Friday, 22 October 2021

AI in the sewer.

Millions of litres of wastewater generated by households and businesses flow unnoticed through the sewer system to their destination, the wastewater treatment plant. Identifying and locating problems in the underground system has been challenging, but now a system created by the Finnish start-up, Neuroflux, generates automatic alarms when they detect sewage in the wrong place.

A small start-up is an exceptional operator in a field that has traditionally been only for water utilities and their large automation providers. Working simultaneously with many water utilities comes with certain benefits: good ideas spread quickly from one utility to the next.

"The small and agile team has also been our strength", Julia Kariniem smiles. "You can easily chat with us, and we are able to react to changing needs in stride. European water utilities do amazing work to keep water flowing smoothly for all of us, and it is very rewarding to be a part of it."

Inspiration for the idea was originally sparked by an innovation competition organized by the Helsinki Region Environmental Services Authority HSY in 2016. The event took place at a local wastewater treatment plant, where water engineers and programmers gathered to think about how to best take advantage of the utilities' network measurements, such as water flow and energy data.

"Data visualisations for water utilities began to take shape during the hackathon, and the results were considered so interesting that the development continued in a project with HSY", explains Julia Kariniemi.

Sewers go quiet at night
Sewer infrastructure consists of hundreds of pipe kilometres as well as pumping stations that push wastewater forward until it reaches its final destination, the treatment plant.

Even sewers follow our daily rhythms: morning showers increase the amount of wastewater, and at night the sewer goes quiet too. Because wastewater also follows these familiar patterns, visualisation is a useful tool for water utilities, offering valuable information about unusual events in the network.

Visibility under the ground
Analytics developed quickly alongside the visualisations, providing the water utility with automatic alarms for patterns that indicate problems in the network. "There are hundreds of pumping stations in the Helsinki region alone", Kariniemi points out. "It is impossible to monitor each measurement manually."

Growing interest from other water utilities led to the foundation of the new company. Today, almost half of the Finnish population is covered through the Neuroflux service through their water utilities. This year, the system was adopted by the 2021 EU Green Capital Lahti.

Problems in the sewers have direct consequences for the environment. If there is a blockage in a pumping station, wastewater does not move forward in the network and may spill uncontrollably in the surrounding environment. Sometimes it works the other way: water leaks into the sewer from rain, lakes, or other bodies of water, stretching the treatment plant's capacity and wasting resources. "Improving wastewater management is a motivating goal, because it has significance for both the environment and the community", Kariniemi describes.

@neurofluxltd @hsy_fi @GreenLahti2021 #PAuto #Wastewater

Twenty five years in sensors.

Originally founded by Scientist and Entrepreneur Paul Gotley OBE in 1996, Alphasense started life in small premises in Great Dunmow, Essex, (GB). Paul’s daughter, Andrea Gotley, soon took over day-to-day business operations with her father overseeing proceedings in his role as Chairman. A series of astute joint ventures and key research links with British universities enabled Alphasense to develop new technologies and sensor products that opened the door to opportunities in air quality and gas safety markets.

Today, Alphasense operates from a purpose-built manufacturing facility in Great Notley. The company is profitable, with an annual turnover in excess of £20m, largely due to the operational efficiency and global business development established over the last decade or so. The Alphasense product range still includes the company’s bestselling gas safety Oxygen and PPM toxic sensors but is now complemented by a suite of PPB sensors allied with Optical Particle Counters and Photo Ionisation Detectors for air quality applications.

Research and Development is led by Technical Director, Ronan Baron, whose passion for environmental air quality monitoring fuels much of the product innovation and technical strategy at Alphasense. One such air quality innovation project recently led to the launch of two new VOC electrochemical sensors, strengthening the company’s growing air quality product range and offering a lower-maintenance air quality sensor option at an affordable price.

Commercially focused innovation is just one of the reasons customers choose to work with Alphasense. Sensor performance and reliability are key focuses for the Operations team, whose ‘LEAN manufacturing’ approach prioritises efficiency without compromising quality. The ‘LEAN’ methodology allows the team to manufacture and stock a comprehensive range of sensor products. Customer orders are dispatched quickly to a global customer base by an in-house fulfilment team.

