ICYMI Automation News Roundup: Wireless Applications, Industrial Wearables and More

Safety: The New Backseat Driver?

ICYMI Automation, Wireless Applications, Wearable Technology

We’ve all experienced it. That friend or acquaintance who just can’t help but explain to you from the backseat that you’ve missed your turn, you’re driving too fast, or even that there’s a better route.

Any event deemed negative is quickly reported to you, and it’s expected that you’ll change your behavior in the future.

In his recent article  for Impo Magazine, Holcombe Baird III wonders if workplace safety isn’t much different these days from a backseat driver.

Despite safety improvement programs, the backseat driver technique is often applied.

“When an employee’s actions are observed as not in accordance with the safety rules and procedures, their error is brought to their attention. The workplace reality is that this error often goes unaddressed, or even unobserved, until a safety incident occurs.”

To overcome the backseat driver safety technique, Baird suggests looking at it like a maintenance worker would.

If you view employee injuries or safety incidents as machine breakdown, evaluators could ask the “Why” questions and not just the “Who” “What” “Where” and “How” questions.

Smart City in the 1970sICYMI: Automation, IoT, Wireless Applications

While “smart cities” sound like a modern phenomena,  Mark Vallianatos for Gizmodo reports that some cities were actually not far from it. Cities like Los Angeles used technology to gather and analyze civic data to make decisions in the early 70s.

It was called Community Analysis Bureau– using “computer databases, cluster analysis, and infrared aerial photography to gather data, produce reports on neighborhood demographics and housing quality, and help direct resources to ward off blight and tackle poverty,” Vallianatos said.

The cluster analysis snapshot is actually data-rich, yet 40 years old. It appears an “Urban Information System” was being built.

” I wondered whether this urban intelligence had influenced city policy or programs. How had the bureau fared as the politics of planning, poverty alleviation, and land use in the city changed? Was there a trove of lost data moldering somewhere in boxes of punch cards?” Vallianotos said. 

After collecting the data, however, the bureau had to digitize and centralize information using the city’s IBM-360 mainframe computers. They even created a database “using 220 staff-identified data categories as the nucleus.”

Read more about the Community Analysis Bureau at Gizmodo.

Wireless Applications on the Rise with IoT

Industrial wireless applications have been a hot topic in the past decade or so, according to David Greenfield of Automation World. 

But a recent Berg Insight report said that it’s only going to get hotter– they predict that the number of IoT wireless devices will grow at a ” compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 27.2 percent to reach 43.5 million by 2020.”

Companies are now integrating industrial automation systems and enterprise applications– making the IoT more and more real everyday.

The increased use of mobile devices like tablets and smartphones for mobile HMI applications is one of the key drivers, according to Berg Insight.

“Cellular connectivity has also been playing an increasingly important role in wireless deployments across both factory automation and process industry applications. Cellular most often plays a part in remote monitoring in the process industries (such as remote wellheads) and for backhaul communication between plants,” Greenfield said.

Computers that can ‘See’

Jonathan Vanian of Fortune reported that machine vision technology, what lets computers see to understand their surroundings, is one growing in popularity recently.

“What’s a beer company to do if it wants to ensure that the thousands of bottles of booze it produces daily are filled with just the right amount of liquid, contain no unwanted residue, and aren’t broken?

It uses computers to keep an eye open for problems,” Vanian said.

According to the Association of Advanced Automation (AIA), companies are spending more money on the vision technology now more than ever.

In fact, North American sales of machine vision gear like cameras or vision sensors grew to $520 million– an increase of 22% from last year. These statistics are based off of a survey of more than 80 companies.

According to Vanian, the adoption of robotics in factories is a driver of the adoption of machine vision technology.

To read more about machine vision technology, go to the Fortune article.

The Industrialization of Wearable Technology

ICYMI Automation, IoT, Wireless Applications

Photo courtesy Royal Opera House

If you search for wearable technology on Amazon, you are greeted with a slew of options such as Fitbit, Garmin or Jawbone activity trackers, smartwatches, and even a GoPro – the compact, ruggedized camera that can be mounted.

Amazon also suggests that if you’re not satisfied with only tracking fitness and sleep activities, there are other products that could help to track your pets or even loved ones with a little help from GPS trackers– or perhaps you’re interested in viewing notifications and messages from your smartphone without having to reach for it.

And this basic search only begins to illustrate the wearable technology trend that’s been on fire recently—both in everyday life and in industrial spaces.

The Business Insider reports that the global wearables market will increase 35% over the next five years, reaching 148 million units shipped, compared to the 33 million units shipped this past year.

But wearables can also impact the industrial space– specifically the manufacturing industry. Wearables such as smart bracelets or watches could even help operators communicate to the line and improve workflow.

