Emerging Technology to Ease Data and Distance Concerns
Asset health management and predictive analytics require the abilities to capture large volumes of data from hundreds or thousands of assets and securely transmit that data to a central hub for analysis. Although that might sound simple, there is a significant operator concern: sensor battery drain. As the volume of data and the distance it must travel both increase, the lifespan of the sensor decreases.
It's an unfortunate trade-off.
The volume of data that oil and gas, petrochemical facilities and refineries capture and analyze isn't likely to change. They need detailed information such as shaft proximity, acceleration forces, static pressure, temperature, suction/discharge, flow, amps/power, particle size, dynamic pressure, torque and thrust to make more informed equipment decisions.
Rotating equipment OEMs have used a variety of communication methods to overcome the data and distance conundrum. These include using traditional Wi-Fi, boosted wireless and mesh networks; however, these approaches all have disadvantages.
New technology is on the horizon that could offer a viable solution and not only make transmitting high-volume data more sustainable, but easier and more affordable.
Advantages of LoRaWAN®
LoRaWAN is one of the LPWA (Low Power, Wide Area) communication protocols, specifically developed for IoT solutions. It transmits data on ISM band (e.g., 900 MHz for the U.S., 868 MHz for Europe) over areas as far as six miles. This long-range ability eliminates the need to purchase expensive receivers, repeaters or additional sensors, which are required for other networks.
LoRaWAN's main advantages include:
- Equipment sensors can connect directly to a gateway.
- A single gateway connects up to 10,000 wireless sensors, so facilities don't have to worry about large network footprints, complicated installations or high costs.
- Gateways are about the size of a traditional home router and can reduce the cost of conventional hardware infrastructure by 50%.
- It enables two-way communication from the sensor to the gateway, which allows reliability engineers to connect to equipment sensors -- to check battery levels or change asset data parameters -- from anywhere in the world.
- It's based on an open-source protocol (LoRa), which allows interoperability with multi-vendor networks, and sensors and services supplied by different manufacturers and providers. More manufacturers in the space means innovation will increase and costs will lower. Customers won't be bound to using devices from a specific manufacturer.
LoRaWAN is an emerging technology, but companies are still determining how to harness its power to streamline asset health management and predictive analytics across a variety of industries. There is a lot of interest in LoRaWAN networks because of the advantages they offer over other data transfer methods. Flowserve is currently exploring this technology and will soon launch its next-generation wireless sensor based on LoRaWAN.