Remote Machine Support Must Be Everywhere

Remote Monitoring, Analysis, Support and Control Is Getting More Routine and Secure, More Comprehensive in its Scope and Capabilities, and May Even Gather Enough Data to Improve Machine Designs

By Jim Montague

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McRitchie adds that eWon and Talk2M give Aquatic a differentiator in the dual-tensioners it rents to marine vessel operators. "Some of our tensioner systems also have cameras installed, so local operators can see what's happening from their control rooms or booths," says McRitchie. "Talk2M also enables me to access this same Web-camera view. I can also screen-share with a user to remotely instruct them on the operational idiosyncrasies of the systems or how to navigate through the more isolated control and monitoring screens."

Likewise, Statoil in Stavanger, Norway, is implementing a $2.7-million condition and performance monitoring system on its Gina Krog oil and gas platform in the North Sea (Figure 3), which will allow its onshore personnel to continuously monitor the new fixed platform’s critical and essential pumps, compressors and other mechanical equipment to maximize their efficiency and identify any potential problems before they affect production. This integrated, condition-based maintenance system provides machinery protection, prediction and performance monitoring of all critical and essential assets, and includes Emerson Process Management's CSI 6500 machinery health monitor and AMS Suite predictive-maintenance software, which is built on Meridium’s Asset Performance Management (APM) software.

These software and hardware components will allow Gina Krog to deliver equipment health alerts and predictive diagnostics, which will enable the platform's staff to perform corrective maintenance actions to avoid unplanned shutdowns and maintain production while reducing maintenance costs. In addition, AMS Suite will aggregate all asset data to present a clear picture of overall asset health and performance, so work notifications can be created and fed back to Statoil's SAP enterprise asset management system for immediate attention. The platform also includes a wireless communication infrastructure based on WirelessHART (IEC 62591), which will support future enhancements to capture added equipment data on the platform at less cost than wired communications.

Forecast: Mostly Cloudy

Beyond routine monitoring and maintenance, many remote support tools are gathering and archiving large enough amounts of information to undertake big-data efforts, such as advanced analyses of operations and improved machine designs.

"Just three or four years ago, remote support via VPNs was new for many machine builders and unknown to many others," says Mariam Gallegos, product marketing specialists for network security at Phoenix Contact. "Even those who were connected probably had remote desktops or public IP links that weren't very secure," says Gallegos. "Now, VPNs are tied to hubs and servers and then go straight to cloud-based infrastructures, such as our free mGuard Secure Cloud (mSC) service, which can also host clients' virtual machines and VPN tasks as needed, and maintain 24/7 security. Tying these functions together saves costs to our customers and also means they no longer need to maintain as much IT knowledge and can instead go to our website and connect to their operations data."

Launched in February 2014, mSC is presently supported on PCs and Android devices, and will be available on Apple iOS in 2015. It uses IPsec security protocol and performs high-level AES 256 encryption with hashing algorithm, says Gallegos. "Remote support used to require dial-up or old-style VPNs that users had to maintain," explains Gallegos. "Now, we host sophisticated, simple and flexible VPNs for all customers using our devices. Their engineers just sign in, click to see the data for whichever of their machines they want and get back to making and shipping their products. This isn't machine-to-machine; it's more like technician-to-machine."

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