HVAC Monitoring, Part 1 – A Home IoT Project

I’m an engineer.  I love buildings things and I love learning things.  Luckily, we live in a time where if you dream it you can do it!

My dream is to provide affordable IoT solutions for manufacturers and other industrial companies.  The potential for even small businesses to improve their operations using IoT-type technologies  is incredible.  IoT projects may seem like a huge undertaking, but it doesn’t have to be that way!  After all, how do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time!

This video is my first bite.  I’m just starting to look into what kind of Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) solutions are on the market today in a space that is HUGE, ever-changing, and has very little in the way of established and well-proven solutions.  I hope we can all learn something from the journey together.

Full Video Transcript:

Hey guys! Phil Denton here with Denton Business Solutions, where We Take the Stress out of IT!

Now, October is National Manufacturing Month and also National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, so two of my favorite things all rolled up into one month! Now that said, I know that I’ve been posting a lot about cybersecurity on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media channels so for that I’m not going to apologize because cybersecurity is extremely important and as an IT guy myself, I’m extremely knowledgeable and passionate about the topic; however, I’m also knowledgeable and passionate about manufacturing, so what I want to share with you today for all my manufacturing and industrial IOT friends out there is this.

This is the Advantech WISE-4220 wireless sensor node. Now very quickly, I realized that Advantech is a Taiwanese company, okay? I’m still completely committed to American manufacturing, American small business, and American industry in general, especially in southern Ohio around Cincinnati, Dayton, and Northern Kentucky. That said, there aren’t too many companies that have the breadth and depth of industrial automation product expertise like Advantech when it comes especially to IOT-type applications, so I really like their products. They’re at a really attractive price point as well so they are very small business friendly I would say, especially to small factories.

Now why am I talking about this guy? Well first off, this is one of several products in a family of products, ok, so this guy – I don’t know if you can read the little label there – but this box has built in temperature and humidity probes in it so this monitors temperature and humidity. We have an antenna here so we can put it on Wi-Fi, so it’s easy to connect it up to your network and start connecting data and pulling data off. Down here we have DC power inputs and on the back – this is what’s really fascinating I think about this module – is a battery case.

So on other models, not on this one, other models in the same WISE family instead of using the DC power connection you can actually put in 3.6V lithium batteries batteries here which could last up to five years depending on the application. Now, that’s not going to be five years for everyone but it’s a possibility so my point is between all the different connectivity options you could swap Wi-Fi for 3G, swap DC power for battery DC power, right, and all of a sudden you have a completely untethered wireless sensor node.

So this only has temperature and humidity built-in but you can actually attach several analog or digital inputs to the other guys in this family. So you can actually have a completely wireless, unwired sensor package out there anywhere that has a 3G connection. You just pop batteries in the back and you’re off and running. I think that’s really fascinating especially because the price point really does make sense for small businesses and small operations that need that kind of wireless connectivity.

Now the question is what do you do with this data after you’ve started pulling it off the sensor node, the WISE node? Well what’s really cool is the WISE nodes actually have a very well proven integration with Microsoft cloud solutions – Microsoft Azure, which is the name of their portfolio of cloud solutions.

So with Azure you can actually store all of your sensor data securely. It’s secure in the Microsoft cloud – store all your sensor data, actually do real-time reporting, real-time dashboarding in custom dashboards, and you can even use Microsoft PowerBI, which is their flagship business analytics tool, to run predictive modeling and predictive analytics against that data.

Depending on your application, if predictive is something you want to look at, this is a tool you can do that with very easily. The reason I’m really fired up about this is because with Azure everything is “as a Service,” right? So it’s “Infrastructure as a Service,” “Platform as a Service,” “Software as a Service.” Everything’s “as a Service.”

What that really means is you get to pay as you go… and you get to pay as you grow, and you can jump out whenever you want. Jump in / jump out whenever you want, so if you want to go try out a WISE module in your factory or your facility and you start plugging it up to things and monitoring environmental variables or whatever makes sense for your operation, you can do that and you can plug it into Azure for very very cheaply just to get an idea of whether it’s going be useful for you or not and if it’s not you turn everything off and the bill stops and you’re done. You just have the sunk cost of a few Advantech modules which you can probably repurpose elsewhere anyway.

So, really really powerful solutions, really really exciting. Like I said, this guy’s obviously not connected to anything. He’s sitting on my desk, but I do plan to start connecting it up to PowerBI very soon and I’m not going to find out anything earth-shattering here with the temperature and humidity of my office, but still it’s going to be a good proof of concept, I think, for the power of the solution.

The reason I want to post the video is to let you know that this kind of capability exists, first off, and that you can actually start pulling data out of your facility, securely transmitting it to a cloud somewhere, and start doing basic historical reporting and even predictive modeling on that data without a huge investment, without a lot of technical expertise required. Really it’s very very simple to do.

Secondly, I was kind of curious if any of my connections out there have done this before, especially with Advantech WISE modules or with Microsoft Azure PowerBI specifically, because I’m going to be diving into this head-first here very shortly and I was curious if anyone out there out there has worked in the same field or done a similar project so I’m just looking to collaborate with anybody else who’s working in the same area.

That’s all I have today. I hope this information was useful for you. I hope you found it interesting. If you have any questions please feel free to ask or contact me. If you find the video is useful please do “Like” it if you’re watching this on LinkedIn, Facebook. Please do like it if you’re watching on YouTube. Please do subscribe to the channel. I generally post only about manufacturing and cybersecurity so if those are topics that are interesting to you please do subscribe and I will be posting more content shortly.

Until next time, thank you for watching. Stay safe, stay secure, and stay productive.

About the Author:

Phil is the President and founder of Denton Business Solutions. He's had a fascination with technology for as long as he can remember. Phil uses that fascination to guide manufacturers to technology solutions for enhancing their plant safety, cybersecurity, and productivity. Outside the office, Phil enjoys cooking, spending time with his wife and son, and reading up on the latest manufacturing news. You can connect with Phil on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn!

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