Smart sensors cannot do their job in the absence of a good network
Published on : Monday 12-09-2022
Sameer Gandhi, Managing Director, OMRON Automation, India and Vinod Raphael, Country Business Head, OMRON Device & Module Solutions Business Division, India.
Smart Sensors do find it an uphill struggle to displace conventional sensors. Is this true and what could be the reasons for this?
Yes, it’s true to a significant extent. Some of the key reasons behind this trend is cost to be incurred (commercially smart sensors are more expensive than conventional sensors), the economic viability, the preparedness to accept the technology and lack of the desired infrastructure. Network quality and coverage is also an important issue for remote areas. Generally smart sensors are not very complex to use but they need certain skill sets in terms of calibration, etc.
What are the technical issues in installation, commissioning and constant calibration of smart sensors? What are aspects to consider in remote maintenance?
There are no critical concerns related to installation, commissioning and calibration of smart sensors however they do need specific skill sets to perform self-identification, smart calibration and remote configuration. Another major roadblock in getting the maximum out of the sensors’ performance is the network quality and reliability. Owing to the nature of the sensors, a sturdy network is the prime requirement for ensuring the right operations, the deliverables including maintenance. None of the Smart sensors can do their job in the absence of a good network. Since the adoption rate is gradually rising, it’s in the nascent stage, the business and service ecosystem is yet to acquire the desired level of evolution and sophistication.
From sensors to the cloud – is this just a slogan or is it happening really? What are the practical issues? Do you expect 5G to bring in a big change?
It’s happening for real. The driving force that’s making it a reality is ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT). OMRON has been working on presenting offerings in the Sensors arena that have utility to create IoT based solutions across varied industries like building automation, factory automation, logistics automation, home appliances, vending machines, robotics, automotive, energy and medical equipment. These are highly compact and durable sensors, which when embedded in equipment/devices, collect data and contribute to the proper functioning of the complete solution. This is possible owing to the technologies they come imparted with (such as – human sensing, condition sensing, heat sensing, flow sensing, object sensing, distance sensing, and vibration sensing to name a few) and how they are able to create harmonies with the internet. Connectivity, speed, reliability are going to be the major differentiation factors for sensor based cloud communication. The future seems to be very promising for big data-led applications.
Some of the difficulties and practical challenges relate to acceptance of the technology, interoperability, standards and regulations in place, gap between value and cost expectations, etc. But we are hopeful that the advent and expanse of 5G will bring in change down the line and will ramp up the market need for sensors. It will surely be a turnaround if it is implemented and managed effectively.
Since sensors are intelligent devices with possibility to connect to internet, how would the cybersecurity aspects get addressed?
The major concern for cybersecurity stems from the data collection coming from multiple and varied kinds of sensors. Generally all sensing devices will not be connected directly with Cloud and it will be operated via PLC so concern of cybersecurity does get addressed. It also gets managed via ensuring presence of adequate sensor and sensor network infrastructure protection, and secure information monitoring systems. Automation solution providers need to work in great collaboration with the customers and system developers to come up with the right and practical solutions so as to protect the network infrastructure including the sensors that are integrated there. Sensor robustness and inbuilt algorithm security also matters a lot along with the kind of communication platform and cloud security system placed in there.
How do you service existing brownfield plants? Is it possible to have a mix of conventional sensors and smart sensors in one system without expensive interposing devices and gateways?
We can service existing brownfield plants by connecting the sensors with IO link masters and analyse the status of these sensors with real data from the field. It is possible to have a mix of conventional sensors and smart sensors in existing brownfield plants. There is no need to have additional gateways as sensors would be connected to the PLC or Local servers.
(The views expressed in interviews are personal, not necessarily of the organisations represented)