Success Story Takeaway: How Proof-of-Concept approach helped our customer, a leading manufacturer of Power electronic systems, to identify critical design flaws at an early stage & prevent expensive hardware corrections

About the Customer:

A leading and trusted supplier of automation systems for a range of industries including manufacturing, Oil & Gas, renewable energy and more. They were on a mission to design an IoT based Industrial automation solution.

Objective of the project was to develop a custom-designed IoT solution for proactive maintenance of their Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS) systems for the enterprises.

The Business Challenges:

  • The customer observed a critical issue related to the discharge of the batteries during field deployments of the UPS systems.
  • The existing UPS network had no provision to effectively predict the rate at which battery charge was getting drained.
  • Hence, there was a need for an IoT based solution to efficiently monitor the rate of drain of battery charge & enable predictive maintenance of the same.

Embitel Solution:

Getting started with PoC:

  • The Embitel team met the customer to understand their business requirements & to chalk out  an effective IoT development roadmap.During the session, it was concluded that before proceeding to a full scale production right away, a PoC needs to be done to verify the feasibility of the design and find out potential challenges.
    UPS Systems
    UPS Battery Monitoring, Source: flowcontrolnetwork

PoC Design and System Architecture:
The PoC stage began with a planning and brainstorming session with the customer, wherein:

  1. Results to be demonstrated at the PoC stage were defined.
  2. PoC design including Hardware and Software components was planned out.

The PoC development began with 5 sensor boards. Each of these boards was connected to 8 batteries that were to be monitored.

Each of these sensor boards were connected to a single IoT gateway unit.

Two types of sensors that formed the key components of the PoC development were:

  • Temperature sensors.
  • Voltage sensors.

Key Observations & course corrections during the PoC phase:

During the PoC stage, some key issues & potential faults associated with the IoT project development were unearthed.

The early identification of these design and development faults, which were identified to be “Critical”, helped the team to build the most safe and cost-efficient solution to demonstrate the results.

Let us take a look at the key issues that were found during the PoC development:

  1. Accuracy of Sensor Signals: At the initial stage, the sensors connected to the batteries were found to be sending random signals while measuring the temperature and voltage values, associated to the batteries.The Embitel team identified the need for more frequent and multiple signals to calculate more accurate readings.The measurements were then based on   a “moving average “formula to get the accurate voltage measurements out of the sensor readings.
  2. Need for Better Industrial Grade H/w casing to handle High Voltage Ratings: Batteries in a series configuration meant a need to handle a very high voltage.Though initially ignored, the must-have series configuration of the batteries was realized during the PoC stage.This sent our teams back to the drawing board and come back with hardware components that could handle high voltage values ( ~ 440-600 V).
  3. Thermal sensors with wider temperature range: The thermal sensors initially chosen for development had a smaller range. The ideal temperature sensor, ideal for the existing set up, had to have a temperature measurement accuracy of around 0.1°C .From initial selection of J-type thermal sensors, team decided to change it to K-Type sensors for more accuracy and a wider temperature range.The K-type sensor was found to be much more reliable with a wider temperature range (-200°C to +1250°C). It also proved to be capable of producing a more accurate (0.1°C) measurement of temperature.
  4. Error in OS: There was an error in the kernel and threading systems of the Operating system being used. This impacted the communication between the sensor nodes, gateway and the control board.The Embitel team did an in-depth analysis of the OS to uncover the real issue at the kernel and device driver levels. We fixed the issue to enable a seamless communication amongst the IoT network components (sensor nodes, gateway, & control board).
  5. Higher Sampling Rate: The customer wanted a higher sampling rate to measure the voltage values of the on-premise batteries. But the microprocessor in use was not supporting such a high sampling rate.
    IoT-MCU
    IoT Microcontroller, Source: Three PM News

    So, our team came up with an intermediate sampling rate that was as close to the customer’s requirement as possible, and one which could accurately reflect the actual voltage and temperature values of the whole sensor units.

The PoC Impact:

Doing the PoC before full-scale IoT implementation for battery monitoring & management saved the stakeholders from great deal of expensive hardware and software corrections. The PoC development helped them in:

  • Identifying crucial hardware and software issues and bugs.
  • Finding alternate solutions to reach the set objective.
  • Improving the design based on key observations during PoC.
  • Avoiding expensive hardware corrections.
  • Trimming down the overall development cost.
  • Avoiding potential failures & mitigating risks that could stall the project due to a design or technology issue.
  • The key PoC observations and feasibility checks helped our customer in realizing how an investment in PoC is a value addition and in busting the myth that PoC is a waste of time.

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