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Friday, September 8, 2017

3 Non-Industrial Ways the IoT Will Impact Your Industrial Company

The IoT and smart machines are going to change 'the way we do business' in the industrial world.

When you read this statement, production and warehouse areas usually come to mind. So that's the only part of your business the IoT will affect. Right?

Nope.

Successful businesses necessarily have all their component parts (more or less) integrated: sales, marketing, engineering, production, etc. So why would the IoT not impact them all? Here are three suggestions for aspects of your business outside of production as the world increases its use of IoT technology:

1. Marketing.
In his article 6 Predictions for How IoT Tech Will Affect Online Marketing and SEO, Forbes contributor and founder/CEO of AudienceBloom Jayson DeMers discusses a number of ways marketing will have to accommodate IoT trends. Our company has always relied on his #5 point, personalization. If you are a smaller company like ours, be prepared to do this to an extreme. It will set you apart from the big companies who are able to afford IBM Watson technology and the like, and  as human-to-human contact becomes increasingly rare from these giants, it is the thing we value most and by which our customers remember us.

2. A different kind of innovation.
Let's face it; legacy industrial equipment is here for a long time; after all, it was purchased so it would last as long as possible. And how much time do you and your engineers spend keeping those puppies functioning? We see this necessity in our customers' factories, and we see it in our own.

But these 'dumb' machines are not dumb. They are the result of decades of innovative engineering and many of our ancestor engineers were quite intelligent. Do not underestimate the 4-20mA signal! In the next year Absolute Process Instrument's bluetooth-enabled conversion devices will be helping to network those old workhorses into one smooth, modern, IoT-enabled 21st century machine.

3. Time for Contemplation.
The world moves very, very fast and the IoT is just going to propel it to go faster. How can we think smarter to keep up? The industries of Oil & Gas, Medical & Pharma, Mining, and even Agriculture can benefit from thinking smart about our above-mentioned 'dumb' machines.

Engineers always amaze me with their abilities to flip a problem on its side and come up with a sustainable, workable solution, and it is important to recall this requires a bit of time and breathing time. A few of our engineers call this "windshield time." Integrating IoT solutions into older equipment is a way for young engineers to shine, and for older engineers to prove their worth to upper management. Save the company a few million by using an IoT device to keep an old piece of gear running? Yes, that can count for a lot, so take a few minutes each day to contemplate and stay one step ahead of that IoT train.


Friday, May 5, 2017

Comparing Splitter Models

As always, check out www-api-usa.com to find out more about us and our signal conditioners and pressure gauges (we think we're pretty cool), or call us at 800-942-0315 for application assistance.

Most process signals and sensors are connected directly to a controller or monitoring device input. In some applications, however, it is desirable to split the process or sensor signal into two independent signals


When you are choosing a splitter, you must know which input and output types you require for your process.  

Helpful guidelines to follow:
  • Our line includes most sensors or process signal input types. Specify what signal input type. We offer:
    • DC Voltage or Current
    • RTDs
    • Strain Gages (Load Cells)
    • AC Voltage or Current
    • Frequency
    • Potentiometer
    • Thermocouples (very rare in the industrial marketplace)
  • Outputs can be configured independently for a wide variety of voltage or current ranges, not just 4-20mA. Most customers are clear on their output type, but our engineers can also assist you in choosing the correct one.

What is unique about the API signal splitter line, and what sets it apart from many others, is that the input is not limited to a current input (i.e. 4-20 mDC). 

When you are ordering, make sure you are very specific about the input type you require. We will guide you through this process. You may see a "Universal Splitter!" advertised, when the product actually offers the (exceptionally common but not exactly universal) 4-20 mA DC input.



Our newest IsoSplitter® is in a slim 22.5mm DIN housing, featuring factory-ranged output and field-rangeable input. The perfect and economical choice for the engineer, manager, or tech who knows exactly what he or she needs. 

·     Most economical splitter option
·     Remote output test
·     Wire for sink or source input
·     Optional sinking output

·     Independent output zero/span controls
·      LoopTracker® output LEDs
·      *Universal power
·      
Full isolation: input-outputs, output-output and power-to-input as well as power-to-outputs.





Our standard IsoSplitter® comes in a 45mm DIN housing and has a number of on-board troubleshooting and configuration features and benefits, ideal for the engineer or tech who wants to have options in the field.

·     UL-approved
·     Adjustable local and remote output test
·     I/O Sink/source versatility
·     Independent output zero/span controls
·     Reverse acting output option
·     Input and output LEDs
·      *Universal power
·     Full isolation: input-outputs, output-output and power-to-input as well as power-to-outputs.





