Powering the Next Generation of HART-Enabled Devices

Powering the Next Generation of HART-Enabled Devices

This guest blog post was written by Sol Jacobs, vice president and general manager of Tadiran Batteries, has more than 30 years of experience in developing solutions for powering remote devices. His educational background includes a bachelor’s degree in engineering and an MBA.


While continually evolving, the HART communications protocol remains strong after 30 years, with approximately 30 million HART-enabled devices installed and in service worldwide. The HART protocol remains the industry standard for applications ranging from process control to asset management and safety systems, machine-to-machine, and other supervisory control and data automation applications.

The Highway Addressable Remote Transducer (HART) protocol employs Bell 202 frequency shift keying (the same standard found in analog phone caller-ID technology) to superimpose digital signals on top of 4–20 mA analog signals, with the two channels working in tandem to provide a low-cost field communications solution that is easy to use and configure.

Traditional HART connectivity requires hardwiring, which is highly restrictive. Experts believe that nearly 85 percent of all installed HART-enabled devices are not currently connected. The main obstacle is expense; it costs $100 or more per foot to create a hardwired connection. This limitation becomes even more problematic for remote, environmentally sensitive locations, where logistical, regulatory, and permitting requirements create added layers of expense and complexity.

Recognizing that industrial automation could not be held back by proximity to analog wiring, the HART-IP protocol was developed, enabling IP-based networks to communicate via Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11) or Ethernet (IEEE 802.3).

The development of HART-IP led to low-power communications protocols, such as WirelessHART and ZigBee, that use IEEE 802.15.4-approved radio signals to deliver high reliability in challenging environments. The WirelessHART protocol has created a huge opportunity for wireless, battery-operated sensors to seamlessly integrate with other intelligent HART devices to play an integral role in the emerging Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). This is a critical step toward a future where “big data” analytics will increasingly manage transportation infrastructure, energy production, environmental monitoring, manufacturing, distribution, health care, and smart buildings. The WirelessHART protocol has enabled the rapid development of wireless mesh networks that combine multiple low-power sensors to form redundant, self-healing networks.

The ideal power supply

A remote wireless device is only as reliable as its power supply, which needs be optimized based on application-specific requirements. The vast majority of remote wireless devices that require long operating life are powered by primary (nonrechargeable) lithium batteries. However, certain applications may be suited for energy-harvesting devices used in conjunction with rechargeable lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries that store the harvested energy.

Generally speaking, the more remote the application, the greater the need for an industrial-grade lithium battery. For example, inexpensive consumer-grade alkaline batteries can suffice in certain instances, especially for easily accessible devices that operate within a moderate temperature range (i.e., flashlights, television remote controllers, and toys). However, alkaline batteries are not well suited to long-term industrial applications due to inherent limitations, including low voltage (1.5 V or lower), a limited temperature range (0°C to 60°C), a high self-discharge rate that reduces life expectancy to two to three years, and crimped seals that may leak.

The low initial cost of a consumer-grade battery can also be highly misleading, as the cost of labor to replace a consumer-grade battery typically far exceeds that of the battery itself. For example, consider what it takes to replace batteries in a seismic monitoring system sitting on the ocean floor or in a stress sensor attached to a bridge abutment.

To judge whether a short-lived consumer-grade alkaline battery is a worthy investment, you must calculate the lifetime cost of the power supply. To be accurate, the calculation has to properly account for the cost of all labor and materials associated with future battery replacements.

When specifying an industrial-grade lithium battery, you need to consider numerous factors, including energy consumed in active mode (including the size, duration, and frequency of pulses); energy consumed in dormant mode (the base current); storage time (as normal self-discharge during storage diminishes capacity); thermal environments (including storage and in-field operation); equipment cut-off voltage (as battery capacity is exhausted, or in extreme temperatures, voltage can drop to a point too low for the sensor to operate); battery self-discharge rate (which can be higher than the current draw from average sensor use); and cost considerations. Industrial-grade lithium batteries are commonly specified when the following performance features are required:

  • Reliability: The remote sensor is deployed in a hard-to-reach location where battery replacement is difficult or impossible, and data links cannot be interrupted by bad batteries.
  • Long operating life: The self-discharge rate of the battery can be more than the device usage of the battery, so initial battery capacity must be as high as possible.
  • Wide operating temperatures: A wide range is especially critical for extremely hot or cold environments.
  • Small size: When a small form factor is required, the battery’s energy density needs to be as high as possible.
  • Voltage: Higher voltage enables fewer cells to be required.
  • Lifetime costs: Replacement costs over time must be taken into account.

