IoT provides business support through smart data

SKS Automaatio has taken advantage of the opportunities offered by the Internet of Things and digitalized the monitoring of industrial machines and processes. The IoTKey service developed by the company is a comprehensive platform for machine and process monitoring and the preventive maintenance of equipment. Etteplan is a technology partner in the product development project.

SKS Automaatio, a subsidiary of the Finnish SKS Group, is Finland’s leading importer of automation and electrical components for the machine building industry. One of SKS Automaatio’s focal areas is industrial temperature measurement, and the company also manufactures temperature sensors under the brand SKS Sensors in Finland.

“When embarking on this project, the goal was to create more added value for our customers and to add more intelligence to the data collected by our sensors, which would bring predictability to the customer’s processes and provide information to support decisions. At the same time, we identified a clear need among our customers for the wireless and real-time collection of temperature data,” says SKS Automaatio’s Managing Director, Rami Hakala.

A bold, agile approach

Smiley faceIt was on that basis that SKS Automaatio launched its project, the goal of which was initially to transfer temperature data to a cloud service using wireless technology. The chosen technology partner was Etteplan, which stood out in the competitive bidding process with its approach.

“Etteplan wanted to understand our business and the kind of system we wanted to develop. From there, Etteplan boldly challenged our idea about data transfer technology and proposed employing LoRa technology. To support that option, Etteplan additionally offered a fast and agile testing method to make sure the technology works the way we need it to,” explains Hakala.

The result of the product development project is the IoTKey service launched by SKS Automaatio in the fall of 2016. In the course of the project, the service took on the form of a comprehensive platform that uses sensors to collect data such as temperature, moisture, pressure, flow and surface level data from the customer’s systems and transfers the data wirelessly to a cloud service or the customer’s own system using LoRa technology. The solution also includes a customer user interface that makes monitoring possible regardless of time and place.

IoTKey is suitable for use by practically all industrial fields, for example, in the food, energy and processing industries, as well as production machinery. SKS Automaatio markets and sells the service not only in Finland, but also extensively in Europe through its distributor network.

From importer to service provider

With IoTKey, SKS Automaatio’s operations have expanded from component deliveries to the service business.

“Our customers have given us positive feedback on our ability to now offer a full-scope solution: data collection, data transfer and a cloud service, including a user interface,” says Hakala.

Hakala is pleased with the smooth partnership with Etteplan.

“Etteplan was able to quickly respond to the challenges, thanks to the company’s extensive competence and expertise. This was important for us, and the project stayed on schedule even though features were added along the way,” says Hakala.

Wireless sensor network solution

“The industrial remote measurement system designed for SKS is the answer to a very common industrial need for a wireless sensor network,” explains Kalle Mannonen, of Etteplan’s Embedded Systems & IoT unit. Customers often have a need to include the collection and monitoring of small data streams into battery-operated meters and devices. The devices are typically in hard-to-reach places, which makes routing difficult. At the same time, the battery should have a life-time of many years. LoRa technology enables the use of license-free low power data transfer and a commercially available (COTS) gateway to link data to a cloud service, where actual new business is created through analytics and a new kind of availability.

LoRa (Long Range Radio) is a new generation radio technology that is especially suited for the needs of the IoT. In addition to being wireless, the advantages of LoRa are an affordable price, low power consumption and excellent range – more than 100 meters indoors, even in challenging conditions.