Enhancing Vibration Analysis with Batteryless Sensing

In this Everactive webinar, Director of Customer Success and Sales Engineering Peter Woodman introduces our innovations in machine health monitor to vibration analysts, explaining its technology and, more importantly, how it makes analysts’ jobs easier. 

Time to get started. I think everybody had a chance to join. Thanks for joining. Today’s webinar is about how to advance your vibration monitoring program using our batteryless continuous sensors. I’m sure you’ll have questions along the way. This is a speed run. So I’m going to get through the presentation material, but as questions come up, please feel free to use the Q&A box inside your Zoom toolbar there. We’ll cue those up, and then at the end, my buddy Brian [Alessi] is going to hop on. He’s our Director of Marketing VP, I should say, and he’s going to help me officiate the Q&A. So we’ll try to get those. If we don’t get to them during the meeting, because it’s a short one – just a half hour – we’ll reach out to you afterwards. If you type a chat in there, we’ll have your email address, so we’ll close the loop that way.

Alright. So first things first, [I] appreciate you logging on and joining us over the wire here. We don’t typically like to do these things as webinars. We like to go meet our potential customers in person. You’ve probably been thinking about digital transformation for a long time now. Whether you have the budget or the support to do it or not, that’s another story. But given what we’re all living through right now, I think it’s a kind of unique moment for us to apply solutions like these that allow people to be more efficient or have a better understanding of their physical assets when they can’t be there in person. So thanks for being with us, and we’re looking forward to meeting you in person soon.

My name is Peter Woodman, I’m the Principal Sales Engineer here at Everactive. I’ve actually been on the team since before we had a product. So we’ve been ushering these batteryless wireless sensors out into the world. It’s been neat to see this technology go from an idea and come to life. My aforementioned Marketing VP told me I should come right out of the gate very clear and talk about what we’re gonna be focused on today, so no high level introduction. We’ll start here and then I’ll fill in the details as we go.

Machine health monitoring sensor wireless sensor self-powered
The Eversensor, a machine health monitoring sensor for pumps, fans and rotating equipment.

This little green cube you see here on your screen is the first of its kind. It’s a screening tool for vibration analysts that’s always on, continuously taking triaxial accelerometer data and sending it up to the cloud. [This is] the reason why we asked for vibration analysts to join us today, as we think this could, if you put it in the right hands, change your career.

I’ll explain a little bit more about that on later slides, but for now, I just wanted you to know that these little sentries sit out at the edge. They give you feedback through a new data stream, which allows you to have insights into all of your machines or all of your customers’ machines, both the motors and the driven equipment, from anywhere in the world. Other solutions can provide you data, but none of them are batteryless and continuous. So those are the big points of emphasis here: (1) wireless – without stringing a conduit all over the plant, (2) always on and operating, self-powered without ever needing a battery. That’s probably the thing that blows people’s minds the most: what it is to be batteryless? So let’s talk a little bit about that.

Ultra Low Power

There’s five sources of energy that we can harvest from: the four here on this slide, primarily. What we’re going to focus on here today are: (1) temperature differential, so something that’s hotter or cooler than the ambient air temperature or (2) a solar cell, the presence of light. Those are the two things that can power our machine health monitor.

Those are a very small amounts of energy, not enough to power conventional sensors that you’ve seen before or other consumer electronics like a smartphone or something along those lines. It’s just a trace amount of electricity, but [they are] the reason why we can use those, and still have a sensor that runs continuously: we have the lowest power radios in the world, spun out of university research by our co-founders. That allows us to get away with something that would be considered noise in terms of the power budget for competing solutions. So that university research has been spun into our products and that’s our unfair advantage here on powering our sensors. 

Batteries and the Unrealized IoT

So our story starts back in 2012, when the IBM Watson team predicted there would be a trillion IoT connected devices just three years later in 2015. 2015 came and went and we were nowhere close to that number and, [in] each successive prediction, that number shrank and shrank. Today, we’re somewhere in the teens to maybe 20 billion of IoT connected devices, and that’s everything wearables. All this other stuff industrially is just a fraction of that. So we’re not getting close to the numbers we wanted to get to here.  