Trade-offs are inevitable, so you need to prioritize your list of desired performance attributes.

Choosing among primary lithium batteries

Lithium battery chemistry is preferred for long-term deployments, because its intrinsic negative potential exceeds that of all other metals. Lithium is also the lightest nongaseous metal and has the highest specific energy (energy per unit weight) and energy density (energy per unit volume) of all available battery chemistries. Lithium cells, all of which use a nonaqueous electrolyte, have a normal operating current voltage that ranges between 2.7 V and 3.6 V. The absence of water allows lithium batteries to endure more extreme temperatures. Numerous primary lithium chemistries are available (table 1), including iron disulfide (LiFeS2), lithium manganese dioxide (LiMNO2), and lithium thionyl chloride (LiSOCl2) chemistry.

Table 1. Numerous primary lithium chemistries are available.

Consumer-grade lithium iron disulfide (LiFeS2) cells are relatively inexpensive, and deliver the high pulses required to power a camera flash. These batteries have limitations, including a narrow temperature range of -20°C to 60°C, a high annual self-discharge rate, and crimped seals that may leak.

Lithium manganese dioxide (LiMNO2) cells, including the popular CR123A, provide a space-saving solution for cameras and toys, as a single 3-volt LiMNO2 cell can replace two 1.5-volt alkaline cells. LiMNO2 batteries can deliver moderate pulses, but suffer from low initial voltage, a narrow temperature range, a high self-discharge rate, and crimped seals.

Bobbin-type lithium thionyl chloride (LiSOCl2) batteries are particularly well suited for WirelessHART devices that draw low average daily current. Bobbin-type LiSOCl2 batteries offer the highest capacity and highest energy density of any lithium cell, along with an extremely low annual self-discharge rate—less than 1 percent per year—enabling certain low-power applications to operate without maintenance for up to 40 years. Bobbin-type LiSOCl2 batteries also deliver the widest possible temperature range (-80°C to 125°C) and have a glass-to-metal hermetic seal.

These unique attributes make bobbin-type LiSOCl2 batteries ideally suited for industrial applications, such as tank level monitoring and asset tracking, where remote sensors must endure extreme temperature cycling. A prime example is the medical cold chain, where wireless sensors are required to monitor the transport of frozen pharmaceuticals, tissue samples, and transplant organs at carefully controlled temperatures as low as -80°C. Certain bobbin-type LiSOCl2 batteries have been proven to operate successfully under prolonged test conditions at -100°C, which far exceeds the maximum temperature range of alkaline cells and consumer-grade lithium batteries.

Bobbin-type LiSOCl2 batteries are also used in virtually all meter transmitter units (MTUs) in advanced metering infrastructure/automatic meter reading (AMI/AMR) metering applications for water and gas utilities. These MTUs are often buried outside in underground pits and subjected to extreme temperatures. Extended battery life is essential to AMI/AMR metering applications, because any large-scale system-wide battery failure could create chaos by disrupting billing and customer service. To preempt this type of disruption, utility companies demand the use of bobbin-type LiSOCl2 batteries for their ability to operate for decades.

Battery operating life is largely influenced by the cell’s annual energy usage, along with its annual self-discharge rate. For this reason, many devices that use the WirelessHART protocol are designed to conserve energy by operating on a very low current. To further extended battery life, these devices operate mainly in a “sleep” mode that draws little or no current, periodically querying for the presence of data and awakening only if certain preset data thresholds are exceeded. It is not uncommon for more energy to be lost through annual battery self-discharge than through actual battery use.