The Alphasense Technical Support team is always on hand to assist with further product support, offering a consultative service when customers enquire about a new product idea or adaptation to an existing product. The company’s growth strategy revolves around three core pillars: science, sales, and manufacturing. The fusion of these three elements will remain a foundation that current Alphasense CEO, Peter Saxton, who Andrea Gotley brought in to oversee and implement her succession plan, believes is key to the company’s continued success.

A recent recruitment drive is further evidence of Saxton’s confidence in the long-term success of Alphasense. As well as bringing onboard new members of the Sales & Marketing team to help service and grow the company’s global sales territories, the Technical team has also invested in several new in-house scientists who each bring their own specialist knowledge and expertise to the table.

Alphasense is a business very much looking to the future but with an appreciation of its past. Twenty-five years after Paul Gotley started the company, his daughter Andrea has total confidence that her father’s dedication to high-quality sensor products and excellent customer service is in safe hands. With public awareness of air quality issues at an all-time high, Alphasense is well-placed to continue supporting its customers by designing and manufacturing high-performance gas and air quality sensors that improve living conditions for communities worldwide and, ultimately, save lives.

@_Enviro_News #AlphaSense #PAuto #Environment

Dual on-line and face-to-face.

Face-to-Face Dialog at the Trade Show - Supplementary Content in a 3-D Environment.

Where the boundaries between the real and digital worlds are blurred, there exists a space for new ideas and hybrid concepts: Bolstered by this motif, Pepperl+Fuchs are now combining their exhibit at the SPS trade show in Nuremberg (D) with the company's free "Digital Expo" digital show for the very first time. The aim of the project is to establish an interplay between the respective advantages of analog and digital communication under the motto "Your Future Automation" and to transform both events into a holistic hybrid experience for visitors.

At both events, Pepperl+Fuchs will address three major focus points of automation technology. All content will be available in both German and English:
• E-Mobility—New Solutions for New Production Processes
• Functional Safety—from Extraordinary Products to Customized Safety Concepts
• Industrial Communication—Digitized Processes for Hazardous Areas
Interested parties can now register for the Digital Expo completely free of charge here. This one-time registration also includes access to all content from the two previous Pepperl+Fuchs digital fairs.
Free tickets for the SPS 2021 are available via this link.
  • SPS Show dates are November 23 – 25, 2021, Hall 7A, Stand 330.
  • Their Digital Expo is on-line is November 15 – 26, 2021.

To achieve its aims, the company is using the virtual, browser-based 3-D environment Digital Expo for new, detailed exhibits on its products and solutions for factory and process automation. At the same time, these 3-D models, supplemented by a few selected classic trade fair exhibits, will be presented in adapted form on digital "touch tables" at the SPS in Nuremberg.

Visitors can discuss the digital exhibit directly with experts from Pepperl+Fuchs. After visiting the SPS, they can then re-engage with the products they saw there at the virtual Digital Expo should they wish. The Digital Expo will also provide further digital content, such as brochures or 3-D animations. Additionally, live presentations from the SPS will as well be shown exclusively via stream within the Digital Expo.

@PepperlFuchs @spsmesse @mepaxIntPR #PAuto 

Thursday, 21 October 2021

Many coloured sockets.

Industry standard jack sockets for audio, musical instruments, communications, data and instrumentation

A wide range of 2-pole/mono 3.5mm female jack sockets in a number of colour choices for ease of identification on control panels are offered by Cliff Electronics .

Dan Walker, General Sales Manager of Cliff Electronics, commented, “3.5mm mono jack sockets have a large number of applications in a very wide number of markets. Colour coding provides a simple and fast means for system installers and end users to make the correct connection without difficulty.”

Cliff 3.5mm mono jack sockets have single-pole spring terminals which provide simple, fast and reliable connection for a wide range of applications in the music industry, for amplifiers, sound systems and instruments such as electric guitars and keyboards, and are also found in domestic hi-fi for connecting headphones, headsets and smaller loudspeakers. Industrial applications include telecom, communications systems and nurse call systems as well as instrumentation.