We think there’s one primary reason for that and that’s the battery problem. I’ve been in and out of hundreds of industrial and process environments; I’ve never once met somebody with a title “battery changer.” I’ve met a lot of maintenance techs who already have full plates of things to work on, but nobody with that job title. When you ask somebody to change a battery you’re stealing cycles from a job they could be doing that’s probably more technically demanding. I’ve also met a lot of maintenance planners and they’re already busy without taking on this new role of auditing battery life across a huge fleet, making sure they have the right batteries in stock, and managing the dead ones when they come back. If you miss scheduling one of those replacements, you lose data.

So the other piece here is this environmental tragedy. In order to make them intrinsically safe, battery manufacturers use heavy metals and they encase them in a way that they can’t be easily recycled, so the majority of intrinsically safe batteries end up in landfills.

To go back to that fictional battery changer person we talked about, they’d be very, very busy. Even if we had 10-year battery life, there’d be 274 million replacements per day as those batteries came off, if we hit a trillion data points around the world in industrial environments. So that’s one big piece right? The logistics, and the environmental piece, but there are also trade-offs involved today.

The Trade-Off with Batteries: Intermittency

Since people know these batteries are going to be a burden, they’re putting fewer sensors out there. Maybe the top five or ten percent of their assets are getting instrumented. But the sensors themselves make a trade-off, too. They ration the amount of data they send, to milk that battery out and try to get that multi-year life. Many of them fail. Anyways, the hardest conditions for batteries are extreme heat or cold, and a lot of industrial environments have both. So even by trading off and sampling only a couple times an hour to a couple times a day, you’re still only going to get battery life that lasts for some number of months to years. Ultimately, you have to get by with the minimum amount of data. It’s a trade-off — you’re not getting continuous streams of data.

Machine Health Monitor 

remote monitoring, MHM, machine health
Pictured here is the machine health monitor, a solution that is allowing Everactive to create tech to support the deskless future with its 24/7 remote monitoring vibration analysis.

So we’ve got a product that’s going to change that paradigm and that’s our machine health monitor. So here I’ve got a photo of a machine train, I’m going to kind of walk you through it. Everywhere you see one of these little green cubes, that’s our sensor. This little fin on the top is our antenna that connects back to our IoT gateways and sends the data up to the cloud. Now on this particular machine train, we have a motor that runs sometimes near ambient temperature. so that thermoelectric generator will power us sometimes but the photovoltaic harvester here uh that harvests light that’ll provide us energy in times when the motor has gone cool.

 On the driven equipment side, this is a boiler feed pump. so it’s hot water so we know if that’s on it’s going to provide plenty of heat so we don’t need to bolster those with solar cells. now we have the ability to store energy too so if this machine train were to shut off entirely the sensors wouldn’t shut off immediately. 

We don’t use batteries, not even rechargeable batteries because they have a limited number of cycles before they wear out. But we can store energy in the form of super capacitor banks so each one of these sensors has that on board and that allows us to bank energy and coast for hours at a time so if you have a process that goes up and down the sensor doesn’t have to shut off and turn on and shut off and turn on it’ll coast through those low periods and continue reporting. 

You’ll see the curves drop off and vibration and temperature and then when it picks back up if the sensor still has charge it’ll continuously report. if you’re off for a longer period of time the sensor will go into a sleep mode and wake up once the presence of light or heat is there once again

The Hardware 

Alright so that’s kind of the high-level hardware review. I’m going to pause the screen sharing here for a minute and show you the hardware in the room with me. i’ve got a little motor here actually if you’re viewing both panelists double-click me that should make me more prominent, i’m going to spotlight myself here so you can see my view the can of coke is just for scale right so you can see what we’re looking at it’s a small motor this one’s like seven and a half horsepower uh marathon here’s our sensor so you can see kind of the size so on the front here we have our cable connector that breaks out to our harvesters that’s a pretty standard USB c pinout but we add a safety screw and a gasket to make sure it’s waterproof. All of our sensors are ip66 rated, which means they can be indoors or outdoors in all four seasons and they can survive spray down you know water jets that sort of thing, without being compromised. We do have this little shield on the front; this black button is made out of gore-tex that allows us to take an ambient temperature and humidity reading and not lose that waterproofness.  There’s an orientation guide on the side to show you which direction the sensor data is coming from, a wake-up light on the top, and then we have a unique identifier on the side so you can tell the sensors apart. 