When specifying a bobbin-type LiSOCl2 battery, be aware that battery operating life can vary significantly based on how the cell was manufactured and the quality of its raw materials. For example, the highest-quality bobbin-type LiSOCl2 cells can have a self-discharge rate as low as 0.7 percent annually, thus retaining nearly 70 percent of their original capacity after 40 years. By contrast, a lesser-quality bobbin-type LiSOCl2 cell can have an annual self-discharge rate as high as 3 percent, causing nearly 30 percent of available capacity to be lost every 10 years from annual self-discharge.

High pulse requirements

Standard bobbin-type LiSOCl2 cells are not designed to deliver high pulses, which can be overcome by combining a standard bobbin-type LiSOCl2 cell with a hybrid layer capacitor (HLC). The standard LiSOCl2 cell delivers the low background current needed to power the device during sleep mode, while the HLC works like a rechargeable battery to store and deliver the high pulses needed during data interrogation and transmission.

Alternatively, supercapacitors can be used to store high pulse energy in an electrostatic field. Supercapacitors are used in many consumer products, but are generally not recommended for industrial applications because of inherent performance limitations, including an inability to provide long-term power, linear discharge qualities that do not allow the use of all available energy, low capacity, low energy density, and high annual self-discharge rates (up to 60 percent per year). Supercapacitors linked in series also require cell-balancing circuits that draw additional current.

Opportunities for energy harvesting

A growing number of HART-IP connected devices are proving to be well suited for energy harvesting, with Li-ion rechargeable batteries being used to store the harvested energy. Several considerations go into the decision to deploy an energy-harvesting device, including the reliability of the device and its energy source, the expected operating life of the device, environmental parameters, size and weight restrictions, and the total cost of ownership. Photovoltaic cells are commonly used in HART-enabled applications. In certain situations, energy can also be harvested from equipment vibration or from radio frequency/electromagnetic signals.

Consumer-grade rechargeable Li-ion cells may be a sufficient solution if the device is easily accessible and needs to operate for no more than five years and 500 recharge cycles within a moderate temperature range (0°C to 40°C). However, if the wireless device will be used in a remote location or in extreme temperatures, then the application will likely require an industrial-grade Li-ion battery that can operate for up to 20 years and 5,000 full recharge cycles, with an expanded temperature range of -40°C to 85°C (table 2).

Table 2. For remote locations or extreme temperatures, industrial-grade lithium-ion batteries are usually required.

Another major advantage of an industrial-grade rechargeable Li-ion cell is its ability to deliver the high pulses (5 A for a AA-size cell) to support advanced, two-way communications. These ruggedly constructed cells also have a hermetic seal that is superior to the crimped seals on consumer-grade rechargeable batteries, which may leak.

Foundation of IIoT

The development of the HART-IP and WirelessHART communications protocols have created a growing need for battery-powered solutions that can operate without maintenance for decades and provide reliable, secure, and seamless interoperability between legacy technologies and the latest generation of wireless devices. These HART-enabled technologies form a critical foundation for the IIoT, which promises to revolutionize modern industrial automation.

Technology convergence and growing requirements for interoperability are currently being supported by the most recent bobbin-type LiSOCl2 batteries, including hybrid cells that can deliver the high pulses required for advanced, two-way communications. There is also growing demand for industrial-grade rechargeable lithium-ion batteries that offer a long-term power supply for energy-harvesting applications. Together, these advanced battery chemistries offer a wide range of reliable, long-term power design options for HART-connected devices.

About the Author
Sol Jacobs, vice president and general manager of Tadiran Batteries, has more than 30 years of experience in developing solutions for powering remote devices. His educational background includes a bachelor’s degree in engineering and an MBA.



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A version of this article also was published at InTech magazine


IIoT Applications Deliver a Competitive Advantage to Process Industries

IIoT Applications Deliver a Competitive Advantage to Process Industries

This guest blog post was written by Deanna Johnson, global marketing communications manager at Emerson Process Management.

To some, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is just a new buzzword—but to the process industries, the IIoT is becoming a necessity to maintain competitiveness. Oil and gas companies, refineries, and other process industries are trying to cope with various market forces, many of which require improved plant performance.

