Video: IIoT-Integrated Sensors Connect Machines to Mobile Devices
James Anderton posted on July 11, 2018 |

James Anderton: “The industrial internet of things.” “Industry 4.0.” These are buzzwords they're throwing around the industry everywhere in these days. But what do they really mean? If you're involved in factory automation or mass production, you've got a lot of sensors, and that's a lot of information to process. I'm with Chris Duncan, trade show and event specialist for Balluff. Chris, we're standing in front of a wall which is sort of representative of a lot of different Balluff sensor products.

Chris Duncan: That's right.

JA: That's a lot of information on my factory floor, and I need some way to see what I have. Is there a better way of doing it?

CD: Yes, there is. Through industry 4.0 technology, we are able to use some of our products, such as our IO-link products, to see the data and bring it from the manufacturing floor onto something like this, like an iPad or somebody's workstation up in the office.

For example, we have a pressure sensor here. We can change the pressure level and show right there on the tablet the difference in real time, so someone doesn't have to walk all the way down from their office to check on the different machines.  

JA: Sensors now do a lot of things they never used to be able to do. We used to think of proximity sensors, limit switches, pressure transducers, temperature transmitters. We're getting a lot more sophisticated now, so a lot of these things sort of are getting more data-rich. For example, a pressure sensor today may report in tenths of a bar. Does this make it more complex? Does the Internet of Things care how many sensors we have and what data is coming in?

CD: What makes it really nice is that a lot of these products work through IO-link. One of the main features of IO-link is how much data you can get out of the different products so as far as the intricacies of how specific the data is. The Internet of Things that doesn't really bother with that. All the data is already on a lot of these devices. What IO-link does is it's able to pull that data and then through the IoT we're able to see it from a remote location.

JA: Now in this case, of course, the sensors are hardwired. Are these wired then to a server? How exactly does this information get from this sensor to the user?

CD: These sensors are wired back to our master block, and our master block is hooked up to a PLC. (That's behind this wall here.) That PLC is hooked up to, in this case, a notebook that’s creating a wireless network, and we're able to connect to it on this iPad, go to the IP address and pull up the information that way.

JA: Could I pull this information to a laptop or even a desktop in an engineer’s front office?

CD: That's right. That's the benefit, to able to monitor from a remote location. We have a system like this at our office, and my boss has a video of himself on a plane and on vacation where he's showing his laptop showing the data from our conveyor in our warehouse even from thousands of miles away.

JA: Information flows from multiple sensors to industry-standard computer devices, says Chris Duncan from Balluff


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