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“Smart” Pumps

Engineering & Design
Industrial_Internet_of_things

“Smart” Pumps

Author: Varun Nagaraj, CEO of Sierra Monitor Corporation

The world is becoming smarter. Smart phones. Smart buildings. Smart pumps? Historically speaking, pumps are not typically considered “smart” products. In terms of commercial building automation, pumps and valves admittedly have information they can share with other systems; and while they likely have some inputs they can receive from other systems, most pump products are not entirely “smart”. Currently, pumps are “semi” smart because they have the capacity to send their signals to a supervisory system within a facility, such as a Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition system (SCADA), a Programmable Logic Controller (PLC), or a Building Management System (BMS).

There is an opportunity for pump manufacturers to use the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) to make pumps “smart”. Though it would require investment in modern technology, making the decision to evolve pumps into “smart”, connected products could enable pump manufacturers to:

  • Enhance OEM service and support. For pump manufacturers under price pressure in competitive markets, embracing IIoT presents an opportunity to get ahead of their competitors. Using integrated hardware, software, and cloud technologies can give a pump manufacturer direct access to their installed and “registered” pump base; streaming real-time data into the OEMs’ cloud service. With the ability to see performance patterns, service and support can become less reactive and more proactive. And even if a pump fails, this kind of visibility should enable the OEM to provide replacement parts or support in a more timely fashion.
  • Drive product innovation. If pump manufacturers employ IIoT technologies, they gain the ability to see how end users are actually using their pumps on a real-time, minute-by-minute basis. For example, if an OEM sees one of their pump products is only being used one hour each day, they might consider redesigning that pump product to be more energy efficient. If OEMs can obtain an accurate representation of how their pump products are actually being used, they can improve their next generation of pump products to reduce their manufacturing costs and lessen their pump products’ carbon footprints.
  • Offer Products as a Service. If pump manufacturers begin to provide the market with “smart”, connected pumps, they don’t actually have to sell the pump as a commodity. They can begin to sell the pump as a service in terms of actual number of run-time hours. Generator set manufacturers are already employing this business model, as some offer to lease their gensets on a per usage basis. So imagine if an end user had a “smart” genset which was connected to the leasing company’s cloud; the genset lessor has immediate access to usage data and can bill accordingly. This business model could change the way pump manufacturers do business.

So when will we see manufacturers make the move to provide end users with “smart”, connected pumps? It will only happen if there is a major change in the OEM mindset. To employ IIoT requires giving your pumps a voice, enabling the pumps’ voices to be ‘heard’, and then using those voices to enhance, grow, or redefine your business.

About Sierra Monitor Corporation

CEO Varun Nagaraj joined Sierra Monitor in 2014 from Echelon Corp., where he was senior VP of Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).  Sierra Monitor provides IIoT solutions that connect and protect infrastructure assets in industrial and commercial facilities. Based in Milpitas, Calif., the company combines sensing and automation with technologies such as cloud connectivity, big data and analytics. Info: http://www.sierramonitor.com/

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