The combination of hardware from electrical engineering and cloud-based software produced strong overall solutions for applications in agriculture or the fitness sector, for example, at KNESTEL in recent years..
While the consumer market has been literally flooded with IoT (Internet of Things) products in recent years, a rather slow development towards IIoT solutions can be observed in the industrial environment. However, there is also a great need for networked solutions here, whether in predictive maintenance or for machine learning. The world of electronics development has been transformed by IoT in recent years, and the new opportunities presented by the Internet of Things are challenging industry players to integrate connectivity into new solutions. Sensor technologies, for example, can be used to automate processes when values are no longer just collected in a data pool but processed through cloud platforms.
KNESTEL Technologie & Elektronik from Hopferbach in the Allgäu region of Germany has over 40 years of electronic expertise and has been combining this very successfully with the necessary skills for hybrid IoT projects in the field of electronic hardware and software for several years. In addition to the development and production of electronic components, the company thus also supplies smart solutions for central, Internet-based data evaluation via software applications.
A successful project realization combining electronic and IoT expertise took place in the development of an efficient and cloud-based irrigation controller for food crops. On the hardware side, an energy-saving field module (FM) was developed that controls actuators and enables the connection of local sensors in the field. Thanks to energy-saving electronics, the FM can be operated completely self-sufficiently with a battery and a solar module. Using LoRa technology, any number of FMs can communicate wirelessly with an edge controller (EC). Equipped with an LTE module, the cloud-based backend is reached via the central module using the Internet. For system security, upcoming sequences are stored in the central module so that irrigation works even without a connection to the backend. The backend is the heart of the project, here algorithms are working which enable a cost-saving irrigation. Redundant server systems guarantee availability close to 100%. The frontend is realized via a modern progressive webapp. Through this, the automated irrigation can be planned, controlled and managed flexibly and available at any time. In case of an error, be it a defective valve or a sensor exceeding a limit value, the user will be informed via push notification and can react directly even if he is not on site at the plant. The system gives the farmer more flexibility and by connecting the sensors, the control system benefits directly from daily updated data, thus avoiding over-irrigation and saving resources through lower water consumption.
The following project from the fitness sector shows that there is great potential for the symbiosis of electrical engineering and IoT in a wide variety of industries. The objective was to develop a compact, portable, battery-powered performance diagnostics system for measuring C O₂, O₂, humidity, pressure and temperature in the breathing gas. The measurements are automatically evaluated and the result serves as the basis for a training and nutrition recommendation for the athlete. The performance diagnostics system communicates via radio to a smartphone app that offers trainer and comparison functions. The performance diagnostics should be fast, continuous and flexible (indoor and outdoor) and should also be possible without medical expertise.
The KNESTEL Resistance Control was also developed with training optimization in mind. The focus here was on the highly dynamic torque control of a permanent-magnet synchronous motor in fitness equipment for circuit training (e.g. rowing trainers, back trainers, etc.). The frequency inverter has a CAN-BUS interface, an STO function (SafeTorqueOff), an on-board switching power supply 24 V / 3 A for supplying external electronics and also offers the option of connecting a braking resistor. Operation takes place on the device via an Android app and is supplemented by individual training recommendations. The technology thus enables eccentric training with faster training results in strength development and gentler training.
The Industry 4.0 era is increasing the demand for intelligent devices. The IoT is also changing the demands on electronics, and the networked approach should always be taken into account when developing new solutions. This is the only way the industry can create smart solutions that not only make work easier, but also take function to a new level. New devices do not always have to be developed, but existing ones can also be retrofitted with IoT solutions to keep investments smaller and meet sustainability requirements.