 

APD 1393** - One RTD Input to Two DC Outputs

APD 3393** - One Potentiometer Input to Two DC Outputs

APD 5393** - One Strain Gauge Input to Two DC Outputs

APD 6393** - One AC Input to Two DC Outputs

APD 7393** - One Frequency Input to Two DC Outputs

Z170REG-1 (17.5mm) - Multiple Input Types to Two DC Outputs (call factory)

TCS726 - T/C Input to Two T/C Outputs -OR- One T/C Output and One DC Output (call factory)


 *Universal power 85-265 VAC, 60-300 VDC; D-option 9-30 VAC/VDC
**UL-approved


And remember, we are a "custom engineering house that happens to have a product catalog." If you need something you do not see, please give us a call (847-918-3510) and let our experienced engineering team help you solve your problem.





Thursday, March 16, 2017

Analog vs. Digital Pressure Gauges: An Important Distinction

As always, check out www.cecomp.com to find out more about us and our gauges (we're pretty cool), or call us at 800-942-0315 for application assistance.

Ok, so let's face it. Digital pressure gauges are just more expensive than analog gauges. 


Before and After!

So why the heck would I need a digital gauge when my analog (dial) gauge is working just fine? 


The short answer is:

1. An analog may not be working fine at all and you may never know it.

2. A rugged, durable digital gauge - with a warranty - will pay for itself in a very short period of time.
 


The long answer is...
Accuracy  - Digital pressure gauges are far more accurate than analog gauges.
  • Analog gauges-The rule of thumb with analog pressure gauges is that when the operating pressure of the system is normal, the needle should be pointing straight up or in the “twelve o’clock” position. So since the accuracy of most dial pressure gauges is best in the middle third of a gauge, you have to always select a gauge with a range that is about twice your normal operating pressure.
  • Digital gauges – The rule of thumb with digital pressure gauges is that you match the maximum pressure that you are measuring to the pressure of the gauge. Standard accuracy for Cecomp digital pressure gauges is 0.25% of the full scale of the gauge but most ranges are available at 0.1% accuracy so you will automatically have better accuracy since the range is only what you are measuring NOT twice the normal operating pressure.
Readability
  • Analog gauges are often misread due to a parallax issue (the phenomenon whereby a gauge dial appears to the user to be in one position from one angle and another position from another angle).
  • Digital gauges have a digital readout so there are no parallax problems and no counting hashes when taking a reading
Repairability
  • Should a digital gauge be physically damaged (i.e. punctured display or faceplate/keypad) the calibration is typically not affected and they can be repaired at a nominal cost
Durability
  • Due to the solid state design, digital pressure gauges can be used in high vibration applications. The display will hold steady while an analog gauge needle may bounce around and make it difficult to take an accurate reading.
Units of Measurement
  • Analog gauge units of measurement, also called engineering units, are not changeable in the field. The dial face would have to be reprinted and replaced to change engineering units. Cecomp digital pressure gauges allow the user to change engineering units, set the battery on/off time, and digitally calibrate the gauge.
Calibration
  • Digital gauges will withstand considerable shock, vibration, and abuse without losing calibration. Analog gauges are most often “out of calibration” after the first time they are dropped or banged around.
  • Digital pressure gauges are so much more accurate than analog that our customers often use our gauges as test gauges for analogs. The rule of thumb for checking instruments is a 4:1 ratio. Since analog gauges are most often 2% (or worse) accuracies, a 0.25% digital gauge is more than accurate enough for this purpose.
Costs 
  • Analog gauges are less expensive initially; however, analog gauges fail often and are unreliable when subjected to shock and normal abuse. It is often necessary to buy several gauges per year. Digital gauges, if properly maintained, will last several years. 

 
Digital pressure gauges, due to superior accuracy, are often used as “gauge standards” to test analog gauges to determine their accuracy and if they are operating properly. If running a whole plant on digital is impossible, having digital TEST GAUGES on hand for can significantly improve an entire system or plant's accuracy.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Pressure Under the Wings

Ok, full disclosure: I happen to be flying next week, so this post might be a little biased.

When us marketing folks go to work, we look at pictures of other people, diagrams and flow charts, and, if we're lucky, maybe of the gear that we sell. I happen to look at pictures of pressure gauges a lot.

Knowing that I'm flying, I gotta admit it's a relief to say I know our gentleman engineer, Terry, who designs our pressure gauges. I can't wait for the day I look out of the plane window and see our flat-sided gauge and bright orange rubber boot checking the tire, strut or brake pressures on a neighboring aircraft. Besides it being a matter of company pride, I know the people who build and calibrate our gauges and I know I'd be safe relying on their work.

I realized the other day that not everyone knows the difference between a high-quality pressure gauge and a regular $50 analog gauge, so I thought I'd share some of our internal gearhead knowledge with you!

DPG2000B Digital Pressure Gauge

To the left is a picture of one of our gauges. This one happens to be a DPG2000B, the one that a certain major airline manufacturer located in Washington state recommends on their drawings that maintenance techs use.








