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G. Lufft Mess- und Regeltechnik GmbH is a manufacturer of precision sensors. At the operational level, the measurements provided by these sensors must increasingly be evaluated against the background of their integration into business processes. High precision thus also requires processing flexibility. In recent years, therefore, the sensors began to be equipped with standard interfaces, e.g. Ethernet, USB, RS-485 or Bluetooth. As far as data logging is concerned, however, the requirements are very diverse and depend on how the data are processed. Such requirements are barely compatible with the hardware specifications for the sensors, such as energy efficiency, flexibility, performance, etc. Implementation of these requirements in the sensor electronics is not possible in practice.
The solution must therefore be complementary to the sensor technology, which is based on different hardware. An intelligent sensor gateway was needed. Lufft and Ondics specified a solution and Ondics ultimately implemented the concept: the Lufft I-BOX was born.
The objective was to integrate the Lufft sensors into any desired enterprise network for simple and reliable processing or representation of the measurement data (e.g. on the OPUS20 data logger). The natural thought was to approach this using an “all-rounder” solution. However, it quickly became clear that the required flexibility could not be achieved in this way. A new concept had to be developed for this purpose, which would allow a variety of scenarios in the future. The big players Apple, Google and Lego show how these solutions can work. With a little brainpower and by updating known concepts, the hardware-based industry app technology was developed.
By way of interaction, apps here assume the task of integrating sensor data into operational processes and converting this into usable formats such as Excel, PDF, CSV, SQL, SNMP etc. A major innovation is that this gateway does not have to be realized with a PC or laptop; rather, it is in the control cabinet and capable of continuous operation.
With the Lufft I-Box, introduced in 2014, Lufft provides a small yet powerful hardware solution with pre-installed standard apps. An App Store from which various other apps can be downloaded was also built (http://lufft-i-box.com/app/store). The range of apps is diverse and growing continuously. In addition to free apps, chargeable apps are also available. Furthermore, the plan is for users to create their own apps and upload these to the App Store. This allows users to connect their sensors using proprietary protocols or support their company’s own measurement data programs. The pre-installed apps on the Lufft I-BOX can import, display and process the OPUS20 data, switch alarms and configure the OPUS20 sensors in the network.
Application example 1: Lufft I-Box delivers OPUS20 data in CSV format.
Application example 2: Lufft I-Box alerts several computers via E-mail wirelessly
An important, wide-ranging app was added in July: the data logger app. It is available from the App Store for 299 euros and can store up to one million measurements per logger unit. With a 10-minute measurement interval and three interrogated channels the memory is sufficient for about six years. Also available is a free data logger demo app which is limited to 100 values and serves to trial the data logger app. The free Log-JSON app can be used to access the data logger. This app delivers the data in the JSON format that can be easily imported into all modern programming languages.
The next big step is already being planned. The aim is to use the Lufft I-Box to record stationary road sensors and provide an alarm on smartphones. To this end, the Lufft I-BOX will use a measurement data cloud solution compatible with the Lufft I-BOX, to which the data are transmitted via mobile telephony.
The app technology in the Lufft I-BOX has numerous benefits for users. On the one hand, the installation is greatly simplified by the Lufft I-Box and programming skills are no longer required. Operation is intuitive via the web interface and can be performed without an instruction manual. The app technology facilitates the configuration of measurement data solutions and can be gradually expanded with more apps. This guarantees investment security in changing environments – especially on the way to Industry 4.0 applications. On the other hand, Lufft extends its own product portfolio into the solutions business. The systems (sensor, data logger, gateway, smartphone alert) now come from a single source. Thus, in case of questions or a need for support, the customer has one single point of contact at the Lufft company.
|About the author:
My name is Wolfgang Clauss. I am Managing Director of Ondics GmbH. We support our customers in the best possible use of web and app technologies. For me it’s fun to develop innovative concepts and access new areas together with my customers – from idea to business success.