To continue reading about the industrialization of wearable technology, go to the original post.

Decision Makers Born in a Digital Society

Media We Link To:

Is Safety a Backseat Driver? – Impo Magazine

How LA Used Big Data to Build a Smart City in the 1970s- Gizmodo 

How the Internet of Things Will Drive Industrial Wireless Applications – Automation World 

Why computers that ‘see’ are a hot technology – Fortune

The Industrialization of Wearable Technology: Happening Now or on the Horizon?- James Gillespie, CEO of Gray Matter Systems 

Decision Makers Born in a Digital Society – GE Intelligent Platforms 

ICYMI: Automation News Roundup, Week Ending June 19

The CIO: Hero of Industry

“Most Chief Information Officers (CIOs) quietly just get s*** done. They clean up the mess when others screw up. They keep the utility running with incredibly high uptime,” wrote Jamie Miller, Chief Information Officer for GE.

Miller even goes on to say CIOs are the unsung heroes of the industry– and that nowadays, a good CIO must be immersed in strategy, data, and the power of the Industrial Internet.

“We’re at the nexus of business strategy and technology, using software to fuel growth and optimize assets. Most important, we’re finding a receptive audience in our organizations, where changing the culture can be even more daunting than the technical issues,” Miller said.

CIOs are using data to increase efficiency and eliminate downtime by looking at asset performance and maintenance issues.

For example, Miller describes how some in commercial aviation are immersing themselves even deeper into analytics. Since aircraft engines use sensors that can report performance data like fuel burn, this insight can provide helpful information across the fleet.

Five Tips For Surviving Spikes in Manufacturing

John Mills of Industry Week asserts that many North American facilities scramble to fill manufacturing orders, even after a tough couple of months.

“In May, U.S. manufacturing activity rose to 52.8 last month versus 51.5 in April, reports the Institute for Supply Management. In Canada, the RBC Canadian Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index, or PMI, rose to 49.8 from 49.0 the month prior. Any score over 50 signals growth, which, in this case, means that most North American facilities are scrounging for capacity to fill orders,” Mills said.

While it’s a good problem to have, Mills offers five pieces of advice to help survive sudden spikes in manufacturing orders.

1. Enlist top performers

Mills explained it’s imperative to organize the best of the best and then prioritize projects to discover how much room there will be left for the incoming projects.

2. Embrace your specialty

Now it’s time to return to your specialties.  Determine the projects that are most profitable, and what will create the least amount of disruption on the floor. Mills said to even hold out for “good work” if you must. Which leads the next tip.

3. Avoid the “wrong” kind of projects

“Don’t book work for the sake of filling the ledger,” Mills said. Insist on work that can be easily addressed by your team and available resources.

4. Revisit your recognition practices

After evaluating the best projects for your team, determine or revisit your recognition practices, Mills suggested.

“Are you putting in place systems for recognizing those who will put in the extra hours or learn the new skills required to cash in on the new business? Even a simple ‘thank you’ or a handwritten card can suffice,” Mills said.

5. Develop one-off incentives

Mills explained that workers like to “share in the spoils.” He suggested creating one-off rewards that are connected to achievable, tangible production goals. Be as timely with these rewards as you are with recognition.

The Upsurge of Wireless Devices in Industrymobilephone

According to a recent report from Berg Insight, wireless Internet of Things (IoT) devices in industrial automation reached 10.3 million in 2014, David Greenfield of Automation World said. 

Plus, the report predicts that this number, the amount of wireless IoT devices in industrial automation, will reach 43.5 million by 2020.

“Companies are now deepening the integration between industrial automation systems and enterprise applications and the promise of IoT is getting more tangible by the day,” says Johan Svanberg, senior analyst, Berg Insight.

Tablets and smartphones for mobile HMI applications were an important driver for the adoption of Wi-Fi and bluetooth in automation equipment, according to the report.

Cellular activity, however, has also played a role–  both in  factory automation and process industry applications.

To continue reading or to view the Berg Insight report, visit here.

The Industrial Internet and Aviation

 This week on GE Look Ahead, the Industrial Internet is said to be affecting even the aviation sector– mentioning that it could even save airlines billions.plane

According to a report from McKinsey Global Institute, the potential economic impact for the manufacturing sector alone could be somewhere between $900m and $2.3bn by 2025.

For example, Air Asia saved $10 million in fuel costs in 2014 while using GE’s Flight Efficiency Services, according to Raghvender Arni, senior director of platform strategy at big-data analytics vendor Pivotal.

“The Internet of Things [IoT] is embedding functions into airplanes to improve manufacturing quality, track planes more accurately and reduce flight delays,” says JP Provencher, senior director of solution management at PTC. “But the low-hanging fruit is diagnosing jet engines and systems to detect maintenance issues and reduce service lead time.”