The 650 major refineries globally are especially affected. Some of these plants are operating at peak performance, but many are not, causing a significant financial impact. Our calculations show the difference in operating costs associated with equipment reliability and energy efficiency between a well-run refinery and an average one is about $12.3 million per year for a typical 250,000 barrel-per-day facility. Assuming about 60 percent of refineries are not operating as well as they could, the overall worldwide financial impact runs to billions of dollars annually.

To increase reliability and efficiency, and to gain other operating benefits such as reduced maintenance and improved safety, many refineries and process plants are turning to the IIoT.

The IIoT essentially involves acquiring data from hundreds—if not thousands—of process and equipment sensors, and transmitting the data to central locations via wireless or hardwired networks. The goal is to sense anything, anywhere in a cost-effective manner.

Once the data arrives, it is stored in databases, historians, the cloud, and other locations where it can be accessed by software that analyzes and interprets the sensor information using “big data” techniques to diagnose conditions, detect equipment problems, and alert operations personnel. Such software can reside in the plant’s control system, a dedicated PC, or in a server half a world away.

The “Internet” part of IIoT refers to the fact that the Internet can be used to connect the various systems. In many instances, all the networking is done at the plant itself, with the Internet replaced by an internal intranet, but the basic principles still apply: huge amounts of data are gathered and analyzed to find and solve problems.

Space does not permit an exhaustive analysis of all the applications where the IIoT can save energy, reduce maintenance costs, and improve process efficiency. However, here is a short list of what is possible to monitor and analyze with these types of systems:

  • steam traps
  • pumps and compressors
  • heat exchangers
  • pressure relief valves
  • cooling towers
  • mobile workforces
  • safety showers and eye wash stations

Following are several examples of how the IIoT was used to improve efficiency and find problems at process plants worldwide.

Steam trap monitoring

Steam trap monitoring via wireless acoustic transmitters is a leading IIoT application. When traps fail open, high-pressure steam leaks out, so more steam has to be produced by boilers. Depending on the price of steam at a facility, a single failed-open steam trap can waste $30,000 worth of steam each year.

When traps fail closed, they do not remove water droplets from the steam. Accumulated water, moving through piping and equipment at a high rate of speed, can rupture steam lines and cause turbines to throw blades. Repairs are very expensive, and downtime is often significant.

Most plants monitor their steam traps manually via annual checks. This is very costly in terms of labor, misses many problems, and in the worst case can allow failed traps to operate for years.

Acoustic sensors and specialized software systems detect steam trap problems automatically and alert plant personnel so they can take action. In the past, these sensors were hardwired back to software systems, but the preferred modern method is to use wireless acoustic sensors connected back to software systems via a wireless mesh network, creating an IIoT.

Levaco Chemicals in Leverkusen, Germany, had to save energy to meet the June 2012 Energy Efficiency Directive required by the European Commission and ISO 50001. The plant determined that defective steam traps were causing loss of steam and inefficient heat transfer, and therefore wasting energy.

They installed 300 wireless steam trap monitors and three wireless gateways—one in each of three plant areas—on critical steam traps. The gateways connect to the wireless transmitters through the WirelessHART mesh network, and the gateways connect to the control system via hardwiring.

They also installed specialized data analysis software on a PC. The gateways connect to the PC via an Ethernet cable. This software analyzes real-time data from the steam trap acoustic monitors. These instruments measure the ultrasonic acoustic behavior and temperature of steam traps, and the software uses this data to identify existing and potential problems.

By repairing or replacing failed steam traps, the three plant areas immediately had substantial reductions in energy costs. Failed traps were no longer venting valuable steam, which lowered energy consumption to produce steam, and failed traps were no longer causing process shutdowns. The increased energy efficiency easily met the Energy Efficiency Directive and ISO 50001 requirements, and the plant was awarded a certificate of compliance in 2015.

Levaco calculated a return on investment of fewer than two years, thanks to savings in energy costs. It also reduced the number of process shutdowns because of steam trap failures, and eliminated the need for maintenance technicians to make regular rounds, resulting in further substantial savings.

In a similar application, a corn milling plant was experiencing a 15 percent annual steam trap failure rate, with 12.5 percent of the plant’s steam traps responsible for 38 percent of the steam loss. Steam trap issues were efficiently identified and addressed with the application of wireless steam trap acoustic sensors and accompanying analytics. The payback period was just a few months, and the annual savings were $301,108.

