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New data for PI

Posted by chuck Aug 3, 2013
Some of you know me from my seventeen years in OSIsoft’s field service group or perhaps the four years spent in the tech support group. Five plus years now I am in OSIsoft's Enterprise services group, first in the Project Management group, most recently my assignment has been in OSIsoft’s Center of Excellence.

Some of the more valuable sources innovative ideas to help me in my work with Enterprise customers have come from unconventional sources. I am always on the lookout for ideas which have more than one application, especially those beyond the original application.

Recently I came across a project ham (amateur) radio guys are utilizing – miniature TV cameras. These cameras and interface circuitry have become very inexpensive, perhaps as little as $20 for a camera rig ready connect and control from your computer. What can these cameras do?
  • Automatically take pictures and store them every few seconds. These pictures go into a circular, non-volatile buffer, from which you can retrieve the pictures later.
  • Take pictures on demand or a sequence of pictures on demand, then forward the pictures to your computer.
  • The pictures can be tagged with text you provide from your computer. The text can be static (all pictures taken get the same tag) or you can provide the text for each camera session/operation.

What are the ham radio guys doing with these cameras?
  • Placing the cameras in remote locations, like the top of radio towers, provide pictures with other telemetry they are already collecting like temperature, humidity, etc.
  • Putting the cameras on mobile systems like a bicycle escorting runners during a 10k run at a charity event or a community parade.
  • Inserting camera into a waterborne buoy as part of a school classroom project to capture data from lakes and oceans. Data includes temperatures, salinity, sunshine, wind speed and direction, wave height.
  • As part of payload on a balloon.
  • As part of a payload on a cubesat launched into low earth orbit.

If the ham radio guys are doing these things AND the hardware has become so cheap, I have to believe our process and information systems will soon have access to these type of data as well. The big guys making hardware for our information systems and process control systems will make these sorts of sensors available for our process systems real soon now if not already.

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Already 15-20 years ago a PI customer was capturing machine inspection data as part of their Q/A process in a manufacturing plant. The machine inspections were performed by a robot. The robot would position and measure, qualify, and pass parts as the parts travelled by on a conveyor. Part of the inspection process involved taking a picture and comparing it to a reference object. Sample pictures were stored in a relational database. Measurements, part IDs, and other data were stored to PI tags. The customer had a way of keying identity of pictures with the related measurements stored to PI tags. Sort of like a batch or event frame or lab record of the data.

The punch line? The customer was doing all this with a PI2 system and 1990’s Allen-Bradley PLCs.

Fast forward to today and tomorrow…. PI 2012 includes Event Frames (EF). Since early days PI3 has had blob type tags. EF and AF give us a rich way to store and link data like camera data and at the same time correlate that data with PI tags with our temperatures, pressures, flows, and other measurements. PI 3’s BLOB type tags may be a creative place to store small video or picture images (PNG or JPG type files). Larger video and picture files might be stored in a relational database, with data references pointing to these files stored in your AF system. Audio files might also be candidates for storage in PI and consumption in combination with external data.

Are you already storing picture or video or audio data?

Is there an application where you need to combine PI and data such as video, picture, or audio?

Please - Share your stories! Feel free to attach your thoughts or experiences as a comment.

Here’s an application idea –

Customer has data in PI showing start time, duration, end time, and flow rate for a flare event. The lab system has analysis of the components of the flare stream – the lab system’s data is interfaced to PI. Environmental and compliance data related to flare events are stored in a relational database and in PI. AF data references relate the external flare event data to PI elements. The customer has a request to capture picture of the flare every 30 seconds during the peak of a flare event.

What are your ideas for integrating multi-media data with process data found in your PI systems?

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