Available in black, red, blue, grey, green, white, they also feature a plug actuated on/off switch. The 3.5mm jack sockets may be PCB or panel mounted with the option of using a recess plate for rugged or portable equipment.

Cliff Electronics can supply jack sockets in a wide range of sizes, DC power connectors, terminal binding posts, test connectors and leads, optical jacks, leads and waterproof connectors.

#CliffElectronic #PAuto #Connectors

Large area barcode reader.

Delivers unprecedented single-camera coverage in a compact hardware solution.

Cognex Corporation has released the High Speed Steerable Mirror, a patented technology designed for use with the DataMan® 470 barcode reader that supports large field of view applications with a single compact system.

“The High Speed Steerable Mirror changes the game for large area applications that typically require a multi-reader solution,” said Matt Moschner, Cognex’s Sr. Director of ID Products. “Now, e-commerce and logistics companies can get up and running more quickly, and achieve the same high accuracy scanning results with lower maintenance costs.”

The new steerable mirror attachment expands DataMan’s field of view both vertically and horizontally, giving 3MP and 5MP barcode readers an effective resolution greater than a 50MP sensor. Coupled with the latest in liquid lens technology, this system can both change field-of-view and depth of focus dynamically. A single DataMan system can now be used for pallet scanning, aggregation, and other large area applications that previously required high-resolution PC-vision or multiple fixed-mount sensors.

The steerable mirror arrives preassembled to the front of a DataMan 470. The unit is configured using a built-in web-based setup wizard, allowing operators to deploy an application in five minutes or less. The user simply enters their application specifications, and the wizard automatically calculates the optimal scanning pattern, ensuring the highest read rates in the shortest cycle times.

@Cognex_Corp @mepaxIntPR #Pauto 

Has the printed temperature sensors time come?

Information regarding printed temperature sensors, and indeed about any of the wide variety of printed/flexible sensor technologies, can be found in a recently updated report,  “Printed and Flexible Sensors 2022-2032: Technologies, Players, Markets”.  Technologies covered in the report include printed photodetectors, pressure sensors, gas sensors, capacitive touch sensors, wearable electrodes, and more. Here DTechEx's Dr. Matthew Dyson discusses developments.

Think of a temperature sensor - and a traditional glass thermometer, or perhaps a small thermistor would probably spring to mind. However, a new class of temperature sensors is rapidly emerging that offers spatial resolution together with a thin-film format.

This new class of temperature sensors is made from a solution-processable semiconductor that is coated between conductive rows and columns in a passive matrix architecture. Both the temperature sensing semiconducting layer and the conductors can be printed onto flexible substrates such as PET, enabling low-cost production of a wide range of shapes and sizes.

Why now?
With the ability to provide spatially resolved temperature resolution at a low cost, it might seem surprising that printed temperature sensors are not already widespread. IDTechEx identify two main reasons.

    Firstly, existing temperature sensors are cheap, well understood, and very small. While conventional inorganic thermistors or platinum resistive temperature detectors (RTDs) are certainly not flexible, they are generally so small that incorporating them into a component or device doesn’t impose any form factor constraints.

    Secondly, thermal diffusion is quite slow. This means that thermal gradients are usually very gentle, certainly when compared to spatial variation in force or light intensity for example. As such, introducing measurement with fine spatial resolution is unnecessary in many cases, since a few thermistors or RTDs embedded in a thermally conductive layer provide equivalent insights.

However, while both of these factors remain true, emerging application areas mean that a combination of spatially resolved temperature measurement, low-cost roll-to-roll (R2R) production, and flexible thin-film format mean that demand for printed temperature sensors is forecast to grow substantially over the next decade, with an increasing number of companies developing this technology.

Battery monitoring for electric vehicles
A forthcoming increase in electric vehicle (EV) adoption is almost unarguable, with multiple governments legislating to ban the sale of internal combustion engines for vehicles at various points in the future. This technological transition is already creating huge opportunities for battery manufacturers.

Thermal management is extremely important for batteries, as anyone who has noticed their smartphone battery life plummet when subjected to heat or cold will attest. Batteries work best within a narrow temperature range, while hot spots can provide an early indication of malfunctions.

