Survival of the Fitbits

New startup joins the fray of expanding IoT market

Since the inception of the Internet of Things, industrial companies rushed en masse to produce products that can connect workplace machinery in the era of the cloud and smartphone. The resulting subsection—the Industrial Internet of Things (iIOT)—is already home to products from familiar companies: Ludeca, Dynamatic, Flowserve, Regal Beloit, Mod-Tronic, Sulzer…the list goes on. A new startup offers a compact form of condition monitoring that could be seen as the equivalent of a Fitbit watch, but for industrial machinery.

Petasense, based in Santa Rosa, Calif., specializes in preventative maintenance for industry. The Silicon Valley brainchild is focused on making connectivity more common among industrial machinery… heavily reliant on the Internet of Things.

The company’s main goal is simplifying the Industrial IoT. It has assembled a connectivity system to perform end-to-end wireless predictive maintenance; also including machine learning software that will help you monitor the health of all kinds of machines that are found in plants and facilities. This includes rotating equipment; motors, pumps, gearboxes; HVAC equipment like compressors, chillers, and fans. Petasense’s system tracks health through vibration analysis, looking for common identifiers of upcoming failure such as misalignment, imbalance, tightening, and parts deterioration.

Companies like Petasense try to look at machines as humans—from a health standpoint, at least. This is common practice for plant workers, whose job descriptions often include regular assessment of the machinery they operate. In the past, many found it odd to see entire companies popping up just for this purpose, when it used to be a job that could be covered by one department—or in some smaller shops, even one person. For example, Nidec’s IoT platform may include a lot of fancy terms (“anomaly prediction”, “factor analysis”) but it works toward the same goal maintenance teams always have. Using sensors to accumulate great quantities of data, Nidec predicts this will allow workers to complete more tasks with greater efficiency during the average workday.

Other examples are aplenty. Schneider Electric’s Exostructure line integrates plant operations, the electrical grid, and machinery. Flowserve partnered with Honeywell in October 2016 to start a full IoT line that includes sensors for advanced valve and seal technology. Mod-Tronic specializes in heat measurement instruments that are IoT-compatible. And TECO was one of a number of large industrial companies (along with Siemens, ABB/Baldor, GE, WEG, and Schneider, among others) to embrace the digital age and “Industry 4.0” by offering a line of remote monitoring solutions that are now a cornerstone of business.

Petasense enters a crowded game, but one that is constantly growing and appealing to both investors and consumers.

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