Safety First: IoT Solutions for Hazardous Industrial Environments

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Atlanta-based Aegex Technologies knows that the IoT industry is set to explode—literally. It recognizes that some of the largest industries in the world operate in hazardous environments, where notebooks, smartphones, sensors or other communications devices could cause a catastrophic spark, risking lives, information and physical assets.

In response, Aegex Technologies, a member of the Intel® IoT Solutions Alliance, is taking industrial IoT solutions to the next level of development. It is not just making rugged devices—it is manufacturing specially designed Windows 10 tablets and IoT platform solutions and wearables that are globally certified to be intrinsically safe for use in the most hazardous industrial locations worldwide. This includes workspaces in oil and gas, chemical, pharmaceutical, aerospace, mining, public safety, utilities and other industries where volatile or explosive atmospheres (including certain gases, liquids, fibers or dust) exist and require specially certified equipment for safe operation.

In the Danger Zone: IoT

In an article in Global Atlanta, Aegex Technologies CEO Thomas Ventulett said he took his idea to build the Aegex shock- and spark-proof tablet to Hungarian engineers, who developed the patents-pending methods for making the Windows 10 tablet intrinsically safe in dangerous environments.

But the company didn’t stop with tablet development. It expanded the solution set to include the Aegex IoT Platform for Hazardous Locations. Ventulett said that “by connecting not only the people with tablets, but essentially connecting everything including machines, people, processes and data via intelligent, secure and safe sensors connected to the cloud,” the facilities and hazardous workplaces would run not only more efficiently, but safely as well.

“Modern machine learning and analytics enable us to identify trends or anomalies that would otherwise go undetected in normal operations,” he added. “Monitoring things—from wind direction, to humidity, to the presence of a hazardous gas or even a person’s heart rate in a plant, can generate data that, when analyzed, can reveal potential ways to improve processes, productivity and ultimately, safety.”

Aegex Technologies IoT Platform for Hazardous Locations

Photo credit: Aegex Technologies

Aegex also focuses on intrinsically safe IoT wearables for employees, as monitoring individuals’ well-being can help prevent accidents. A worker’s vital signs can be critical indicators of a pending problem when combined with ambient information, such as a sudden increase in carbon monoxide plus an accelerated heart rate and a look of distress on the worker’s face as derived from a cognitive API.

Beyond wearables, IoT sensors play an important role in hazardous environments. Slight changes in a value detected by a vibration sensor that occurs with a slight rise in a temperature sensor or gas sensor, for example, can alert operations managers of a future problem. Avoiding shutdowns for maintenance and repair, fine-tuning operations for greater efficiency or possibly heading off a potential crisis all can be gained by connected IoT technology.

Building an Internet of Everything for Hazardous Locations

Installing and managing IoT in hazardous worksites is a very different challenge than deploying sensors and communication tools in safe industrial environments. After conducting field trials, Aegex developed its IoT platform for hazardous locations around these unique components:

  • Intrinsically safe certified devices for all zones, classes and divisions
  • Combination of specific-purpose, low-priced devices in vast quantity
  • Overlay of device-centric, gateway-centric, mobile-centric and cloud-centric machine learning devices
  • Alternative device architecture to accommodate AC or DC power due to lack of AC availability in hazardous locations
  • Availability of wireless communications
  • Ease and cost of installation
  • Flexibility and customization to monitor the right things, such as swappable sensors on specific devices to meet specific monitoring requirements
  • Redundancy, including:  back-up DC power due to mission-critical nature of sensing; second and third communications module to ensure connectivity; on-board cache memory to retain data; overlay of alternative sensing devices to augment failed primary devices (such as humidity sensor as a back-up to moisture detection)
  • Monitoring of micro-climates within large-scale environments
  • Consideration for massive geographical areas
  • Infrastructure complexity, including: physical attributes (such as concrete structures vs. pipes and conduits); topography including natural and man-made features that impact microclimates, signal strength, limits to access by humans or other constraining features.  

Partners Wanted for Intrinsically Safe Solutions

For solution providers with customers in hazardous industrial environments, Aegex Technology is currently seeking partners to become resellers, software and technology providers, integrators and licensees. Find out more at https://aegex.com/about/partner-program. 

 

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