Table 1 illustrates the savings possible in a large plant that has 8,000 steam traps, where 1,200 are considered critical. If the plant previously experienced a 15 percent failure rate per year, by preventing those failures with steam trap monitors the plant will save $3,279,960 per year.

Pump monitoring

It is estimated that pumps account for 7 percent of the total maintenance cost of a plant or refinery, and pump failures are responsible for 0.2 percent of lost production. Many pump failures can be predicted using IIoT, modern condition-based monitoring techniques, predictive technologies, and reliability-centered maintenance best practices.

Historically, the expense of installing a dedicated IIoT online monitoring system has prevented it from being used on anything beyond the most critical pumps. But with the relative ease of adding online pump condition monitoring with today’s wireless sensor technology, online monitoring can be installed quickly and inexpensively.

Today, wireless transmitters make it possible to monitor many pumps cost effectively.

Cavitation monitoring is needed on high-head multistage pumps, as they cannot tolerate this condition, even for a brief time. Although cavitation often happens when pumps operate outside their design ranges, it can also be caused by intermittent pump suction or discharge restrictions. Damage can occur before manual rounds discover the problem, but can be detected sooner by continuously monitoring the pump discharge pressure for fluctuations with a wireless pressure transmitter.

Vibration monitoring detects many common causes of pump failure. Excessive motor and pump vibration can be caused by a failing concrete foundation or metal frame, shaft misalignment, impeller damage, pump or motor bearing wear, or coupling wear and cavitation. Increasing vibration commonly leads to seal failure and can result in expensive repairs, process upsets, reduced throughput, fines if hazardous material is leaked, and fire if the leaked material is flammable.

Online vibration monitoring has been successful in detecting several root causes of pump degradation. A complete IIoT pump health monitoring system can pay for itself in months. At one refinery, for example, pump monitoring systems were installed on 80 pumps throughout the complex. The annual savings was more than $1.2 million after implementing the pump monitoring solution, resulting in a payback period of fewer than six months (table 2). The savings came from decreased maintenance costs of $360,000, and fewer losses from process shutdowns because of failed pumps, which were conservatively valued at $912,000.

Heat exchangers in many plants can be a major source of downtime, often causing considerable maintenance expenses, significant loss of production, and poor plant performance. Existing monitoring may involve manual spot measurements performed periodically. These types of measurements provide an inconsistent view of failures and are time consuming, with accurate assessment based upon technician expertise.

Many refiners are trying to maximize their use of low-cost crudes, but using this type of feedstock often presents significant processing challenges. Typically, crude unit preheat exchangers can foul unpredictably with changes in the crude blend and process conditions. As a result, energy efficiency is lost, and production can be limited. Adding additional wireless temperature measurements to exchanger banks provides increased data to process analytics software that can then alert operations to excessive fouling conditions and rates. Using WirelessHART technology, heat exchanger monitoring can be quickly automated and integrated with the existing automation system in a matter of days.

Wireless temperature transmitters and heat exchanger modeling software can determine when crude unit preheat exchangers need cleaning.

At one refinery, the #2 Crude Unit was subject to preheat train fouling. The refinery was unable to determine when to clean the heat exchanger for the greatest benefit. This lack of information prevented economic analysis planning, such as fouling degradation versus additional fired heater fuel required. An IIoT real-time temperature monitoring system was installed on the unit, which sent data to heat exchanger modeling software. Based on the analysis, the heat exchanger was cleaned on an as-needed basis, resulting in an estimated annual savings of $225,000 in maintenance costs, with further savings of $912,500 realized by preventing downtime (table 3).

More than a buzzword

The IIoT is more than a buzzword. It is here, and plants are using it to realize value from the hundreds of millions of connected sensors currently installed, and the millions more coming online each year. Many of these new sensors are wireless, because they can be installed quicker and at less cost than their wired equivalents, often with no required downtime. These low-cost wireless sensors and accompanying analytics can dramatically improve plant performance, increase safety, and pay for themselves within months.

