Column: Condition monitoring

Column: Condition monitoring

Vol. 6 Issue 2

Situational awareness brought to you by IoT


Increased technology, such as the Internet of Things (IoT), does not increase situation awareness itself. However, technology will help reduce the impact of the situational awareness barriers and improve decision making when used as it was intended [1]. We can become mesmerized by technology that can be held in our hands to communicate, learn, and entertain to the point of distraction, and miss altogether the context that the medium is trying to convey. With this in mind, and from my experience, comes real life observations of good intentions gone wrong at various stages of IoT. This is not an exhaustive list, but more commonly offering situations of doing before thinking.

The absolute need for a foundational understanding

Many who believe the IoT is the ultimate problem solver, or panacea, must first understand what they have, or more importantly, need to make use of any technology. I refer to data, or more importantly, the history of an asset and its importance to the task at hand.

“History offers something all together different from (scientific) rules, namely insight”.

The true function of historical insight is ‘to inform (people) about the present, insofar as the past, (it’s apparent subject matter), is encapsulated in the present and (constitutes) a part of it not at once obvious to the untrained eye’.

*R.G. Collingwood, 1939

Autobiography. [2]

After an asset owner has described the “why” (refer to my column in [4]) they want to proceed with an IoT implementation. The focus then must go to what history (data) they have regarding the chosen assets they want to include.

What data/information is available and what format is it in?

• Offline/Infrequent/Sparse

In other words, is it “sparse data”? Meaning, test results with long time intervals between tests. The data is obtained from laboratory testing of fluids or electrical tests performed when a unit is out of service.


• Online

Is data available from sensors and/ or monitoring systems recorded with a unit in service, and is that data accessible remotely? The difference between the two will offer a different insight to the units’ behaviour and will greatly influence the results.

If one has only offline data, then all of those “snapshots in time” need to have further context surrounding the data, such as weather conditions, reason for testing, recent loading on the unit, and any obvious visual findings. These findings and more should be recorded and in the record.

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