Nordic-powered remote monitoring devices detect issues in industrial equipment


Atomation’s Atom employs Nordic Semiconductor’s nRF52840 SoC to analyze data and identify abnormal values that indicate equipment malfunction

IoT solutions company Atomation has launched a series of remote equipment monitoring devices designed for use in industrial manufacturing, mining, utility and agriculture sectors. The rugged ‘Atoms’ include a variety of sensors, allowing users to monitor variables such as temperature, vibration, moisture, pressure, distance, tilt, and impact.

Remote machine monitoring

The Atoms require no customer infrastructure or integration, and are designed to reduce outages and downtime for most types of machinery and equipment. For example, they can determine and answer questions such as, “is the device on or off?”, “is the motor vibrating more than it did yesterday?” or “is the bearing temperature too high when the machine is in operation?”.

“Atoms monitor and process information locally, instead of sending a constant stream of data back to a central system,” explains Steve Hassell, CEO at Atomation. “When thresholds are exceeded or equipment is acting outside of ‘normal’, Atoms will notify users. This helps make them aware of problems before equipment fails, or when events have occurred in the field that require attention.”

While the chip technology is great, the support Nordic provides for a small start-up like Atomation is truly outstanding
Steve Hassell, Atomation

This data is sent to a gateway via Bluetooth® LE wireless connectivity, using the 2.4 GHz multiprotocol radio of Nordic Semiconductor’s nRF52840 SoC. The data is then transmitted to the Cloud from the gateway. The user can access their data via the web platform (which also provides administration options, notifications, and data analysis). This data can also be viewed using the relevant app, available for iOS and Android.

Extended battery life

The Atoms employ the computational power of the nRF52840 SoC’s 64 MHz, 32-bit Arm® Cortex® M4 processor with floating point unit (FPU) to determine whether the sensors are detecting abnormal values before transmitting the data. By requiring the radio to transmit less frequently, battery life is extended, allowing Atoms to function for up to three years using a 3.6 V Li-ion battery. To further extend battery life, the nRF52840 SoC has been engineered to minimize power consumption with a fully-automatic power management system.

“Since the Atoms are sealed, battery replacement is not an option, so the energy consumption of the chip was a major consideration,” says Hassell. “The nRF52840 SoC is also the true ‘brain’ of our Atoms, and that brain has to take in raw sensor data, convert it to useful information and make independent decisions before communicating in a tough RF environment. Add in a three year lifespan in a small, sealed enclosure and you have quite the technical challenge. While price and availability are of course important, none of that matters if you can’t achieve the mission, and this chip delivers on all counts.

“While the chip technology is great, the support Nordic provides for a small start-up like Atomation is truly outstanding,” continues Hassell. “Whether it’s technical information, application support or insight into the roadmap, Nordic has truly acted like a committed partner.”

“Predictive maintenance is essential for allowing service teams to see the future state of their equipment and respond proactively,” says Paul Olita, Technical Sales Manager – North Central, U.S., at Nordic Semiconductor. “Doing this in hard to reach, sometime hazardous environments can be challenging, but with Atomation’s Atoms, industry has a remote equipment monitoring solution that can not only boost productivity, but workplace safety as well.”