This IoT based innovation is a modular device that can be installed as an intermediate between the input electric power source and the equipment, systems and appliances used at Research facilities, Industries and Institutions in order to secure, regulate, authorize user access, audit and manage the facility systems. These SOAP Box modules have Fingerprint Scanner, Near-field Wireless Transceiver as User authentication mechanism, Voltage Sensor, Current Sensor, Electric Relay for Power control and machine health monitoring, on-board Micro-controller with EEPROM storage and a Network adapter that connects the module to a central management and authentication Server over the facility’s Local Area Network via WiFi or CAT-5 Ethernet. The server remotely collects user ID and power utilization information as communicated by the deployed module, for example, when authorizing users to use the system on their request and turn the system On or Off while also monitoring its usage in real-time. It also sends data on a particular user’s usage hours, experience using the system, power status, real-time energy consumption to the server. The intermediate modules also feature basic safety features such as under-voltage and over-current protection for the hosted system's protection.
Thus the device proposed can be an all-in-one practical solution for User Access Security, Equipment Management, Energy Management and IoT Power Control System.
Such a device ensures user safety, system safe handling, administration accountability, power savings and system protection.
Often laboratories, industries and manufacturing facilities face a challenge of securing and monitoring the usage of their equipment in order to maintain work place Safety, Accountability of users, usage Statistics and usage Regulation or Scheduling. This is important in many perspectives....
Primarily being Safety of the equipment and its users. If the machines are operated by untrained users without having any prior experience, basic know-how and discipline of practice may spoil the system and harm the user.
Secondly, monitoring the equipment’s frequency and duration of usage is essential for ensuring that the work flow design yields best manufacturing efficiency without over-using a single machine and fatigue.
Typical methods such as session log cards and on-board user authentication by passwords, RFID tags and Barcode Scanners in the equipment are unreliable and not widely used except at highly standardized and automated manufacturing plants, as they may not be necessarily available or even if it is, may not be followed sincerely by the users as they all simply use a single master key for authentication. Some manufacturers of various equipment deployed at a given facility may provide different authentication mechanisms. This is a great inconvenience for the engineers as integration of all the machines to a central management server becomes a challenge especially when network connectivity and software integration may not be available in all the equipment. This calls for standardization of all machines to be connected to a network and follow a suitable protocol having data encryption and cyber attack prevention mechanisms, which is expensive to implement as such hardware must be custom fitted into to equipment that don’t have them inbuilt.
Apart from the above challenges, it also becomes difficult for the management to audit power consumption of these equipment and installed devices as there is no recorded real time power usage data available. Yet, again they either depend on the usage session log books or the power panel energy meters which do not give detailed consumption statistics of the individual loads connected to it. A solution to this is the use of “smart plugs” or IoT enabled energy meters or completely wireless sensor networks that measure and report real-time energy consumption data of various equipment to a central management server. This would need an additional set of protocols and increase network traffic.
If one considers the larger picture, the overall cost of implementing a layer of centralized User Safety, Security, Equipment Management and Power monitoring system for all the equipment is a rather costly affair. This is exactly why a need for an all-in-one solution was felt.
In conventional machines like lathes, Vertical Drilling machines, dangerous power tools, expensive microscopes, test and measurement equipment like spectrum analyzer, DSO, do not have any privilege of central connected user authentication management system, thus usage, authorization, accountability and health of equipment are not monitored. When it comes to power tools, their size is too small that designing a module as effective, modular and compact in size is the major design challenge need to be addressed.