Sunday 4 September 2016
ArcoFlex Releases IoT Prototyping Unit
In a world first, Arcoflex Automation Solutions releases the only true end-to-end solution for piloting and prototyping IoT remote monitoring and control solutions. Sign up and receive data in minutes. There are so many moving parts to an IoT remote monitoring solution that it can be quite bewildering just to get started. What Arcoflex has done is give you a fully functioning, universal monitoring solution in a box. One that will work straight away.
Be fully operational and monitoring data in just 10 minutes!
This is a truly unique offering, born of the frustrations of not having coding examples and the relevant infrastructure experience. We wanted to give companies a way to start playing with remote monitoring NOW and not after months of frustration and fruitless experimentation. Based on Microsoft’s Azure application environment, the expansive IoT Suite, everything is put together for you to use right away
Q. How easy is it to use?
Very easy. Here is all that you need to get started:
· Some sensors (or use the samples provided)
· A local area network connection or a 3G/4G dongle
· A web browser to review your results
· 240V and patience
We provide detailed instructions for what is going on behind the scenes and how to connect sensors. Failing that we have a 24/7 help desk ready to get you on your feet. The developer kit is provided in a portable carry case but the breadboard can be taken out and used directly if required.
Q. Why Does It Work, why is it so easy?
Good question! It works because we’ve written all the code for everything. EVERYTHING. From the I/O integration on the PI, through the web jobs connecting IoT hubs and event hubs, all the way to data storage and visualisations. You just need to configure your prototype and you’re running. In fact, we’ve even pre-loaded a sample so that you can see it operational the moment you turn it on.
Q. How do I Prototype with it?
This is the easy bit. We provide you with two modes of operation:
Mode 1 – Hardware Prototyping
There are three coded I/O boards in the standard configuration but we can customise a box for other implementations if required. Just ask. You will be given wiring instructions for digital, analogue and one-wire sensors. Please consult the product specification details but you can connect up to 100 devices. All standard industry devices are supported. You can plug and play in just minutes and configure your data collection faster than the coffee pot will boil. We have provided some common sensors to get you started. Our staff can help with finding the addresses of one-wire devices or the input range of analogue devices. The digital I/O card provides a power supply for switches or CT sensors. Output (for control purposes) IO cards can be supplied on request.
Mode 2 – Software Prototyping
We have provided sensor templates for around 30 common sensors but you can create more for yourself. When placed in demo mode, a configured sensor will send pattern data, whether or not a physical sensor is attached. The purpose of this is to allow the UI and BI or analytics teams to evolve their software whilst waiting for the hardware guys to get their act into gear. So the displays, alerts and dashboards can be prototyped independently of the hardware. This is a unique capability not available anywhere else. Build your end user applications in parallel with the hardware. In fact, your configuration parameters will help the hardware teams refine their sensors.
Q. What does it cost?
The developer kit costs a mere $950 plus shipping and handling. It comes with a one-month trial subscription for proof of concept purposes. Thereafter there is a monthly cost of $30 per device for an unlimited number of sensors. We offer 3, 6 and 12 month subscriptions, paid in advance. The prototyping edition has a limit of 20,000 messages (up to 100 bytes) per day but we can provide higher throughput for a small additional fee. Subscriptions can be suspended and restarted without penalty.
Q. How does it work?
What we have done is written the code required to handle every aspect of the solution. Everything is completely data driven and totally dynamic. Once you have evolved your own prototypes you will be able to replace our components or perhaps engage us to provide them. We will probably be able to do this at a vastly lower cost than you attempting to build the expertise internally. The following diagram outlines the architecture involved.
The application environment is divided into six zones:
Zone 1 – Raspberry PI3B with Windows 10 IoT Core
We have written a Dot Net app for the PI which is integrated with our supplied I/O cards. This is greatest
point of complexity for prototyping: managing the connectivity of device with the operating system then working out a collection and transmission protocol that works. We have done that for you and the flexibility we’ve created is extensive. Basically any sensor can be connected to our cards and all that is needed is some configuration metrics: signal range, physical address and other necessary parameters. All this is detailed very simply in the accompanying instructions.
Zone 2 – Data Converter
We use Microsoft Azure IoT Hub to collect incoming data streams. Because our Raspberry PI code uses a proprietary data compression protocol, the data converter web job converts our protocol back to JSON and inserts it into an Event Hub. This element is required but from here, any other Event Hub consumer can access this data: Hadoop, Stream Analytics, BI and so on.
Zone 3 – Db Sync
The data Sync job reads the Event Hub and writes to two SQL Azure Databases. The first is effectively the current value for all sensors and devices, with the second being a history table. This is done for visualisation performance. The history table is used for data trending and other analytics purposes and will contain millions of rows.
Zone 4 – Alert Manager
Set up in its own web job, the alert manager inspects all data in terms of configured alert settings. SMS, email and simple logging options are available. There are rules for re-alerting so that you don’t end up spamming yourself.
Zone 5 – Data Gateway
The data gateway is simply a web service designed to read data from the Azure SQL DB. It was made a web service so that is can be scaled automatically but also so that web apps as well as desktop apps had equal access to content. Think of this layer as a wrapper to the Azure DB.
Zone 6 – Configuration Application and Dashboard
We provide two applications to support this environment. The first and most important is the configurator. This application, a remote desktop services app, configures all the sensors on the device, their limits, alerts and trending details. You can configure your entire pilot environment with the configurator, whether or not you have real sensors in place yet. The second application is a dashboard and trending app so that you can visual the data being collected. Even though this is developer solution, all data is being held until the user decides to remove it.
Q. What might the Bandwidth Charges Be?
If you decide to use 3G/4G as a connectivity medium, then you need to understand bandwidth costs. Our transmission protocols are unique and innovative but it is still easy to blow the budget if you are not careful. You could easily just go out and purchase a pay-as-you-go account and start the same day but be careful to restrict data transmission parameters with the configurator. If you are careful, this could cost you less than $15/month but please speak to us if you have higher bandwidth needs. We can provide shared SIM card plans probably a lot cheaper than you can yourself.
Q. How do I integrate Control requirements?
This is a customisation add-on because we really need to know what you want to do. Control can be digital (on or off) or a variable value (like for a thermostat). It isn’t a big cost – in fact it is small – but the variability of what is possible requires us to discuss this with you first.
Q. How do I get started?
Jump on to the Arcoflex website and order a kit. Delivery is approximately 5 days from payment unless customisations are required. Replacement parts, additional sensors and other accessories are available on the website.
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