The Industrial Internet also allows for applications for air-traffic management, and notably Automatic Dependent Surveillance–Broadcast (ADS-B)– which uses GPS signals to determine aircraft location.

While land-based ADS-B systems have been deployed across most metropolitan areas, for example, coverage over oceans and remote regions remains limited, if not nonexistent, according to the article.

The article even includes a whisper of driverless commercial planes being the new frontier– just further illustrating what the Industrial Internet is capable of now and in the future.

The CIO: A Hero of Industry – GE Intelligent Platforms 

5 Tips For Surviving a Sudden Spike in Manufacturing Demand – Industry Week 

How the Internet of Things Will Drive Industrial Wireless Applications – Automation World 

From smart navigation systems to smart planes – GE Look Ahead



The Industrialization of Wearable Technology: Happening Now or on the Horizon?

Photo courtesy Royal Opera House & Stiftelsen Elektronikkbran

If you search for wearable technology on Amazon, you are greeted with a slew of options such as Fitbit, Garmin or Jawbone activity trackers, smartwatches, and even a GoPro – the compact, ruggedized camera that can be mounted.

Amazon also suggests that if you’re not satisfied with only tracking fitness and sleep activities, there are other products that could help to track your pets or even loved ones with a little help from GPS trackers– or perhaps you’re interested in viewing notifications and messages from your smartphone without having to reach for it.

And this basic search only begins to illustrate the wearable technology trend that’s been on fire recently—both in everyday life and in industrial spaces.

At the annual gadget show, International Consumer Electronics Show (CES), this year wearables were one of the biggest attractions. From baby monitors to meditation wearables, companies at CES proudly displayed their newest wearable technology, according to the MIT Technology Review article that detailed the event.

The Business Insider reports that the global wearables market will increase 35% over the next five years, reaching 148 million units shipped, compared to the 33 million units shipped this past year.

Numbers aside, wearables are here– they’re embedded in your neighborhood gym, your office, and even your life.

But are these the only places where they can be found?wearable_technology_blog

Wearable technology doesn’t have to just be for fitness enthusiasts or the everyday consumer. In fact, wearables are becoming industrialized.

Industry Week makes a good point— a worker in a factory standing at a machine may be in more need of real-time data than the average gym goer.

“Keeping his or her eyes on that machine and off the phone for that information is absolutely critical. Real-time data and real time insight fed to an operator who needs it could realistically (and significantly) impact the efficiency of the enter factory,” the article said.

Automation World suggests that wearables such as a smart bracelet or watch could help operators detect when they are close to the perimeter of the plant, record that they were there, and communicate daily tasks to them or to the line.

“The operators in the plant could be connected with more experienced operators in the control room, who are able to support them in the management of everyday problems through video guidance,” the article said, “This would allow them to see exactly in real time what the operator sees in the field, ensuring that all operations are carried out in the best possible way.”

However, one strong contender in the industrial wearable manufacturer race has seemingly dropped out of the running.

Back in January, Google announced that they were shelving their head-mounted wearable computer project, Google Glass—news that took the automation and manufacturing space by surprise after making plans to include it in some applications.


Photo courtesy Prepayasyougo, Creative Commons

Google said that despite their announcement, they are committed to re-launching the smart glasses in the future. It’s possible that we might see Google Glass (under a new name?) used in the industry one day soon.

Of course, industrial wearables are a different animal compared to the average consumer wearable technology.

If the wearable includes capacitive touch and the worker or operator wears gloves— the dangerous environment and the need for protective gloves would certainly override the practicality of the wearable.

In the same line of thought, even voice control could be useless if the factory environment contains loud machinery.

Still, thought leaders in the industry are hopeful.

Grayson Brulte of GE’s IdeaLaboratory.com wrote, “Make industrial wearables a fashion statement on the future of work. Smart gloves and glasses, in tandem with the Industrial Internet, hold the potential to transform how workers interact with machines.”

Brulte introduces wearable technology gadgets such as the ProGlove – a smart glove that gathers data which then becomes actionable data that operators or chiefs of crew can analyze in real time.

And then there are Osterhout Design Group’s Smart Glasses—some of the first “industrial-grade” smart glasses combining optics, electronics and industrial design.

Some controls include an accelerometer, gyroscope, magnetometer, altitude sensor, and humidity sensor.

“As wearables help connect workers more closely with their machines through the Industrial Internet, that will create an opportunity for entrepreneurs to revolutionize the way the industrial sector integrates technology into its day-to-day businesses,” Brulte wrote.

As wearable technology begins to emerge in everyday life, the reality of it entering the manufacturing and industrial space becomes increasingly more likely.