About the Author
Deanna Johnson, global marketing communications manager at Emerson Process Management, focuses on Rosemount products and pervasive-sensing strategies. Her previous positions included development of integrated marketing communications programs for Emerson’s oil and gas and refining industries, as well as work on WirelessHART marketing. Johnson started her Emerson career in 1996. She has an MBA with a marketing focus.

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A version of this article originally was published at InTech magazine.

Connectivity, Productivity and Efficiency Benefits of IIoT Depend on Integrated Cybersecurity

Connectivity, Productivity and Efficiency Benefits of IIoT Depend on Integrated Cybersecurity

This article was written by Bill Lydon, chief editor at InTech magazine


I had a discussion with Gary Freburger, president of Schneider Electric’s process automation business, about the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). He framed the discussion by introducing a new concept, “intelligize.” Simply put, intelligize means establishing a method to sort, prioritize, and refine your data, to connect bits of data so they become meaningful information, and then to share that information with operators and other assets, ensuring that the most effective, valuable business and operating decisions and actions are taken.

“While all industry is chomping at the bit to realize the promise and rewards of IIoT,” Freburger noted, “all that connectivity and proposed productivity and efficiency won’t matter if the culture, systems, or plants are not inherently safe and secure. Before deploying IIoT, it is important to understand not only the implications for your business, but also the implications for overall safety and security.” In short, “a cornerstone of an effective industrial automation system is integrated cybersecurity.”

It is critically important to think about all the opportunities IIoT presents before connecting a large volume of sensors, solutions, and automation and control systems. The prospect of connecting billions of devices to industrial automation systems begs two really important questions.

First, how do we keep systems and information secure? Adding more devices creates a broader attack surface, which increases cybersecurity risks. In Freburger’s view, there must be a balance between adding intelligence, securing the devices, and protecting the data. Collecting data just for the sake of having more data might not create any additional value at all. More data has the potential to cause more operator confusion and increase the cyberattack risk.

Second, what do we do with the data and information? “You need a process to figure out what it means and what it is telling you,” he said. “There are a lot of options for using data, including trending, exception reporting, alarming, and other functions. But there needs to be a reason to collect all this data. It’s what we call an operational intelligence approach, which relies on optimizing automation and control, remote management, and predictive maintenance to enable managed services, advanced analytics, and the generation of actionable information that drive better, more informed decision making.”

Improving operational efficiency and reliability can be better accomplished by providing the intelligent data for operators to make the better decisions that optimize production. Freburger used an interesting analogy to make his point. “If you connect your washing machine to the Internet, what do you really want to know? Do you want to know when the water turns on, the soap dispenses, the drying cycle time, the rinse cycle time, the spin cycle duration and RPMs? That’s a lot of data. But is it valuable and worth extending your risk of a cyberincursion? And what would you do with the data anyway? In all practicality, all you probably want to know is when the washer turned on, when it’s complete, and if there is a potential problem. Just because I can connect my washing machine to the Internet doesn’t mean I should, unless it makes sense and unless I can do something valuable with the information.”

“What’s interesting to me from our perspective, with a lot of feedback from users, is that control systems have become complicated,” he told me. “We’ve come to the realization that we need to simplify the data and make it easier for users. This includes standardization in a number of areas to make things simpler—for example, standards that define the meaning of operator display colors for consistency. But ‘simpler’ and connecting another 5,000 devices don’t quite go together. The important thing is deciding how to intelligize the data, deciding what you really want to accomplish, how to use the data to do that, how to bring it into the systems, and how to keep it and your systems secure.”

“The Industrial Internet of Things is a wonderful advancement, and a real opportunity to increase ROI [return on investment] and asset value. When it comes to process automation, we should be using IIoT capabilities to push control further toward the device layer, which means making instrumentation much smarter. This should allow you to simplify the control architecture to match the topology, so that we are reducing time, cost, and effort to configure systems.”

Distinguishing the data you really need from the available data is important in system design. For Freburger, this simply means applying lean design concepts to improve operations, efficiency, and productivity. “The IIoT strengthens our capabilities so we are better able to help customers extend the life of their assets, enhance decision-making, and create a smart enterprise control system that drives improved financial performance for the business. But it has to be inherently cybersecure first.”


