Using Cellular Automation To Monitor And Control Assets

Today’s utilities have a highly productive and efficient business environment that is very competitive and needs to comply with many stringent regulatory requirements to prevent situations that would cause a facility to be down for even a short time.

A slight failure of equipment translates into immediate consequences from both a financial and safety perspective. These pressures move utilities toward building high-availability smart sites that help minimize unscheduled down time and allow for shorter time to repair.

A direct result of this trend is the need for the site to have remote access to equipment. To help facilitate this access, utilities are converting networks to become IP-enabled – but with the many benefits that come with this, the move to IP networks also adds a level of complexity as it becomes increasingly important to securely connect these critical industrial infrastructures. To that end, cellular automation enables cost-effective monitoring and control of data at remote sites.

Controlling Data At Remote Sites
For the most part, Networking with critical equipment are located in places that are difficult to access due to long distances or harsh conditions. Accessing critical information, such as equipment health and operational data at these sites can be time-consuming and costly. Also, given today’s aging industrial infrastructures, monitoring and controlling the data within these sites is more critical than ever. In fact, we are beginning to witness the consequences of not updating and maintaining outdated networks, as demonstrated by recent explosions at gas pipelines and blackouts in major cities when parts of the electrical grids have gone down.

Keeping a closer eye on these infrastructures is necessary not only to prevent loss of revenue, but more importantly, loss of life. Unfortunately, however, communicating with remote sites to proactively prevent equipment degradation is far from an easy task and may even require a four-hour helicopter ride. In order to proactively monitor and control remotely located assets, users must be able to access local sensor data. The most cost-effective and intelligent way to do this is through cellular automation.


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Is Your Machine Vision System Color Blind?

Color machine vision has its challenges. Systems can produce three times the data (or less than one-third the resolution) of a monochrome camera solution. Color can introduce more potential sources for imaging errors, more complexity, more cost, and require careful engineering that reduces the system’s flexibility to deal with lines that make products of varying shape, colors, and size. In fact, if designers can find a way to use filters and lighting to measure a colored area using monochrome cameras, they usually do. However, for many applications ranging from electronic manufacturing to printing and food processing, color is the only way to solve the problem. Let’s look at some of the considerations a system design needs to take into account to create a successful color machine vision solution, including careful matching of camera, optics, and light source.

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The ability to operate and manage operations in a location-agnostic manner opens the door to a wealth of opportunities. For instance, experts and operations staff can be relocated to population centers, and out of harms’ way. They can then be leveraged over multiple assets in real-time to ensure maximum utilization. Networking collaboration also allows for much faster creation and utilization of best practices across a network of operating assets, thereby contributing to better knowledge retention and management as well as greater efficiency, and establishing a true, shared corporate culture throughout the enterprise.
Real-World Stories

Offshore operations

The Situation: A leading global producer of crude oil and natural gaslooked for a way to stay ahead of dynamic market demands and overcome challenges associated with offshore oil and gas Automation. As part of an innovative technology project and with the help of Honeywell, this company built a Solutions to help coordinate control of multiple offshore platforms in the North Sea, and improve operations and efficiency.

With the new CCR, this company has centralized operations at 18 of its 26 offshore platforms. All operating and production procedures are fully automated and synchronized, creating increased flexibility and competitive advantage. At the heart of CCR is Honeywell’s Experion Process Knowledge Management System (PKS), which enables operators to monitor and control production at various platforms.

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DIY pushes open hardware from kindergarten to Kickstarter

Resurgence of the Do It Yourself (DIY) community has driven a range of open networking platforms, giving aspiring technologists cheap and easy access to embedded development. Outside of hobbyist toys and educational devices, however, “hacker” boards are increasing performance and I/O flexibility, and have become viable options for professional product development.

The “maker” movements of the past few years quickly gained traction in the education and hobbyist markets, as organizations began producing open hardware boards with a “less-is-more” architecture at a price to match. DIY boards like the Arduino, BeagleBoard, and Raspberry Pi provide “known state” programming platforms that allow easy exploring for novice developers, and enough flexibility for advanced hackers to create some pretty remarkable things – which they have solutions.

Now, Kickstarter projects like Ninja Blocks are shipping Internet of Things (IoT) devices based on the BeagleBone (see this article’s lead-in photo), and startup GEEKROO is developing a Mini-ITX carrier board that will turn the Raspberry Pi into the equivalent of a PC. Outside of the low barrier to market entry presented by these low-cost development platforms, maker boards are being implemented in commercial products because their wide I/O expansion capabilities make them applicable for virtually any application, from robotics and industrial control to automotive and home automationsystems. As organizations keep enhancing these board architectures, and more hardware vendors enter the DIY market, the viability of maker platforms for professional product development will continue to increase.

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Qseven scalability QUICK CHECK

The ability to transition between x86 and ARM embedded computer processors is critical for low-volume medical applications because a single carrier board – often the most costly component of a COM architecture – can suit the needs of both graphics-intensive systems and platforms that require more mobility and lower power. In addition to reducing Time-To-Market (TTM), this decreases Bill Of Materials (BOM) costs and eases Board Support Package (BSP) implementation, says Christoph Budelmann, General Manager, Budelmann Elektronik GmbH in Münster, Germany (

“Scalability is a key factor, especially for lower embedded computer volumes, and the Qseven standard offers the possibility to use the same baseboard with different processors depending on the user’s needs,” Budelmann says. “Some users only need a small control unit and prefer a simple ARM processor, whereas other customers want to implement large screens and need the graphical power of an x86 system. Of course, this can also be the case in medical applications. Even if the baseboard has to be adapted to very special demands, this is less complex than switching from a pure ARM platform to an x86 platform or vice versa. In the majority of cases, only some drivers, such as Ethernet PHY, have to be exchanged whereas the real application software can remain the same.”

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Innovation driven by In-Vehicle electronics

High-end electronics provide drivers and passengers with in-car navigation and in-vehicle entertainment and information delivered over a wireless network. In fact, many car buyers today care more about the infotainment embedded system in the dashboard than what’s under the hood. This phenomenon is requiring additional in-vehicle storage space for rich multimedia data and advanced software and applications and is driving an explosive growth of both volatile and nonvolatile memories. Embedded multimedia cards are helping meet this demand in today’s memory-hungry automotives.

The automotive market is moderately but steadily growing. Global car sales rose 6 percent year-on-year in the first half of 2012, despite the ongoing headwinds associated with the sovereign debt problems in Western Europe and some moderation in the pace of global economic activity. Global sales of passenger in-vehicle cars and light commercial vehicles are expected to grow from 78 million units in 2011 to more than 100 million units in 2018. In a recent study, Gartner confirmed that electronics are playing a major role in the advancement of automotive technology. Electronic content in cars has been steadily increasing since the first digital engine control modules were introduced in the ’80s.

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Engineered embedded COTS for network systems

In recent years, embedded building, maintaining, and evolving proprietary network systems for telecom-grade applications that are highly available and “always on” have become increasingly prohibitive from the perspective of cost, risk management, time to revenue, and so on. The embedded custom-built approach becomes even less cost effective as Communications Service Providers (CSPs) move toward offering cloud-based services, where they have to compete with non-traditional providers that offer such services on networks built using Commercial Off-The-Shelf (COTS) building blocks….

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