reader within a very short distance. Till now, the technology has facilitated a major revolution in retail and logistics.

By attaching an RFID tag to all sorts of products and equipment, businesses can track their inventory and assets in real-time – allowing for better stock and production planning as well as optimized supply chain management. Alongside increasing IoT adoption, RFID continues to be entrenched in the retail sector, enabling new IoT applications like smart shelves, self-checkout, and smart mirrors.

IoT Wireless Technologies

To quickly sum up, each IoT vertical and application has its own unique set of network requirements. Choosing the best wireless technology for your IoT use case means accurately weighing criteria in terms of range, bandwidth, QoS, security, power consumption, and network management.

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