Will wearables one day be as commonplace in industry as mobile devices are now? It’s hard to say, but research is pointing to wearable technology sticking around.

ICYMI: Automation News Roundup, Week Ending June 12

The Cost of a Cybersecurity Breach Doubles

The U.K. government urged that action be taken after the cost of cybersecurity breaches doubles, according to a recent article by Forbes.

And it’s not just a few organizations or companies affected– 90% of large businesses in the United Kingdom have reported they have suffered an information security breach. While 74% of small and medium-sized businesses were also hit.

Nowadays, the average cost of the most severe security breaches for big business can now reach £3.14 million ($4.8 million), and the average cost for companies with around 500 employees is between £1.46 million and £3.14 million, says the U.K.’s Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS).


Because of the extreme cost of breaches, the U.K. government urged action because of the threat it poses to the growth of business.

U.K. Digital Economy Minister Ed Vaizey said, “Businesses that take this threat seriously are not only protecting themselves and their customers’ data but securing a competitive advantage.”

Oil & Gas Companies Prevent Surprise Downtime

Jeremiah Stone, General Manager of Industrial Data Intelligence Software at GE wrote that not too long ago, diagnosing a problem with critical assets was cumbersome and difficult.

Photo courtesy Ed Schipul

Photo courtesy Ed Schipul

For the most part, operators could only easily diagnose issues after there had been a failure. And the guarantee of a solution relied upon the parts available and the expertise of the maintenance staff.

These days, however, the Industrial Internet is making the diagnostic challenge less overwhelming and more straightforward– specifically with the use of remote monitoring and diagnostic (RM&D) capabilities.

And due the nature of the expensive equipment and difficult operating conditions related to Oil and Gas companies, those in the industry have not hesitated to reap the benefits from RM&D services.

Stone mentions that in his own RM&D center, they “remotely monitor assets for many industrial operations and routinely uncover small anomalies – we call these ‘catch-of-the-week’ — that could have had serious consequences if left unchecked.”

Some common ones are:

  • Pressure loss at O&G facility
  • Temperature anomaly at natural gas compression facility
  • Mercury rising at offshore platform
  • Fluctuating compressor pressure at refinery

Self-Driving Cars Aren’t Ready– Yet


Photo courtesy Roman Boed

The talk centered around self-driving cars are not just Sci-Fi speculations anymore. Google has already begun testing for the futuristic vehicles, and some companies have said that they expect they will enter the market by 2020, according to an article from CBC News.

Barrie Kirk, executive director of the Canadian Automated Vehicles Centre of Excellence, said that the technology is coming along faster than you may think.

Kirk posits that because humans “make poor drivers,” a fully automated-vehicle world can make the roads safer.

‘If you’re got a whole bunch of sensors that give you a 360-degree scan, 30 times a second, humans can not come anywhere close to that.’ – Kirk

Before you start to plan financially for your first automated vehicle, other experts are saying that the tests done so far have shown that these self-driving cars are not ready. Yet.

Steve Shladover said that today’s automated vehicles just don’t have that capability. He should have a good grasp on the topic, after all, he has researched driverless cars for four decades. His most recent stint as the program manager, mobility for the University of California’s PATH (Partners for Advanced Transportation Technology) program.

Both researchers even agree that the transition time into a period of all-automated cars will be tough.

“Human drivers will cut in front of a computer-driven car because they know they can,” Kirk said in the article, “It makes human drivers even more assertive, even more aggressive drivers, which is what we don’t need.”

Has Your ICS Been Breached?

Power Magazine opened a recent article with the question, “Has your ICS been breached? Are you sure? How do you know?”

This is a more common question post-2010, the year that Stuxnet was discovered. Since then, industrial control systems (ICS) have become more and more vulnerable and extensive research on the topic has grown.

And because more ICS systems have become connected to the Internet, all that’s needed for a bad situation is an attacker and motive.

“They are professional, organized, and well-funded. If you kick them out, they will just come back.” – Power Magazine 

According to the NCCIC/ICS-CERT Year in Review 2014 (from The National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team), 245 cyber incidents were reported for ICS owners and 79 of those were in the energy sector.

Network security monitoring, the “the collection, analysis, and escalation of indications and warnings to detect and respond to intrusions,” is a way to monitor intruders on your network and avoid a breach before it’s too late.

To read more about breaches in ICS systems, read the rest of the article here.

Media we link to:

U.K. Government Urges Action As Cost Of Cyber Security Breaches Doubles – Forbes

Oil & Gas Companies Prevent Surprise Downtime Using Remote Monitoring & Diagnostics – Automation.com 

 “Self-driving cars not as safe as human drivers — yet” – CBC News 

“Has Your ICS Been Breached? Are You Sure? How Do You Know?” – Power Magazine


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