Vesa Jokitulppo, senior product manager
GE’s Industrial Solutions
A Coke vending machine at Carnegie Mellons computer science department was probably the worlds first Thing connected to the Internet. With the command, “finger coke@cmua”, caffeine-deprived students and staffers could check for ice-cold Coca-Cola availability remotely.
Today, fueled by a charmed confluence of ubiquitous connectivity, commodity sensors, embedded systems and real-time analytics, industry watchers estimate 20-40 billion things will be connected to the Internet by 2020.
While consumer Internet of Things (IoT) devices, like wearable heart monitors, smartwatches or refrigerators, often get the media limelight, the opportunity may be even larger for the Industrial Internet-of-Things (IIoT). For example, this June at its Minds & Machines Europe event, GE estimated the Industrial Internet market opportunity to be $225 billion by 2020. Connecting machines in factories, outside/in the field, cities, retail facilities and offices will boost productivity, enhance asset utilization, improve reliability and enable new business models.
The worker bees of the Industrial Internet are the myriad of different IoT devices constantly monitoring and controlling the machines under their watch. In many outside/field applications, IoT devices are in remote or hard to access locations and may be subjected to harsh or extreme environments with sub-zero or high temperatures, environments with the presence of vibrations or the risk of mechanical shock, corrosive environments or in those with contaminants, moisture or dust.
Such remote locations, with potentially harsh environments, set clear requirements for the electronic components and power supplies used to help mitigate the array of challenges that the technology may face. One common challenge is the need to have long service life to avoid expensive maintenance in a remote location. This can be met by using ready-to-use electronics modules qualified for high reliability and tested for use in wide ambient temperature ranges. This helps to extend the active service life of the IoT device. Another typical challenge for remote IoT devices is the absence of AC power and consequent use of battery power. In this scenario, high-efficiency switching voltage regulator moduleswith efficiencies of up to 97 percentcan help enable a longer battery life and extend service/replacement intervals, making them ideal for battery-powered IoT devices.
The IIoT market is moving fast; Companies today are not thinking “when”, but “how” they will make the leap to connectivity. Aiding in the transition, IIoT vendors and solutions manufacturers are focusing on meeting specific requirements for high reliability and efficiency while also striving for fast time-to-market to meet the needs of those looking to harness the power of the IoT and IIoT. Taking a module approach to design, with easy-to-use, well-documented and fully characterized solutions, can speed up and de-risk IoT product development cycles and free up personnel to focus on value added features.
Module solutions are widely available for board-mounted power supplies, connectivity (RF, BT, GPS) and sensors. For example, GEs Hornet voltage regulator family meets the requirements of outside/field IoT devices. The easy-to-use Hornet voltage regulators provide high reliability and high efficiency in a series of modules that range from 11 to 108 wattsmaking them ideal for use in electronics assembly such as that of various IIoT devices. The voltage regulators are suitable for conformal coating with dip or vapor deposition, which can be used to further extend IoT device operating life in corrosive or dust contaminated environments.
IoT and IIoT devices are poised to become increasingly more prevalent in remote and environmentally demanding applications in the years to come. To help meet future challenges associated with these varying operating conditions, it will be essential to continue to develop electrical components geared toward increased availability and reliability to help ensure the constant connectivity that these devices require.
For more information please visit www.geindustrial.com