Intelligent sensor networks integrate with legacy industrial systems

29th August 2014 By: Schalk Burger - Creamer Media Senior Contributing Editor

Intelligent sensor networks integrate with legacy industrial systems

IVAN POPOV Companies can start migrating to modern industrial systems at their own pace while using their existing systems and without significant capital or operational costs

The ability to use a smart sensor concentrator to create a central-ised, smart sensor network in factories, plants, mines and remote sites means that older legacy industrial control systems can be integrated and leveraged as a low-cost step towards fully smart industrial control systems.

The smart sensor concentrator accepts and sends data in any of the different industrial control protocols used, including the older protocols which are still used by many industries world-wide, says electronic engineering research and development company Keystone Electronic Solutions director and cofounder John Eigelaar.

The concentrator is a control device that can process the different sensor network data streams and multicast the infor-mation to many different systems in the business. This reduces the duplication of equipment and systems and allows for informa-tion to be used for other business processes, including manage-ment, security and operations.

“Plants are generally designed for 20- to 30-year life spans and many of the existing sys-tems were developed prior to the development of modern industrial-grade smart protocols. However, companies want to implement smart networks to control their costs, energy con- sumption, productivity, avail- ability, processes and mainte-nance in real time, but without having to replace all their legacy equipment and sensors,” says Keystone Electronic Solutions director and cofounder Ivan Popov.

Keystone specialises in creating custom-designed smart network solutions for each company, plant, factory or mine. These solutions include the design and building of hardware and software systems based on the sensors and equipment on site and a company’s requirements.

However, this bespoke solution design draws on proven solutions currently used in industry, primarily in the telecommuni-cations, mining and manufac-turing industries. Systems that have proven to be effective in various industries serve as build-ing blocks, which, in turn, enable robust smart network solutions to be designed and implemented quickly, explains Popov.

“Our solutions aim to use the existing investments companies have made to prevent a total refit of sensors and networks, which would be very costly to companies, especially given the number of sensors in most of these industries,” explains Eigelaar.

An effective way of increasing real-time visibility and control of individual machines or processes is to replace certain of the older sensors on critical machines with Internet Protocol-enabled sensors and use the capabilities provided by this smart sensor to augment the network of sensors feeding into the smart controller.

Migrating legacy systems to modern technology platforms is a core priority of Keystone to ensure that investments made by companies are leveraged, while better management, control and visibility of all resources and processes are provided.