I've been investigating the new Monitron hardware from Amazon Web Services (AWS), and while it may be an interesting offering, it’s actually nothing new in the area of IoT-enabled vibration sensing. What is interesting, however, is that AWS sees some merit in releasing such a device on to the market.
Since starting Senseye in 2015, we've seen an increasing maturity in the industrial sector for Predictive Maintenance (PdM). This latest release by AWS is another important piece of evidence that the market is shifting from PdM being seen as an innovation exercise to being a core part of industrial digitization.
But it’s certainly a bold move, with hardware that keeps you locked into the AWS stack. I’ve seen this with many other wireless retrofit sensing solutions, and the ongoing service charge and cloud lock-in might not be to everyone's taste.
One limitation that’s not always clear with this type of sensing solution is that, since there’s no context of a machine’s operation available, it will only be suitable for machines with a steady operating state and consistent speed ranges. This isn’t a negative, as the vast majority of machines in the industrial space will fit the bill. But for complex machines with high variability and complex failure modes, other sensing solutions are required.
There's no 'one-stop-shop' when it comes to condition monitoring sensors to drive your PdM project. It will be a blend of capabilities, especially for a vibration sensing capacity where an overall RMS and the recommended thresholds coming from ISO 20816 are the best places to begin. Many people don’t appreciate that RMS is purely an indication of the overall energy in what is a complex spectrum of frequencies in the vibration signal. With a mems device that frequency range is limited. From a condition monitoring perspective, however, this is the ideal continuous measurement to trigger a closer look at a machine. Be aware, though, that important failure modes related to bearings will have such weak energy levels that they can be missed.
Interoperability is a core aspect of thinking on IIoT and Smart Factory technology. But the feeling I come away with from Monitron is that I’m entering a closed technology stack; not being able to include other sensing capabilities and having to use AWS services to get to my data might not work for all. Factory systems are built from a mix of vendor solutions and have well-established standards such as OPC-UA and IO-Link that are expected protocols for interoperability and scalable common architectures. It will be interesting to see if future evolutions of Monitron embrace any of these industrial standards. My feeling is that they must.
Commoditizing PdM & CM Knowledge
If there has been one big lesson for us here at Senseye over the last 18 months, it’s that the market is full of condition monitoring hardware and PdM apps (yes, we have competitors too), and that the real limiting factor is the dissemination of expert knowledge in this domain. This is something we’re addressing head on and developing ways to share CM and PdM knowledge to our customer-base in manageable bite-size pieces of work, with all the necessary supporting material and assuming minimal prior knowledge. In effect, we have commoditized the analysis role of the PdM expert in our app, rather than just commoditizing the operational aspects.
In reflection it’s been great to be able to go into Amazon and buy the starter kit and have it delivered the next day on Prime. It is great to just see a product and a price and click the big orange buy button.
AWS Monitron is great retrofit option for motors and gearboxes and is a perfect entry level sensing solution for a PdM project. With low complexity installation, the ability to bypass OT networks, and a smartphone interface, the reliance on specialists in your company is almost gone. Maintenance teams can get to the data they need themselves - a founding principal of what we do at Senseye.
This product release by Amazon is yet another proof point that condition monitoring sensing is becoming commonplace in the IIoT space and is reaching a point of becoming a commodity item.
The next step is to get some good vibration data captured and see the performance of the analysis. This is trickier than you might think working from my home office, but I have a plan for that! More to come next month.