In process control and industrial automation the electronics are built into panels. For safety reasons these panels must be closed in order to operate. That makes debugging and monitoring operation under real-world circumstances impossible since the instruments like multi-meters and oscilloscopes cannot be brought out of the panel. Also on installations like windmills or electric towers, personnel have to operate their test equipment in a difficult and sometimes dangerous physical environment. BluDAQ is designed to address these needs by allowing signals to be measured within the panel (or up a tower) and transmit the telemetry to a tablet via wireless communication.
I have designed and prototyped a data acquisition unit that mounts internal to a panel on a standard TS35 DIN rail. It will multiplex two analog channels selected from 12 possible inputs. There are four different types of inputs to cater for the variety of signals possible within a panel. They can be selected for AC or DC inputs and include low voltage (500milliVolts), normal panel voltage (30Volts), high voltage (300Volts isolated) and current (15Amps isolated). In addition to hardware scaling there is the ability to change the scaling in software in the user interface. There are also six digital inputs and a frequency counter, an event counter, and a thermocouple temperature. It also provides an analog output voltage, a PWM output and three digital outputs. All this will allow the operator to measure and test the panel in safety and comply with industrial regulations.
The user interface has been realized using an Android based tablet communicating over Bluetooth and it uses the paradigm of an oscilloscope/logic analyzer. It also incorporates the intuitive nature of the touch screen to expand the vertical gains of channels as well as the horizontal time base and also make relative measurements on the screen.
As far as I am aware there are no direct competitors on the market. There are some touch based conventional oscilloscopes and some USB based oscilloscopes that will work on a tablet (but is connected via cable). There is a DVM with a Bluetooth interface for the display and another clamp meter, but in all cases there is no provision to allow the wireless signal through the panel and no ability to remotely control the data access.
This product would be applied throughout the process control and industrial automation market. The intention is to make the data acquisition module inexpensive enough so that it can be built into every panel on a factory floor (of which there may be hundreds) so that an engineer could run diagnostic tests at any point that a problem develops. In other words- a ‘scope in every panel! The market is untapped and has considerable potential. The costs of component within the panels are often several hundred dollars themselves, and there are several of them, so a similar price would not unduly influence the cost of the panel as a whole.
Future developments would include event recorders and pseudo chart recorders.
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