Keeping track of battery temperature to adjust heating or cooling as required of course requires temperature sensors. Printed temperature sensors are well suited to this purpose as they are lightweight, thin, cheap to produce in high volumes, offer good thermal contact with pouch cells, and can be laminated together with thin-film heaters to produce an integrated thermal management solution.

Healthcare applications
Printed temperature sensors are also highly promising for healthcare applications. The key attribute here is conformality since printed thin-film sensors can adapt to the curvature of the skin. Indeed, there is growing interest in continuous healthcare monitoring, which will provide extensive opportunities for many types of printed sensors. It involves the continuous tracking of various parameters such as heart rate and temperature to enable remote patient monitoring.

A specific healthcare application currently being explored for printed temperature sensors includes wound monitoring since the healing process is associated with increased blood flow and thus slightly elevated temperatures. The spatial resolution available with printed temperature sensors thus enables the extent of the wound to be tracked over time.

@IDTechEx #PAuto #Automotive #Health

Wednesday, 20 October 2021

London breathing!

The Breathe London pilot project ran over two years from October 2018; monitoring and characterising air quality across one of the world’s major cities. With over 100 AQMesh ‘pods’ located across the city, the Breathe London partners were, for the first time, able to provide hyperlocal detail on London’s air quality. At the end of the two year period, the entire network continued to operate for a further 5 months in a separate project funded by NERC/UKRI and managed by Prof. Rod Jones (University of Cambridge) and colleagues.
Small Sensors for AQMesh pods.
Each AQMesh pod contained small low-cost sensors, developed and manufactured by Alphasense. The company’s Arthur Burnley says: “One of the main objectives of the project was to evaluate the utility of small sensors, so we were delighted that they performed so well, and hope that this will provide other cities with the confidence to invest in their own networks.”

In addition to the pods, Breathe London also equipped Google Street View cars with reference-grade monitors, which together with the pods, complemented and expanded London’s existing regulatory monitoring network.

The air quality monitoring dilemma
Historically, air quality monitoring has relied upon expensive, highly accurate and reliable reference-grade air quality monitors that are often located in large air-conditioned, mains powered cabinets. As a result of their size and the requirement to be installed in urban areas, these systems sometimes require planning permission and can be difficult to locate in ideal locations.

In addition to their large capital cost, reference stations also incur large operational costs for maintenance and calibration work. Nevertheless, reference stations perform an essential role in providing accurate reliable data for comparison with air quality standards – especially for particulates and nitrogen dioxide (NO2). They also provide a reliable method for temporal and spatial air quality comparisons.

The air quality dilemma is therefore that reference stations are so costly that they have to be located sparsely. Consequently, they are unable to deliver granular local data, so operators have to rely on modelling. The Breathe London project was therefore established to help resolve this dilemma.

Data from the project have now been fully evaluated and one of the partners, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), has published a summary entitled: The Breathe London Blueprint: How cities can use hyperlocal air pollution monitoring to support their clean air goals.

Breathe London Objectives
1. Advance the use and development of innovative, lower-cost monitoring techniques to support cities around the world;
2. Enhance London’s existing regulatory network to better understand pollution and assess targeted solutions for cleaner air, like the Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ); and
3. Make air pollution data publicly available and visualise it in new and innovative ways.

The Breathe London pilot met and surpassed these objectives. London Mayor Sadiq Khan said: “These findings, from our world-leading Breathe London sensor network, are a stark reminder that pollution hotspots exist across London and will refocus our efforts on improving air quality for all. As we face up to the current climate emergency, I hope the success of this scheme will act as a blueprint for cities around the world to battle their own toxic air emergencies.”

1. Innovative, lower-cost monitors
Any city considering the use of lower-cost sensors will be keen to learn whether they can provide reliable data and insights. The Breathe London Blueprint concludes: “Yes - you can use emerging monitoring technologies and techniques to identify and characterise air pollution.”

Breathe London data produced insights that were broadly comparable to findings from London’s extensive regulatory network, demonstrating that lower-cost sensor systems and mobile monitoring are valid options for generating useful data.

