IoT sensor offers cost and power-thrifty alternative in condition monitoring

A wind turbine being repaired: The BluVib machine condition sensor could help improve predictive maintenance in sectors such as renewable energy.

A radical new IoT sensor technology from Scottish startup Sensor Works appears to offer a low-power, cost-effective alternative to existing condition monitoring equipment, with the prospect of upending current practices in this respect in sectors such as water management, renewable energy and petrochemicals.

The BluVib wireless machine condition sensor gathers data from machinery and equipment to provide real-time analysis of issues relating to machine performance and functioning. Asset owners can thereby detect faults at an early stage, cut the cost of maintenance and minimise downtime.

It was developed in conjunction with CENSIS – the Scottish Innovation Centre for Sensor and Imaging Systems – which helped take the product forward from proof-of-concept. CENSIS has an IoT centre which provides access to off-the-shelf technologies to assist with product development.

BluVib is to be showcased at the University of Strathclyde’s Advanced Forming Research Centre (AFRC), part of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, to measure vibrational signatures on specific machines.

Innovative design and manufacturing is seemingly behind the reported low cost of the product, which combines a sensor, data collector, data analysis and low power wireless communication in a compact, self-powered housing.

And its apparent power thriftiness is partly attributed to the way it transmits data, using the latest Bluetooth 4.0 Smart Low Power standard. The use of standard wireless technology helps distinguish it from other offerings in the condition monitoring space – it can be used wirelessly with any kind of device, so the user is not locked in to using expensive proprietary technologies.

According to the firm, multiple BluVib sensors can communicate with a gateway device (BluGate), which enables connection to a wired Ethernet network. Alternatively, each sensor can communicate with any mobile computing device with Bluetooth connectivity. This allows data to be collected on a pre-programmed route, in situations where a network connection is undesirable or unavailable.

To support ease of use, BluVib is supported by BluTrend, a software package that provides the core functionality of an on-line monitoring system such as trending, alert/alarm indication and full analysis capability.

Sensor Works says BluVib, BluGate and BluTrend combine to produce a powerful machinery monitoring package that is low-cost, quick to install and easy to use.

The devices provide overall values of vibration, bearing condition and temperature (often referred to as process variables in the industry) as well as high resolution spectra of vibration and bearing envelope. BluVib also has an on-board demodulator function for bearing envelope detection.

For installation purposes, the device mounts, via a screw thread, directly onto the machine which it is monitoring.

According to managing director Ian Bain, speaking to the website Scotland B2B, the firm has had strong interest from the US market, while in Scotland the renewables and petrochemicals sectors appear to present the biggest opportunity. BluVib could be used to effectively and efficiency monitor wind turbines, for example.