We do gather metadata at the time of install on these so we’ll take the tag number on the motor, the nameplate data associated with this mac address, and we’ll also get metadata about what room and location and area we’re in. So when you get a notification you know precisely which sensor it came from and where you should go to respond to it.

Mounting Options

Pop this base off here so I can show you our mounting options. So we take that screw off and this is magnetic. So if you have a magnetic motor it’ll hold it in any orientation you know, vertical or otherwise; if you don’t, if your motors are aluminum we can epoxy this base down. It’s pretty low cost, so if you swap the motor out you could leave this behind. If you have a stud mount if you spotface the motors and they’re threaded you can put a quarter-inch screw in this mount as well. So if you have an existing perch there we can leverage that. So I’ll put this back together and place it inside. Here is a tri-axial accelerometer so from a single placement location we’ll get all three. There’s also a magnetic field sensor that tells us the rate of stator excitation that’s coming to the motor from the VFD. And as I said, we take a temperature and humidity measurement right here too so our power source for this is this thermoelectric generator. That’s the primary power source we have, another one I’ll show you in a moment as well for solar. So the core of this is something called a Peltier device, it’s two pieces of dissimilar metal. So you get this side warm, these fins are here to exaggerate the natural temperature difference that’s already there. So this is the cool side and once we have heat something like not very much about 15 degrees Fahrenheit temperature difference there will be enough electricity flowing out of this wire to power our sensor.

Low-Powered Energy 

As I said before that’s a trace amount and I just want to give you a comparative. I’m wearing an Apple Watch here, this is considered the lowest power consumer electronics on the market. The top four consumers of energy in it are: LTE, Wi-Fi, this screen and Bluetooth low energy. So three of the top four are radios, keep that in mind it’s kind of telling. The lowest of those four is Bluetooth low energy, it has a power budget of about 50 microwatts and the way it gets away with that is it duty cycles itself off about 99% of the time. It fires on in little blips each second to talk to my phone or my laptop to hit that 50 microwatt number. Our Evernet radio that’s always on and always listening inside this sensor runs at 200 nanowatts, a thousand times lower than BLE. So if you tried to use a little harvester like this to power the watch it wouldn’t even boot, it’s just far far more power hungry than this little sensor. So I’m going to stick this on wherever we place this. It’ll also report the temperature and I’ll screw that into my sensor. These cables are modular, we make them in a bunch of different lengths so if you need to get 10 feet away to find a warm spot or to find light we can do that.

And as I said before, they’re weatherproof with a little rubber gasket and a security screw. Here’s one of our solar cells. It’s about the size of a plane card, maybe half the thickness of a deck of playing cards. It’s also magnetic but there are screw holes in the corner where you can zip tie it or screw it in. It uses that same cable connector you can just daisy chain off of the thermoelectric generator and find anywhere where there’s light and it’ll click on.  So obviously in a big machine train you’d want multiple sensors so we could put one on each side of the motor and on the driven equipment as well so that’s our hardware intro. 

The Software

I’ll put my screen sharing back on and take a quick look at the software so you can see what happens once that data is flowing. So once that data hits the cloud, we can show you overall vibration levels here in a chart. Now I said the sensor is continuous, it’s always on, it reports once a minute. And you can see here as I drag through we get each of those individual readings just a tremendous amount of data coming off that sensor. We’re looking at a little over a day’s worth of data right here but if there’s any areas that I want to zoom in on I can click and drag to see there’s overall vibration levels and we can hover on each one. We keep every measurement we’ve ever taken online so you can go back a week a month a year and see all the data we’ve ever gathered. So we also have our temperature tracking here in addition to these overall vibration levels,  we have a spectral analysis view too that gives you the FFT. So here’s our frequency magnitude pairs, I can highlight an individual peak here, click on that and you’ll see down here. Well for starters, I can set a threshold and show that very quickly just by turning off any two axes. It’ll isolate that but here we can see now that our big one was tangential. 

