The rapid adoption of the Internet of Things (IoT) is accelerating the growth of the Industrial and Factory Automation Market, which is forecasted to reach $221.17 Billion by 2021 (Industry Arch). Since its inception, Analog Devices has been helping industrial customers automate. So, it should come as no surprise that we are keenly aware of this vast opportunity, and are challenging the status quo by bringing to life cutting-edge, cloud-connected solutions to drive Industrial Revolution 4.0.

Analog Devices understands the needs of the factory of the future. And through the Analog Garage, our corporate venture program, we are incubating new ideas to make factories and buildings safer, greener and smarter. Like Sentinel, an Analog Garage original industrial equipment monitoring platform. The Analog Garage has been demonstrating Sentinel at industry events for the past several months and is signing on strategic partners to begin beta-testing the platform.

In a recent question & answer session with Analog Garage team member Igor Chernyy, we spoke about the Sentinel platform and what it means to the market.

Q: What kind of interest have you been getting from the industrial equipment monitoring platform?
A: There’s been a lot of interest in sensor-to-cloud capabilities for industrial equipment monitoring. I think that companies grasp the promise of continuous monitoring – safety, efficiency, productivity. When we demonstrate Sentinel, it seems to make it real for them. It’s also helped them see Analog Devices in a different light, more than a semiconductor manufacturer, and much more of a problem solver. We demonstrated our complete system that captures thermal images sends them to the cloud for analysis by our machine learning algorithms and sends alerts and notifications to a plant manager.

Q: Can you describe the mechanics of the demonstration?
A: Our system includes infrared imaging sensors inside power distribution boxes that monitor continuously to detect hotspots. The system can generate real-time alerts before problems occur. Reliable power is critical to modern society, but especially so in factory floor operation where the value of the equipment – millions to billions of dollars – and the loss of revenue due to downtime can be catastrophic. To demonstrate the system, we mounted a circuit breaker box inside a clear case and power it using a PC power supply. The Sentinel camera points at the circuit breakers and our cloud-hosted algorithms perform image analysis to detect hot spots.

Q: How did this project come about in the Analog Garage?
A: This idea started with an employee who works in one of ADI’s wafer fabs. He helped us understand the problem more deeply. We wanted to show manufacturers how, with sensor-to-cloud platforms, they could have much finer control over preventive maintenance. You can send technicians out, and they can periodically check power boxes to ensure they’re working OK but it’s costly and time-consuming. And you do it, knowing you’re not always checking the right box at the right time. We decided to apply our hardware, cloud software, and machine learning algorithms expertise to solve this human factors problem. We thought we could help plant managers to rest easier knowing that an autonomous system would take care of monitoring their assets and simply notify them when a problem arose.

Q: How portable is what you demonstrated? What are some of the other applications besides on the factory floor?
A: It’s very applicable to other problems. Just about anything you can think of that requires maintenance and repair can be handled with more precision and reliability by adding sensor-to-cloud capabilities. We’ve developed a complete system using an infrared camera as the sensor. We can easily add capabilities to monitor entire factories and commercial buildings with vibration sensing, flow monitoring, or electrical power measurement. Our long-term goal is to have a comprehensive solution to monitor your factory.

Q: Are systems like this in place now? When do you think sensor-to-cloud implementations like this will be widespread?
A: There are some, yes. We’re seeing systems monitor very expensive oil drilling equipment, for example. And remote patient monitoring is starting to improve healthcare. But in many ways, these are still the early days. A lot of capabilities are coming into play all at once. In 10 years, I believe preventive maintenance monitoring systems will be pretty much standard on new assets and far more widespread than they are today for existing assets.

Q: What do you think this will mean for companies in terms of man-hours expended, money saved, improved productivity?
A: Well, it means they can save time and money. Downtime is the enemy. Avoiding downtime is a big money saver. And equipment will last longer because you’re not operating it unless it’s in tip-top shape. So more profits. Which means they can invest in new products. And build more factories.