Toasted Marshmallow Gauge
To the right is a picture of what we call our toasted marshmallow gauge. Believe it or not, it's the same gauge as the DPG2000B above, only this one kind of got blown out of the back of a jet engine after it was accidentally left inside.

Aaaand it stayed perfectly calibrated. For all you non-techies out there, that means that it was accurate before it was super-heated, and it was just as accurate afterwards. More on cal stuff later, I promise I'm not just bragging.

Monday, February 6, 2017

OEM Manufacturing and Growth: A How-To


Like many of you, our customers often buy our products to install directly into new and often exciting OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) products. Many are SMBs, just as we are.

You see, we get very excited to see what our OEM customers are developing! They know their customers, and they know their products. Often these OEMs are solving problems that companies have been having for years. New sensor equipment now determines within millimeters the correct fill of a bottle of soda or water. A different company might be determining highly accurate pressures for creating exact pill density for the pharmaceutical industry. 

But how in the world does a company determine what problem to solve next?

 
In reality, many of us intuitively know how to embark on this process. The question becomes, how do we translate that intuition into a corporate structure?

The process is very nicely summed up in the article "Are you sure you want to innovate like a startup?" The piece was co-authored by Aldo de Jong and Harry Wilson from Claro Partners and Pascal Bouvier, fintech venture capital investor. http://bit.ly/Corp_v_startup

In a nutshell, the article discusses the difference between the way that startups innovate, and the way that corporations innovate. The former has begun to influence the latter, and the article outlines some pitfalls that may occur. Taking the article's advice verbatim may be easier for very large companies, since many of us can't afford to create entire research arms of our companies, but at the root of it all is this: Know. Your. Audience.




“One of the classic lean startup fables is Airbnb’s experiment to hire professional photographers to shoot each listing, resulting in a 2-3X increase in bookings - but where did this hypothesis come from? 
Back when Airbnb was all air mattresses and Obama-branded cereal, their co-founders traveled to New York City, met every single host, lived with them, and wrote their first reviews. Their ‘aha’ moment was seeing the mismatch of grainy photos compared to the real home; this insight gave life to what was, on paper, a mad experiment to run. As a human-centered designer, Brian Chesky lives this philosophy up to today (with guests on his couch every night). It’s this customer immersion that informs the lean experiments that have made Airbnb so different, and successful.”

Those of us in charge of gathering this knowledge and are doing this on-the-ground research for our own OEM development must find the balance point between knowledge and discovery. In other words, time is money, and the next time, Chesky may not have stayed with each and every host to determine his growth point.

Next steps, then, are clear.
Don't guess. 
Meet customers, talk to them, spend time at their facilities, and find out what is going on at the ground level. Find your own Aha! moment that good, clean research can provide.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Time Well Spent

Happy Friday, everyone!

Just a brief post today, and then the weekend begins! If you have 15 minutes, watch this video on mindfulness. Why? In a nutshell, because it's inspirational and positive and I honestly believe that using technology can make, in the words of Tristan Harris, a "net-positive contribution to human life."
timewellspent.io

What's that you say? Why wouldn't it?

Well, I challenge you: Why would it?

It's important to remember that machines are very literal and will only do what we ask them to do. If we think to program them with features that "Improve Humanity!", they will! And if we consciously decide to measure the successes of our IoT technology in how positively they impact human life, that is exactly what they will do.





Think about the things in this video for your family, your company, and your soul. Do it because, whether we know it or not, whether we feel ready or not, we are setting the foundation a machine-integrated, IoT-enabled, technologically-advanced future that we and our children will have to live in.


It's fun and exciting, and at least for me, a little bit daunting because, let's face it, it's a big responsibility. Let's be ready!



Tuesday, September 27, 2016

IIoT - 3 Security Considerations

We are already sold on the idea that we need to encrypt our IoT data - we have passwords for my passwords' passwords.

But when we think about security in terms of the IIoT (no, I didn't slip and put an extra "I" in my title, that first I is for Industrial), we need to consider a variety of factors in a landscape that is still evolving and developing.
Here is some food for thought that I came up with as I was visiting #SensorsExpoMW16, the Sensors Expo Midwest 2016 today:

1. Consider End-to-End Encryption
Encrypt at both ends, and you are secure. Anything else is hackable.

2. Why are our wired and wireless devices using different encryption means?
It seems to be common in start-up IoT security companies to think of wired and wireless as completely separate beasts. As you find your way in this new landscape, consider the possibility that these 'different' data types can be treated the same way by your security methods.

3. How user-friendly is access to the data stream? I recently began using an email service that allows me to access the program as an admin and also assign different user levels based on their need-to-access. Can we do this in Industrial IoT? Of course we can! How useful this to you - think cost - depends on your company and your application.


Security is a never-ending conversation. I am curious what your security considerations are. What did I miss?