Bill LydonAbout the Author
Bill Lydon is chief editor of InTech magazine. Lydon has been active in manufacturing automation for more than 25 years. He started his career as a designer of computer-based machine tool controls; in other positions, he applied programmable logic controllers and process control technology. In addition to experience at various large companies, he co-founded and was president of a venture-capital-funded industrial automation software company. Lydon believes the success factors in manufacturing are changing, making it imperative to apply automation as a strategic tool to compete.
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A version of this article originally was published at InTech magazine

Internet of Things: Creating Customer Value from Home to Industry

Internet of Things: Creating Customer Value from Home to Industry

This post was written by Prabhu Soundarrajan, global marketing director for Honeywell Analytics


The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) has been a very popular topic. Several startup companies emerged, and major corporations introduced initiatives throughout the year. Most of us are wondering where IIoT will go within our industry. I want to offer a personal account of how I have been affected by the trend and share my thoughts on how it may impact our industry.

Having spent the past 15 years in the commercialization of innovative technology, I took it upon myself to understand the economic value created by this new technology.

Connected home

My home is now connected. Throughout the year, I piled up a number of “smart home” devices to enable my house for IoT. It started with a smart thermostat, camera, lighting, shower, security system, home theater, TV, and car. By definition everything in my home has connectivity to enable new value in comfort and flexibility. So is IoT for the connected home really new? It is really an evolution of what I am used to, with a slight premium for technology and convenience. I was happy to pay for it and enjoy the benefits of a connected home. I made the transition within a year without really noticing it. Every major retailer has IoT-enabled products and offers incentives to encourage consumers to buy IoT-enabled products.

Applications such as automatic climate control, energy management, and 24/7 security drove my willingness to pay. I paid a few hundred dollars to make my home “connected,” and my wife (boss) already appreciates it. I look like a rock star to her.

Connected industrial safety

Companies are leveraging IoT connectivity so customers can have the same level of connectivity in their workplace as I have in my home (e.g., an IoT-enabled connected safety solution for industrial workers). Industrial work environments are challenging in terms of safety hazards, compliance requirements, and exposure to risks. Unexpected events can lead to a major accident, causing downtime for several days, which in turn affects the productivity of the enterprise. Connected, safety-enabled IIoT has 24/7 real-time monitoring to provide situational awareness for the worker, supervisor, plant manager, and whoever else needs to be in the know. Gas detectors and personal protective equipment are some of the “things” in the safety space that give tremendous value when connected.

Connected workplace

The benefits already proven by connected safety solutions are tremendous. An ethanol plant in the state of Washington could detect a small leak in a storage column when a worker was doing a regular inspection. The worker transmitted information about a gas leak, which the control room operator translated as a product leak after the first few hours of system installation. This helped the plant to change work procedures and process optimization that saved more than $250,000 for the enterprise. The return on investment for a connected safety solution was only a few months.

A major petroleum refiner in Texas embraced connected safety solutions to develop a new emergency management process. It transmitted the hazard data map from gas detectors monitoring the perimeter of the facility, along with a wealth of new data, to the control room three kilometers away. An oil-processing plant in California correlated the personal exposure data for worker health and developed comprehensive work procedures for confined space entry, resulting in greater compliance with environmental regulations. This company shared best practices across its global sites securely over the cloud to enhance a culture of safety. These positive developments were not possible in the past when edge devices were not connected, but with connectivity new value streams were identified for the end user.

The practical applications of IIoT and connected safety solutions are driving three major value propositions for the enterprise:

  • Safety: End users can now transition from reactive to proactive safety procedures and plan and manage the entire safety life cycle of the enterprise.
  • Compliance: Work rules management has transformed from “trust” to “verification” to reduce liabilities across the enterprise.
  • Productivity: Real-time, 24/7 safety data increases operational efficiency by reducing or eliminating labor-intensive procedures.

The IIoT is creating value in both home and industrial environments. The final say for the technology is in the incremental and differentiated value created for customers.

About the Author
Prabhu Soundarrajan is global marketing director for Honeywell Analytics. He has served in a number of capacities as a volunteer leader, including director of ISA’s chemical and petroleum industries division (ChemPID).

