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One of the most basic features of smart cities, smart buildings, and smart utilities is avoiding unnecessary service outages. However, comprehensive equipment-monitoring programs usually come with a hefty price tag. Another approach is to pick critical equipment and fit it with the industrial equivalent of a Fitbit.

Health monitoring for machinery can help avoid downtime

Being able to detect faults before equipment breaks down has many benefits for utilities, building, and municipal operators. Experienced plant operators can often detect that something's wrong with equipment by subtle changes in the noises it makes, or by putting their hand on the machinery and sensing that its "heartbeat" is not quite right. That's excellent when operators with decades of experience are available and they're constantly on site.

Implementing traditional plant monitoring is expensive and complex – even the need to drill a hole in a machine cover to mount a sensor can trigger time-consuming safety assessments and management procedures; then there's the need to provision power and connectivity within and beyond the site, develop analysis and reporting capability, and create the mechanisms to inform the right people at the right time for preventative action to be taken.

Battery-operated, low-power wide-area (LPWA) connected Industrial IoT (IIoT) solutions have changed all this. For example, MOVUS FitMachine combines advanced, battery-powered sensor technology, wirelessly connecting to the cloud via Telstra's Cat-M (LTE-M) service, and advanced cloud-based intelligent processing self-learns baseline behavior, and then delivers 24x7 notification of deviations. In short, it's a Fitbit for machines.

To begin, a MOVUS Cat-M gateway is plugged in to a standard power outlet somewhere near the equipment to be monitored. A FitMachine sensor is magnetically attached to each machine to be monitored. Pre-configured by MOVUS, as soon as the gateway is switched on, the system begins learning the normal rhythms of the equipment.

The smarts of the system are provided in the cloud, requiring no local IT footprint. Alerting capability and a web dashboard complete the picture for basic operation, and there is an extensive API for integration with other systems. While the API may not seem significant, given the native capabilities of the MOVUS ecosystem, one of the challenges in the IIoT segment is integrating disparate groups of smart devices into a "system of systems," or overall operations ecosystem, which can fully leverage all the data available.

While taking on a comprehensive "system of systems" implementation requires significant investment of time and money, an initial investment in monitoring a small number of high-value assets can deliver significant ROI, as Queensland Brain Institute discovered when one of its screw chillers started to misbehave on cold nights. Early warning and diagnosis led to an immediate adjustment of the operating parameters extending the life expectancy of the equipment and avoided costly repairs.


Further reading

Successful Smart Cities Start with an Integrated Strategy, IOT001-000012 (March 2018)


Richard Palmer, Principal Analyst, Public Sector

[email protected]