IoT Retrofits

How to usher in the new without bouncing the old

The emergence of the Internet of Things (IoT) has flashed potential for the electric motor industry. There are many challenges facing electrical motor manufacturers, including building a better motor with more efficiency so they can stay in contention with their competitors. IoT platforms can monitor the performance and health data of electric motors. A question often raised, however, is that of how and when to use retrofitting techniques to link machinery to the IoT. Below, an example of an IoT platform and device—Wallflower‘s Ember product—that can monitor heat in electric or gas stoves to prevent fires.

The business standpoint demands to know the advantages of retrofitted vs. embedded products. There are specific situations when retrofitting sensing and connectivity is a great way to get something to market quickly and stay competitive. This approach is often an add-on box that adds connectivity options and control to a current device, which will later require devising a strategy to build functionality into future generations of the product. Thus, conversely, there are times when retrofitting doesn’t make sense because of expense or effort. Researchers, manufacturers, and executives alike are working to hone in on the metrics to be aware of and the characteristics of products to look out for in these potential scenarios; standardized criteria for when a retrofit does or does not make sense.

Here are examples of IoT retrofits that have been successfully deployed:

  • Electric motor system health/condition monitoring: Electric motors have been reinvented by adding wireless sensors on devices to ease the acquisition of an electric motor’s vibration data. The smart communication network in these systems is more helpful and it is very difficult to establish in the larger plants. If an electric motor overheats in the plant, that motor sensor reads the real-time data and sends the information to the application through the cloud. Manufacturers can use this data to send warnings or alerts to the maintenance team to regulate the voltage and that will shorten maintenance intervals. Earlier alerts of vibration analysis are helpful due to the damage vibration can produce over time. Rise-of-the-Internet-of-Things-in-Electric-Motors
  • Electromechanical compacting trash cans have been fitted with sensors and a cellular gateway to enable remote monitoring, management, maintenance alerts, and pedestrian circulation patterns. The cans were retrofitted without requiring the design and manufacture of a new Internet-connected trash can model, which would have taken multiple months of design, manufacturing, distribution, and installation to complete.
  • Garage door opener controllers like that recently released by The Genie Company have been retrofitted onto an existing garage door opener, regardless of brand.
  • Environmental sensors such as humidity, temperature, and vibration have been deployed to remotely monitor localized surroundings with minimal installation complexity and cost. The data generated from these solutions provides near-term insight into environmental conditions that are used to influence the long-term IoT roadmap of connected devices, machines, processes, people, and spaces 
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