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A version of this article originally was published at InTech magazine

Why MQTT Is an Ideal Connectivity Protocol for the Industrial Internet of Things

Why MQTT Is an Ideal Connectivity Protocol for the Industrial Internet of Things

This article was written by Steve Hechtman, president, CEO, and founder of Inductive Automation


A number of competing technologies and protocols have been in play for the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), each with strengths and weaknesses. There is one protocol, however, that appears to best address the unique demands and challenges of the controls business: MQ Telemetry Transport (MQTT). MQTT is an OASIS standard that is open and royalty free.

MQTT is a publish/subscribe protocol whereby edge-of-network devices publish to an MQTT server that can be on or off the premises. The data can then be discovered by, and delivered to, any number of subscribing clients. Clients can be supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems or other enterprise applications. This one-to-many capability decouples edge-of-network devices and data-consuming client applications for more efficient information distribution and increased scalability.


Traditional polling systems usually require clients to know everything about edge-of-network devices in advance. In brokered publish/subscribe systems, such as MQTT, data can be discovered and tags can be automatically generated by the simple act of subscribing from a client—which can save an immense amount of development time.

Several features of the protocol make it particularly suitable for remote sensing and control. It reports by exception and has extremely lightweight overhead (2-byte header). Unlike the usual poll/response model that generally saturates data connections with unchanging data, MQTT maximizes available bandwidth. In fact, it was originally developed for the often low-bandwidth, high-latency, and unreliable data links used in the oil and gas industry. Update rates in the 100-millisecond range are possible even with external cloud-based brokers.

MQTT also maintains stateful session awareness and is bidirectional. When an edge-of-network device loses network connectivity, all subscribed clients will be notified with the “last will and testament” feature of the MQTT server (which is important in the SCADA world). The last known and time-stamped value will still be available using the “retain” message feature of the transport. The bidirectional capability of MQTT means that any authorized client in the system can publish a new value to the edge-of-network device, so bidirectional connectivity is maintained, as you would expect of any SCADA system. The changed value is then read and published back to the broker from the edge-of-network device, thus confirming to all subscribed clients that the value has changed.

Being a lightweight and efficient protocol facilitates a higher throughput rate, which in turn significantly increases the amount of data that can be monitored or controlled. Therefore, organizations can publish stranded intelligence from field devices, such as flowmeters, to the MQTT server, and maintenance folks can subscribe to it (whereas operational clients would subscribe to operational data). Previously, this metadata had to be manually retrieved from the location, because it was often so voluminous that bandwidth limitations made transporting it out of the field hard to justify.

Security is permission based in that the credentials used to log into an MQTT server determine the resources available to that user. Because MQTT was designed on top of TCP/IP, authentication and encryption are typically transport layer security. They are implemented outside of the specification to keep it simple, lightweight, and future proofed as TCP/IP security models change. Security can be further enhanced with on premise brokers or a hybrid model.

The MQTT specification is data agnostic; it does not define a data representation for the message payload. This can present a problem of compatibility between different MQTT systems, because each can have different data representations. The controls industry has a limited number of well-known data types, so the formation of compatible edge-of-network devices, brokers, and subscription clients is within reach. In fact, a number of companies are already working together on it.

There are quite a few open-source projects for MQTT clients (e.g., the Eclipse Paho project) and brokers (e.g., Mosquito and RabbitMQ). Although MQTT was borne from oil field requirements, it is now used as far afield as Facebook Messenger. Amazon Web Services announced that Amazon IIoT is based on MQTT as well.

Most likely, polling schemes and existing protocols will remain the standard on local area networks, but wide area data acquisition and control systems will transition toward one of the industrial IIoT paradigms. MQTT appears to be a protocol with a good track record, good adoption, and unique suitability for the control systems used by industry.

About the Author
Steve Hechtman is the president, CEO, and founder of Inductive Automation. Before starting the company in 2003, Hechtman had 25 years of experience as a control system integrator. He co-founded Calmetrics Company, a control systems integration company, in 1988 and became president and CEO in 2000. He formed Inductive Automation to bring up-to-date technologies to the controls business with Web-based, database-centric products and sensible licensing models.
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A version of this article originally was published at InTech magazine

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