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Cloud Technology Condition-Based Monitoring

Figure 1 - Pump condition monitoring

Condition-based maintenance employs a strategy where maintenance is performed once one or more indicators show that equipment will fail or performance is deteriorating. Time-based maintenance tasks for machines shown to be running well are avoided, eliminating the possibility of introducing a defect into the system.

Condition-based monitoring (CBM) is the core of condition-based maintenance. Technologies, such as vibration analysis, motor current signature, ultrasound and oil analysis, are used to help assess machinery health and predict future failures. Prediction of failures allows maintenance to be planned on the user's schedule, not the machine's.

Figure 2

Figure 2 - Vibration data and trend

What are the advantages of a condition-based monitoring program?

• Improved system reliability
• Increased production
• Decreased maintenance costs
• Less human intervention, less human error influence

On-line CBM regularly provides the maintenance reliability information critical to machine health - on a schedule that cannot be accomplished with a route-based program. Trending of data is key to CBM, allowing the maintenance team to watch as conditions change over time. On-line solutions allow trends to be built much faster.

CBM has been a goal of many maintenance reliability programs. While CBM is recognized as the best way to monitor a plant's assets, there have been many hurdles preventing implementation:

• Initial investment costs
• Lack of trained technical resources for analysis
• Dealing with an abundance of data
• Change management.

But all of this is changing. Just as in many other high-tech markets, new advances in computer hardware and software are bringing the cost of CBM technology down. Who would have thought 10 years ago that laptop computers would be available for under $1,000 or that most people would be carrying an Internet computer in their pocket?

Even as the cost is going down, advanced features are being added. Today's CBM software allows problems to be readily identified and prioritized from machines that do not currently have problems. Trends can be built faster with on-line monitoring than with route-based programs. Modern networks allow the owner to outsource data analysis in real-time and "expert" software programs have improved greatly over the years.

Another technology that has experienced significant technical improvements along with decreasing costs is wireless communication. Greater amounts of data can be sent at greater speeds over greater distances with improved reliability. Wireless infrastructure reduces the cost of installation, eliminating the need to install conduit and pull cables. CBM systems of the future will feature wireless communication almost exclusively.

Why Cloud Technology?

First's, let's all understand what a cloud-based network is. The cloud brings together a large number of computers to operate a single application.

In the past, network-based data collection and analysis required the use of a computer to not only host the data, but to handle traffic either through a server your company owned or one leased from a service provider. Under these circumstances, your company would require a data center, with several servers dedicated to collecting and processing CBM data. This data, and the results, would be available only to computers on the network. Cloud computing leverages the power of the Internet to eliminate the need for the purchase, installation and maintenance of independent data centers and networks.

Figure 3

Figure 3 - Cloud based condition monitoring

The cloud consists of layers, primarily the back end and the front end. The front-end layers are the ones you use and interact with. The back-end layers consist of hardware and software architecture that support the interface you see. Since computers are set up to work together, the applications take advantage of all that processing power and operate as if they were all running on the same computer.

Cloud computing offers:

• Reduced costs
• Easy maintenance
• Greater flexibility
• Unlimited (almost) data storage
• IT acceptance
• Greater profits
• Secure networking.

The cloud applies to a CBM solution by allowing access to data from anywhere in the world by anyone with approved access, including third-party analysts, without having to add additional expensive infrastructure. This also makes it easier to monitor remote installations - pipelines, offshore drilling rigs, small facilities with limited resources - via existing Internet connections, 3G cellular technology, or satellite communication.

Types of Cloud Services

Software as a Service (SaaS)

This is the most common form of cloud services. Software is provided to support the service on a fee basis. Users can access the software and configure it to their needs (e.g., customer relationship management programs, home automation, iPhone apps). For a monthly service fee, you can use the service without having to buy the software, with updates included. It is similar to what you do with cell phone service - pay a nominal fee for hardware (cell phone) and pay monthly for the service.

Platform as a Service (PaaS)

This service offers users a platform to build, test, or host applications that can be accessed by other users. Users don't need to build or host their own platforms. Companies that use PaaS can, in turn, offer SaaS services to their customers.

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)

This is infrastructure on demand and can be anything from storage servers to applications to operating systems. The cloud service provider sets up and maintains the infrastructure and charges a pay per use fee.

According to Michael Jackson, co-founder of Adaptive Computing, "Cloud computing is becoming a priority for almost every IT organization in business today. According to a Pew Research Center survey, a decisive number of technology professionals predict that by 2020, most people will access software applications online and work through remotely-accessed networks." Virtually every technology company is incorporating the word "cloud" somewhere in their description.

The rapid developments in cloud technologies and services can only work to benefit the maintenance reliability community. All of these factors will work together to bring affordable, accessible and powerful condition-based monitoring products and services to every reliability program.

Paul Berberian is a Condition-Based Monitoring Specialist for CBM Enterprise Solutions. He has more than 12 years of experience in the maintenance reliability industry.

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