2. Solutions for cleaner air
Even towns or cities with limited access to reference-grade air quality monitors can assess pollution levels and find ways to improve air quality. For example, lower-cost sensor systems can help find air pollution ‘hotspots,’ or the places and times of day that need the most attention. These sensors can also provide flexible tools for assessing the effects of air quality intervention measures.

3. Making the invisible visible
Traditionally, air quality data is made available in a simplified format via Apps and websites; letting citizens know when their region is being affected by poor air quality. However, localised data is necessary if citizens are to be empowered to make decisions based on air quality data. For example, if people know which streets are the most polluted they can choose which method and route to travel, or where to exercise; they may even take this into account when choosing a school, or deciding where to live.

The Breathe London pilot project published a website providing a real-time map of air quality data from the streets in which the AQMesh pods were located. This localised data helped to engage with the public on air quality, so they would be more likely to support and understand the need for interventions such as the ULEZ.

Why AQMesh?
The first AQMesh pods were developed around 10 years ago to resolve the air quality dilemma outlined above. The UK based company Environmental Instruments manufactures the pods and has invested heavily in trials and product development over that period. Critically, this has included operational evaluations in a wide variety of (international) environments. “Our partnership with Alphasense was important because, whilst we needed lower cost technologies, we also needed sensors that are reliable and provide repeatable output,” explains Environmental Instruments MD Amanda Billingsley. “With the benefit of this extensive development work, we are now able to offer monitors with levels of uncertainty approaching those of reference stations, which means that AQMesh pods are ideal for filling the gaps in sparsely located reference networks.”

AQMesh pods utilise cellular communications to transmit data to a server which delivers the data via a secure website. The pods can be mains or battery powered with a solar charger, and users are able to select from a range of air quality parameters.

The Breathe London pods contained sensors for measuring NO2, NO, CO2 and particulates, and ten of them also contained ozone (O3) sensors. By monitoring a broad range of parameters simultaneously, the Breathe London partners were able to conduct more effective source attribution. There are now thousands of AQMesh pods around the world, with customers either being provided with weekly data reports, or they are able to pay for on-demand access to live data for £150/year (ca €118).

Pilot project extension
At the end of the 2-year pilot, as part of the 5-month extension project managed by Prof. Jones, the sensors inside the Breathe London pods were replaced, and monitoring continued through the Britain’s COVID-19 lockdown and into the period when lockdown restrictions were withdrawn. “The extension project delivered an extremely useful set of data, that we are currently running through CERC’S models,” explains Prof. Jones. “Lockdown presented a unique set of circumstances and this monitoring will greatly inform our understanding of London’s air quality. This modelling will also provide source attribution which we hope will be used to inform future mitigation measures.”

One of the interesting aspects of the Breathe London Pilot was its ability to take measurements at one minute intervals; as opposed to 15 minute readings, which is the norm for reference monitors. Prof. Jones says: “By capturing data faster, we were able to implement advanced features such as remote calibration and source attribution. So we are excited to take the learnings from a low-cost network and apply them to a reference station network in a new project that is currently underway in Glasgow.”

The new project is also funded by NERC and titled: Quantification of Utility of Atmospheric Network Technologies (QUANT). Fifteen AQMesh monitors have been co-located with reference monitors in Glasgow; all of which (reference and AQMesh) will run at one minute measurement intervals. The high time-resolution and the opportunity to create dense networks of low-cost monitors offers a paradigm shift in the way that key pollutants are measured, how health impacts are evaluated and how potential solutions are assessed.

The Breathe London pilot demonstrated that the value of a network is greater than the sum of its components. This is because networks enable the tracking of pollution, and differentiation between local and external sources. In addition, Breathe London enabled the project partners to develop new methods for improved data quality with faster, easier, lower cost calibration.

The success of the project underlined the importance of low-cost sensors in providing the localised granularity of data that is necessary to help citizens better understand the impacts of air quality and to facilitate the implementation and evaluation of effective air quality mitigation measures.

@AlphaSenseInc @NERCscience @Breathe_London @_Enviro_News #Environment #AirQuality