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Monitoring IIoT: How Long-Range Bluetooth Keeps the Machines Running

by Brad Canham

Infinite Uptime, uses long range Bluetooth low energy (BLE) vibration sensors in proactive IoT uptime monitoring of industrial machines to avert catastrophic failures. Used in industrial settings worldwide with both indoor and outdoor environments, Infinite Uptime’s system includes Cassia Networks long range Bluetooth routers paired to BLE sensors  placed on the side of the machines to get the best vibration patterns.

 

Using standard BLE sensors, Infinite Uptime’s predictive maintenance IoT monitoring systems uses algorithms to learn baseline vibration patterns, including outliers signaling potential or impending failures. It then alerts on those changes, averting damage to equipment or catastrophic failures. 

System Requirements for IIoT Uptime Monitoring

Ongoing Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) uptime monitoring is essential in industrial environments with constantly moving parts, like centrifuges, pumps, and motors, etc. Moreover, machines in these settings, for example, computer-assisted cutting (CnC), can cost millions of dollars apiece. 

Moreover, when machines in large industrial settings lack monitoring and do fail, the impacts are especially disruptive and costly. A few examples:

  • Timing costs: In a petrochemical setting, a pump failure leads to losses in the millions due to downstream scheduling losses and job disruptions.
  • Contamination: In a food processing plant, machine breakdowns can contaminate huge amounts of food.
  • Safety concerns: Locomotive applications can lead to major safety concerns with devastating consequences.
  • Waste: A cement plant failure and a batch of wasted cement once hardened, can't be reworked.

In other words, most huge factory warehouses with parts moving for long periods and associated vibrations are candidates for Infinite Uptime's Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) uptime monitoring. 

BLE: Worldwide Standard Bluetooth IoT Uptime

Moreover, as a result of lowered costs and the ease of deploying a long range Bluetooth IoT uptime monitoring system, there is an exponential emergence of Bluetooth IoT uptime "use cases" with excellent ROI, including: many more less costly machines, pumps, and motors; hard to reach (or wire) and remote machines, and replacement of schedule-based with usage-based machine maintenance models. Because BLE is a standard protocol worldwide for IIoT environments, Infinite Uptime’s use of BLE ensures low-cost and ease of set-up across many different industrial environments. Moreover, by loading data to the Internet via Bluetooth, backhauling data and connectivity costs are minimal.

Also, because BLE leverages existing network infrastructure within industrial environments, Infinite Uptime avoids cellular LPWAN’s country-specific frequency variations (and the complexity and complications introduced) and monthly cellular fees for each sensor. Moreover, especially for globalized industrial organizations, protocols like SigFox and LoRaWan lack global standards.

Challenges and Obstacles in IIoT Environments

Servicing sensors and replacing sensor batteries in automated IIoT environments can be a challenge.

On the one hand, a Bluetooth wireless sensor with low-energy battery requirements means minimal battery replacement challenges, sensor downtime, and sensor maintenance. On the other hand, the traditional perspective is that Bluetooth has range challenges in the traditional manufacturing environments because of large machines, walls, electro-mechanical forces, etc. 

Also, the traditional perspective on Bluetooth is connectivity is limited to a few sensors. In fact, prior to Cassia’s long-range Bluetooth router, with one-to-many bi-directional connectivity, Infinite Uptime positioned multiple Android tablets to capture vibration data from a small set of sensors. The data was then sent to the cloud for pattern analyses.

However, deploying phones or tablets-as-gateways to capture sensor data is not a scalable, long-term, enterprise solution, especially for industrial environments. In fact, simply finding places to mount the tablets can be a challenge.

Moreover, using Android tablets as gateways exposed the IoT uptime monitoring system itself to downtime, for example in cases where the a tablet’s Bluetooth turned off and broke the application when random operating system (OS) updates and “restarts” occurred. Moreover, like phones and other traditional short-range Bluetooth gateways, the Android tablets were costly and subject to loss and theft. Also, even with additional and costly “hardening” for an industrial environment, the tablets were apt to get damaged or break down quickly.

Leveraging Cassia’s Long-Range BLE for a Scalable IIoT Uptime Monitoring Solution

Using Cassia’s enterprise Bluetooth IoT platform, Infinite Uptime pulls pattern data from dozens of IoT uptime sensors per router in connected bi-directional mode over several hundred feet (Note: in “listening”-only mode, such as with beacons, Cassia enterprise Bluetooth IoT connects to several hundred devices per router and over a longer range). 

Infinite Uptime has successfully deployed the Cassia Bluetooth IoT system in its IoT uptime monitoring solution, for example, in factories in India and the US within industrial beverage and petrochemical environments. Specifically, Cassia’s long range Bluetooth routers have proven easily deployable and scalable in industrial environments where temperatures, humidity, and venting forces change dramatically and where existing networking occurs indoors and outdoors.

Rather than an isolated application management build-out, Cassia provides an enterprise Bluetooth IoT platform which is scalable, deployable, and manageable. In addition to the multiple bi-directional connections and long range Bluetooth IoT capacities of the Bluetooth router, Cassia provides an Access Controller (AC) which aggregates Cassia Bluetooth routers across the back-end as a management layer. The Cassia Bluetooth AC provides a single dashboard of health and status of each router and the connected Bluetooth sensors. Also, the AC creates a two-way communication between cloud and Cassia long range Bluetooth routers and Bluetooth sensor devices. This allows for additional management services, such as pushing firmware to each router.

Creating Enterprise IIoT Uptime with Long-range Bluetooth IoT

Rather than building out an entirely new network connectivity layer, such as with cellular LPWAN, Infinite Uptime leverages existing network capabilities to pull sensor data. This leveraging saves connectivity layer costs by avoiding LPWAN country-specific frequency inefficiencies which involve different device configurations for different countries, as well as a lack of global protocol standards for LPWAN protocols, like SigFox and LoRaWAN.

Because of Cassia Networks’ long range enterprise Bluetooth IoT, management layer aggregation, and multiple connection capabilities, Infinite Uptime’s pattern monitoring is efficient and scalable as an IIoT uptime enterprise monitoring system. Cassia’s enhancements of BLE  - long range Bluetooth, multiple bi-directional pairings - means Bluetooth’s long existing advantages - low-cost, low energy, global standardization – enable IoT uptime use cases with high ROI for solution provider organizations like Infinite Uptime, and broaden the availability of IIoT uptime applications to many more organizations.

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Brad Canham delivers marketing-to-sales pipeline growth and strategy for SaaS and IoT companies. Canham has worked with technology companies including ADC Telecom, Allot Communications, Dotcom-Monitor, CyberPower Systems and many others. He is a principal consultant at MarketVines a marketing-to-sales pipeline growth and strategyfirm. He has a Masters in Business Communications from the University of St. Thomas, Minneapolis and is currently a doctoral candidate in its Leadership, Administration, and Policy department.

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