Usually robust and wired sensors that provide data acquisition are found in the industry. These systems require a complex installation, being an invasive system in industrial facilities and involving additional costs of communications networks and intermediate equipment.
The state of the art shows the absence of a plug and play type wireless sensing solution for the industry. In addition, the complexity of deployment and maintenance remains one of the main barriers that the industry finds for the introduction of such solutions.
A Spanish ICT research center offers a new system to facilitate and extend the use of wireless sensor networks. This implies the rapid and easy deployment, configuration, commissioning, usage and maintenance of a wireless sensors network.
The system is based on proprietary algorithms, toolkits and a patented technology to monitor the quality of the nodes’ communications in a meshed environment. This technology guides the user during the deployment stage, indicating through a visual notification if the node is correctly connected to the network under construction, and the quality of this connectivity. Each wireless node includes a set of embedded sensors and different interfaces to connect commercial probes and sensors for different applications. Most of the complexity is managed by the nodes, giving the user simplified tools to configure and start the system. Then, the network can start working unassisted and self-managed to comply with these reliability requirements, and sending data to a local datalogger, an industrial network, or an IoT/cloud infrastructure. By providing these features, the system avoids the need of specialized personnel and equipment for using wireless sensor networks and opens the door to use these systems in itinerant applications.
Furthermore, the deployment complexity is drastically reduced by a quick and assisted deployment method. This system indicates if the node will operate according to the required guarantees, facilitating system configuration and commissioning. In this way, the deployment procedure is greatly simplified and avoids the need for specialized personnel.
Based on the final application, different types of nodes are available (energy measurement, vibration analysis, industrial sensors and probes). This enables a full range of applications for the wireless sensors network, which can be used as a wireless self-managed infrastructure to connect commercial sensors without the need of cabling, integration in field buses, I/O space in PLC (power line communications), etc. Once the nodes and sensors are physically installed, the user can configure the operation of the node under deployment using any equipment compatible with NFC (near-field communication).
A central software allows the user to configure operation features for the network, in terms of guaranteeing communication parameters, to enable the “high reliability” behaviour of the network. The protocol stack used by these nodes is based on a frequency-hopping interface, which optimizes the connectivity in harsh industrial scenarios, offering a higher robustness and scalability. This system can then be integrated in industrial networks and IoT platforms, through standard protocols.
Laboratory prototypes have been developed and validated, followed by real-environment tests, with positive results, performed for water management tasks, energy measurement in offices, and contextual for Industry 4.0. Now, its development is advancing from TRL 6 to TRL 8 (at the end of 2020).
Looking for a collaboration leading to commercial exploitation of the invention. The ideal scenario would be to reach a license agreement in order to transfer the technology where the Spanish centre works as an R&D center that evolves and improves technology and the partner markets it. However, the form, terms, and conditions of the collaboration can be openly discussed if the presented technology is of interest.