So if I scroll down we can grab a waterfall plot or we can just look at the frequency magnitude pairs here in 2D, by hovering over it, it’ll show you where those highest peaks are. We take the nine highest peaks and transmit those up to the cloud once a minute so in our waterfall view here you can see a 3D depiction of that data. I’m looking at the five most recent minutes here. We’re on five minute centers but we could go down to individual minutes. We could also stack up five days worth of data or five weeks or five months, we keep all that online for you. Looks like most of the action here is under 5000 cpm so I can zoom in and take a look and find those outliers when they pop up. We also keep a full kind of breadcrumb of history. So anytime there’s an alert, you get notified based around a threshold and then you can see who logged in and cleared that. So you have a good idea who’s been checking in and monitoring your machines. 

Customer Quotes

Alright obviously we don’t expect you to spend all day mousing around in our web UI, we have a full suite of notifications. So we can tip you off if something’s wrong and that’ll allow you to you know approach greater scale right. Our customers love us because we make this easy on them. We call their attention to only the things that need to be fixed. So I have a few quotes here from our customers about their favorite parts of the solution and wanted to talk through those together with you. 

We made installation quick and easy for this maintenance leader, and it’s true we don’t just design and build sensors here, we have a full-stack solution. We think of it as insights as a service, so we work together with you to make sure the system gets up and running as quickly as possible. You don’t need any specialized tools or IoT knowledge, you can open the box up and start seeing data flowing to the cloud within minutes. Each one of our gateways has an LTE modem that uses 4G data like a phone; so you don’t have to spend a lot of time navigating how you’re going to get backhaul connected.  In fact, for many installations, we don’t bother, and one of the things our customer here liked is we didn’t talk to their IT guy once. About 95% of our installs run completely independent from our customers’ IT, so we don’t need their Wi-Fi access or an Ethernet drop to be run as –since we offer this as a service, it removes a lot of risks right.

We’re going to make sure that the sensors and gateways are up and delivering that data so you can focus on what it is you do best. As a vibration analyst, that’s analyzing the output of the sensor data and making sure machines are running. This is an important one I think,  so we’re in it together with you since we have an all-in model. If there’s a damaged sensor, we’ll ship you another one. If a gateway goes down, we’re actually monitoring that on the back end we have a service operations team that makes sure these things stay up and stay working. So you don’t have to become a sensor expert or an IoT expert in order to derive this data and use it to be impactful, so right out of the box, you have a solution that works. To go out and get this data you’re not adding a new maintenance task like updating firmware and software on sensors, we do that. Over the year, changing out batteries, you don’t have to worry about that since they’re self-powered and we’re delivering 24/7 continuous monitoring and alarming from these sensors. So that’s what we’re doing here; looking at the data and thinking about where this belongs and what we’re offering. 

How We Offer Value for Vibration Analysts

I also want to talk about what we’re not and we’re not uh you know a hipster tech company that thinks sensors are going to replace vibration analysts, but this quote here: machine learning and AI will predict the future and replace the existing way of doing things. When customers come to us and say ‘Yeah we want to just bolt sensors on machines and fire our guys’, that’s not what we’re about. We know we need your expertise, the sensor data is one piece of it. We’re going to feed you that and that’ll make you more productive as a vibration analyst. A couple ways I think we do that really really well, for starters you’re going to be able to expand your business and your reach to get to more customers and more machines by screening from anywhere. This is a quote from a vibration analyst we talked to who’s working with us and has installed this on his customer sites. He says he’s not looking to pick up more accounts where he goes and does manual data collection every month. Now he monitors remotely and when he sees a problem he and his customer can act on it. He’s not running routes any longer where he goes out and checks on machines that are good right. 80% to 90% of the measurements you take on these machines usually they’re within spec. In our opinion those are wasted trips we want to cut down on, those footsteps automate that and make your life easier.


