Mobile-device tools bring connectivity and collaboration

Mike Bacidore says maintenance and reliability apps are invading the plant floor.

By Mike Bacidore, editor in chief

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The Internet of Things promises to allow equipment to communicate with other equipment and with control and monitoring systems that can interpret data and make decisions based on the analysis. Yes, the idea is for thinking machines to talk to each other. This is anything but your father’s manufacturing facility. Automated production, monitoring, alarming, and troubleshooting mean lower costs and better efficiencies. But machinery isn’t the only beneficiary of technological connectivity.

Mobile devices are changing everything. Managers, engineers, technicians, operators, and workers of every kind on the plant floor have never had greater access to more information than they do now. And that access will only continue to increase exponentially.

Already we’ve seen the iPad Vibration Analyzer from GTI Spindle, the Flir One iPhone case that enables thermal imaging technology, the Link360 maintenance app for writing and managing work instructions and maintenance procedures from Brady, and the iVibe vibration analysis app from Mobius Institute, to name just a few. Recently, at Reliable Asset World/Ultrasound World X, I spoke with multiple individuals who were using the accelerometers in their smartphones for vibration measurements. Your celly is about to blow up.

That’s a good thing. At least, I think it is. My kids say that.

All hands on deck. Smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices put the power of massive data transfer and cloud computing in the palm of your hand. It also can put the palm of someone else’s hand in the palm of your hand. The technology allows individuals in the plant environment to not only communicate with managers or field experts halfway around the world, but to share real-time equipment data with them and reap the benefits of their expertise, even though they’re not there.

lead-Mike-Bacidore.jpgMike Bacidore is chief editor of Plant Services and has been an integral part of the Putman Media editorial team since 2007, when he was managing editor of Control Design magazine. Previously, he was editorial director at Hughes Communications and a portfolio manager of the human resources and labor law areas at Wolters Kluwer. Bacidore holds a BA from the University of Illinois and an MBA from Lake Forest Graduate School of Management. He is an award-winning columnist, earning a Gold Regional Award and a Silver National Award from the American Society of Business Publication Editors. He may be reached at 630-467-1300 ext. 444 or mbacidore@putman.net or check out his .

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A couple of interesting new entries are Fluke Connect and a new wearable technology from IFS Labs.

The latest innovation from Fluke is a downloadable app that lets maintenance and reliability professionals send measurements from their tools to their phones and cloud storage, where it can be shared with colleagues. More than 20 Fluke tools, including IR cameras, insulation testers, multimeters, process meters, and voltage, current, and temperature models, are currently able to connect. Users can record measurements, trend data, and collaborate in real time.

The working proof-of-concept from IFS demonstrates how notifications from IFS’s business applications can be delivered to wearable technology, such as Samsung Gear 2, using Samsung APIs for notification alerts. IFS connected components of its enterprise resource planning (ERP), enterprise asset management (EAM), and enterprise service management systems to send alerts in line with updates to certain processes. IFS is committed to mobility because of the regular surveying it does of its customers about the subject. “Many of our customers have told us the importance of mobilizing their business applications so that employees can access the information they need and make educated decisions wherever they are in the field,” said David Anderson, director of IFS Labs. At this point, IFS has no plans to launch the proof-of-concept commercially, but don’t underestimate the speed of mobility in the plant.

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