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Intelligent Wireless Sensor Networks for Asset Integrity Monitoring

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - I-WSN (Intelligent Wireless Sensor Networks for Asset Integrity Monitoring)

Reporting period: 2015-05-01 to 2015-10-31

I-WSN represents a low-cost and large-scale solution for automated Condition Monitoring and Predictive Maintenance that will have a disruptive impact on the Operations and Maintenance market. Unlike existing condition monitoring systems, which are very complex and expensive, I-WSN focuses on a low-cost solution (target price €500/unit) that can be installed on a large number of devices, machinery, equipment and structures. I-WSN is based on intelligent Wireless Sensor Networks that monitor the long-term trend in the status of the equipment and can predict damages at an early stage. By this, I-WSN allows reducing the human interventions to the minimum necessary, which brings along multiple benefits and massive cost savings.

The focus market segments are offshore Oil & Gas and Wind Energy industries, where there is an acute need for reducing costs with maintenance operations while at the same time preserving and improving safety.

The objective of Phase 1 of the SME instrument action is to determine the economic, technical and operational feasibility of I-WNS. This entails the following specific objectives:
- To elaborate the technical feasibility, focusing on industrial requirements.
- To elaborate the operational feasibility; this focuses on the degree to which the proposed development fits in the existing business environment and business processes.
- To elaborate the economic feasibility.
- To analyze the market and refine the business plan for a successful path to market.
The work performed followed the plan defined in the description of the action:
- Market study: We analyzed the Oil & Gas and Wind Energy markets, their potential and trends, key stakeholders, drivers and main relevant competitors. We also studied the I-WSN position in the market context. The market study is based on desk research as well as meetings and discussions with potential partners and customers from the field.
- Operational feasibility: We analyzed the product requirements and customer needs from the operational point of view. We evaluated the operational risks and devised the solutions for I-WSN to mitigate such risks. Furthermore, we studied how to make I-WSN a successful predictive maintenance program and how to cope with market resistance.
- Technical feasibility: We performed the analysis of industrial technical requirements and extracted the core commonalities across various use-cases and end-users. Next, we evaluated the main hardware components of I-WSN: sensors, power circuitry, energy harvesting and energy storage, data processing and storage. Finally, we evaluated in more detail the two critical software components: wireless communication and damage detection algorithms. On the wireless communication side, we focused on reliability in harsh industrial environments. With respect to the damage detection algorithms, we focused on detection accuracy versus complexity of execution on embedded hardware platforms.
- IPR aspects: We analyzed existing patents in the relevant fields. We also overviewed the possibilities for protecting the innovation and know-how developed in I-WSN.
- Standards and regulatory issues: We identified the relevant standards and applicable regulatory items. We made a list of all necessary tests, approvals and certifications, along with their estimate costs.
- Business plan: We identified strategic business partners and potential launching customers and met them for developing together the business cases. We discussed with them the current processes, bottlenecks and needs that could be satisfied with the I-WSN system. We also discussed the possible collaboration, joint development and trialling, and marketing approach. We refined further our initial draft business plan and made the financial analysis based on two scenarios for the revenue strategy (direct product sale and license-based model).

In addition to these activities, we also started the Business Coaching program that helps us with improving our approach to the market and shaping our business case and business plan more concretely for applying to a follow-up phase 2 of the SME Instrument.

Overall, the worked performed in phase 1 gave a better understanding of the market conditions and brought I-WSN closer to the actual development step. We now understand better the industrial requirements and we have already promising prototypes that can meet standard requirements. We are also better prepared for meeting the necessary “industrial hardened” standards and certifications. Furthermore, the market study and discussions with potential customers identified more clearly the position of the I-WSN solution and the role it could play in bringing down costs with asset maintenance at a large scale.
The current way of performing maintenance is time-based, with industrial equipment being serviced by replacing components at pre-determined time intervals. This leads to two major problems:
- Defects appear before the next maintenance interval and cannot be anticipated due to the lack of continuous automated monitoring.
- Parts that can still function properly are being replaced at the expiry of the maintenance interval.

Both problems result in high accumulated costs for the end-user. I-WSN can change dramatically this situation. By making predictive maintenance affordable and applicable at large scale, the following major benefits are possible:
- Extension of maintenance intervals: parts that are still functional do not need to be replaced.
- Better planning of maintenance: by detecting early signs of wear and tear, the maintenance process can be planned well in advance, minimizing the impact on the production process and optimizing the operation costs.
- Improved safety: damages that can lead to hazards or accidents can be identified in an early stage.

Based on our analysis and estimates, I-WSN can achieve:
- Up to 75% cost reduction of maintenance operations - extension of maintenance intervals, reduction of workload of maintenance personnel.
- Up to 90% cost reduction of installation of monitoring equipment – wireless sensors compared to traditional wired systems.
- Real-time feedback and continuous monitoring within minutes, as opposed to weeks or months for time-based inspection.

The market potential is literally huge on a global scale. The overall market for offshore Operations & Maintenance (O&M) totaled €82 billion in 2013. Over the period 2014 to 2018, a spending of €490 billion is forecast: a 31% growth on the previous five-year period.

In addition to the economic impact and potential, I-WSN can also contribute to increasing safety and preventing industrial accidents or ecologic disasters, by providing continuous insight into the health of the machinery and equipment, as well as early warnings about possible defects.
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