Jan 4, 2022

Critical asset monitoring with LPWAN

Alexis Leibbrandt

Critical asset monitoring tools are designed to perform real-time analysis of the current status of critical assets. With the help of a digital twin, it is possible to perform anomaly detection for said assets. Read more about it in this article.

Picture this scenario: A fire breaks out in the building, you rush over to the fire extinguisher, pull it out of its cabinet, release the security screw and press the triggering handles and nothing happens. After a couple of tries, the only thing that comes out of the fire extinguisher is liquid foam, with barely enough pressure to reach your feet. Someone had already used it and just put it back in its original place. No one noticed and the facility manager was not notified.

The solution to this problem: critical asset monitoring.

What is critical asset monitoring and how is it done?

Our (not entirely) fictive scenario above describes a common problem that could be addressed with critical asset monitoring (CAM). By combining their physical assets with connected sensors, companies can better monitor their asset fleet and reduce response time thanks to custom “alert'' notifications on web-based applications or signage screens. Simply put, critical asset monitoring can help avoid the problem of a missing or already used item such as the fire extinguisher from above.

Critical asset monitoring tools are designed to perform real-time analysis of the current status of critical assets. With the help of a digital twin, it is possible to perform anomaly detection for said assets. State-of-the-art rule engines are used to define rules that trigger a warning under certain conditions. The notification can be either digital (web-based application) or physical (visual feedback such as a warning light).

Important here is to acknowledge that CAM as we describe it in this article is not equal to geo-tracking. As mentioned above, the monitoring tools only identify an asset’s current status in that immediate instant but do not track the object per se. Once removed, the asset is not tracked nor monitored.

LoRaWAN critical asset monitoring use cases

Asset monitoring use cases come in a variety of forms to help inform operational decisions, here are some examples of the most common ones:

Fire extinguisher monitoring
- Apply the monitoring strips to the back of fire extinguishers to make sure the object is present in case of emergency or the service time is respected.

Defibrillator (AED) monitoring
- Similarly to the fire extinguisher, in this case, the strip triggers the notification when the emergency device is removed from its halter.

Art monitoring
- In the case of art pieces the monitoring strip functions as an alarm system. Important here is to notice that the monitoring sensors do not necessarily include GPS functionalities, but just trigger a notification when the object is removed from its place.

In all the previous examples, the alarm or notification is triggered after a LoRaWAN message is received. As the LoRaWAN messages are received periodically (time interval depends on the device registration parameters) and not instantaneously, these notifications cannot be seen as an immediate ´emergency call´, but rather as a continuous status update.

Examples of devices used in critical asset monitoring

Different asset monitoring cases require different sensors. Hence, it is important to source adequately the sensors that suit your application best. LoRa sensors are a good fit as they use very little power to function and can operate for years. These devices send messages at regular intervals about the status of the assets they are tracking. Among those sensors, we’d like to give two examples:

Strips MS +Guard

With its long battery life of up to 10 years, up to 10 km (6 miles) range and high quality for both in & outdoor applications it is the ideal sensor for any professional IoT applications. Strips MS +Guard is a multi-sensor that can also be used for precise temperature & LUX measurements to get a great overview of the climate in or outside of your property.

Strips Presence for LoRaWAN

Alternatively, Strips Presence for LoRaWAN is an innovative ultra-thin (3mm/0.117in) active IR occupancy sensor for smart offices and buildings. It can be mounted invisibly or highly discreetly and is very suitable for office applications. Strips Presence can also be used for asset monitoring such as paintings and other valuables.

These discreet strip sensors are easy to mount thanks to their adhesive backing. They are good fit in an office environment as one can hide them easily behind the physical asset.

How to start your critical asset monitoring case with akenza?

Thanks to the self-service features of akenza, creating an asset monitoring case can be done quickly, even without coding skills.

Let's assume you have found the perfect monitoring sensor to support your case, and you have mounted it on the asset to track. In a few simple steps, you can register it on akenza and define the conditions to apply to the collected monitoring data to trigger the desired action (an alarm or notification to the responsible person).

Here is the process to follow:

1. Define the data processing chain on akenza

To do that, you can use our no-code Data Flow and describe the data flow used in your project. A Data Flow is composed of the connectivity technology supported by the sensor (e.g. LoRa, Sigfox, HTTP), a device type that handles the payload decoding of the sensor, and an output connector to send your data to a specific database or external tool for further processing.

To select the appropriate device type in the Data Flow, you can directly choose your device in our extensive Device Type Library and integrate it into your project without coding a single line. No worries, you can build your own device type with little effort if the device is missing in our library.

2. Trigger custom alerts and notifications

With the Rule Engine of akenza, you can analyze and process data of multiple devices simultaneously and trigger actions when needed. The low-code functionalities of the Rule Engine facilitate the implementation of business logic into your IoT project. Hence, you can easily define the conditions to apply to your asset to trigger a set of predefined actions. These actions could be a mail or SMS to the facility manager or a visual alarm signaling.

3. Visualize the status of all your assets in real-time

Being able to generate alerts under some critical conditions is the priority. Still, you might also want to access your asset fleet status in real-time and visualize it on a dedicated signage screen or web application. This can be achieved thanks to the output connectors of akenza that allow connecting the sensor data stream to external visualization tools (such as Grafana) or IT cloud systems (Microsoft Azure, Amazon Kinesis, Google Pub/Sub). Finally, you can also use the REST API of akenza to use the generated data into your custom web applications.

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