 The second point, we think you can be more impactful when you’re on-site if you know what equipment is going to be a priority. So if you’re still making that monthly visit instead of spending that time running around taking measurements. ‘Hey when I go in, these are the three machines I want to check on first.’ As our vibration analyst friend said, ‘My customer’s money and my time is much more well-spent screening than running around and trying to find problems with manual measurements.’ He talked about it kind of being like a needle in a haystack, we’re going to raise to you what the most important issues are before you go on-site and then you can develop a battle plan to be more effective once you’re there. But also figuring out where those needles are, that’s an important piece too. So since we’re doing continuous reporting that means you’re never going to miss a measurement on equipment that does vs. the equipment that doesn’t run all the time right. We had an example from one of our guys who said ‘Hey equipment that doesn’t run very often and when I go in to do  maintenance you know, usually I get it every other every third trip or I have to grab a guy, an operator, to come in and fire up this piece of equipment.’ And when they do that, it’s not you know the natural running state for the machine, it’s synthetic; they’re putting it under a fake load in that time just to test it. With continuous monitoring always running in the background, you’ll never miss those measurements. Anytime that machine’s running you’ll capture that data and you’ll see genuine data from when the machine’s being used in the process.

So kind of an important piece since we’re measuring uh once a minute. And we keep all of our data online. You can go back and get all those measurements, recall any one of them down to the individual minute in the machine’s history. And this applies even if you’ve swapped out a sensor, so it’s part of our service model. Things can happen, right? Somebody knocks the sensor off, it gets crushed, something like that you can bolt a new one on, connect that to our cloud platform, it auto-pairs to the gateway, we’ll reassociate that asset and you’ll be able to go back. And that means you get a long history with each machine so you can look back at trends over months or even years. Let’s see how that machine’s performed. Some of our competitors will nickel and dime you for access to this data right. They’ll say you can get 90 days worth of data and then you pay extra to go back further than that. We didn’t want to do that; we believe this is your data. We actually have an API  available where you can take this data and feed it to other systems too. So we spent a little bit of time looking in our cloud dashboard today but if you have another data lake you’re building or another system where you want to feed this data, it can contribute to things like your overall OEE picture right. You’ll have additional data points from all these parts of your process where you can go back continuously. If you’re doing failure analysis on another part of the plant or a large process where there are many pieces of data, we can contribute and feed that too, but you still get access to this data from anywhere in the cloud and it’s accessible from any modern web browser. 

So whether that’s your phone, or a tablet, or a PC, there are no specialized applications that you need to load on. There are no servers that need to be available on the premise that you have to install or worry about. So whether you’re standing next to the machine, or working from home in your kitchen, or just getting off the grid far away from the machine, you’ll still have access to that data anywhere and you can respond to those alerts now.

Our Solutions Overview

We are not just a machine health monitoring company, we’re a sensor company that makes solutions of many different kinds. So we started with steam trap monitoring actually, another application of ours a few years back that’s on the left-hand side column here are harvesters and in the center, these are sensing modalities. So in the case of the machine health monitor, we just looked at, we saw that it’s a thermoelectric generator and a solar cell photovoltaic harvester. These are the top two and then these sensing modalities, so that’s what’s supported there. 

The unchecked boxes are harvesters that we’ve qualified in the lab but haven’t productized yet and sensing modalities that we’re working on once again we’ve been able to do them successfully on a small scale, we just haven’t fully put them into a product. So if you think about adding some of these harvesters in these sensing modalities you’ll see where we’re headed later this year and into next year. In the case of filters we’re looking at differential pressures on either side, we have customers who are changing out filters on a time basis knowing that some of them are good but they don’t have a good indicator of when a filter has outlived its useful life. So by putting a batteryless continuous sensor on it we’ll be able to report back and say hey it’s time to change this filter corrosion.  So measuring pipe thickness using ultrasound, that’s another application. We’re working on leak detection for compressed air or gas, also ultrasound or acoustic, you know, listening there for those very costly wasteful when those happen and checking for fouled or plugged heat exchangers, another application we’re after here. So as you start to check off boxes from column A and column B and do permutations of those, you’ll see where we’re headed. 

I would like to pause here and say if there’s something in your environment or your customer’s environment that would sit alongside a continuous vibration analysis sensor like ours, let’s talk about it. We can rapidly prototype and bring products to market. As you can see here, it took us about a year from the time we conceived the steam trap monitor to bring it to market, the same thing for this machine health monitor. So this time next year we could be talking about a product that’s not on these slides with this combination of parts that could serve your needs.

The Q&A for this session has been merged with other Frequently Asked Questions on our FAQ page. As always, feel free to reach out to us, if you have any questions or ideas related to Everactive technology.