Tuesday, April 21, 2015

NFC as an Enabler for Efficient Asset Management

When it comes to managing assets in industrial environments there are a few use cases that come up frequently. And naturally also a few problems relating to each. In this post an asset can be pretty much any device that monitors or controls an industrial manufacturing process. Of course assets also exist in environments with moving machines and logistics; like harbor areas.

 When a service person is visiting a site (either during installation, as a routine check-up, or responding to a service request) the first thing to overcome is usually identifying the asset he or she wants to operate. For example there can be various injection moulding machines operating in a factory floor. The machines may be from different suppliers, of different generation/version, running different software and/or configurations, and so on.

 After the asset has been identified, it usually needs to be accessed to retrieve logs, adjust parameters and so on. For this purpose there are various local control panels. These often don’t have the most modern and easy-to-operate user interfaces. Also the panels may be physically located in a hard-to-reach place (e.g. behind a corner, between a machine and a wall, etc.).

 In some cases you can or even have to connect an external control device (like a laptop) to the asset to control, reconfigure or even reprogram it. This is traditionally done with a laptop and some kind of serial cable. In more modern solutions (like Ixonos Internet Suite) it may also be possible to do the connecting and configuration wirelessly e.g. with a tablet or other mobile device.

 To solve the issues above and make the service person’s work as efficient and ergonomic as possible, there are several ways where modern wireless technology can help. You could use RFID tags or barcodes to identify the assets and setting up the connectivity.

 We decided to take a closer look at NFC. By using simple, inexpensive passive NFC tags we were able to significantly speed up identifying, accessing and connecting to assets in the field.

 Check the video below for details and examples:

All-in-all NFC is a modern and reliable technology for improving the efficiency of service personnels work in the field. Of course this is only a small part of a comprehensive solution which requires lot of intelligent software solutions both on site and in the cloud. Check our previous blog posts and stay tuned for more relating to those.

Manish Kumar, Senior SW Engineer, Ixonos
Mikko Mäkinen, SW Engineer, Ixonos


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  3. It would be interesting to look at the advantages and disadvantages of using NFC technology in comparison to other methods of asset management, such as having someone else do my dissertation for me. The research could provide some interesting insights into which method is more effective and efficient.