Development time for IIoT fertiliser tank monitoring halved by Sierra Wireless Octave

Olivier Pauzet of Sierra Wireless

Internet of Things (IoT) solutions provider Sierra Wireless, has announced that Ekatra successfully reduced the development time of its new Industrial IoT (IIoT) liquid fertiliser tank monitoring application by 50% using Octave, the all-in-one, edge-to-cloud solution for connecting industrial assets.

Octave enabled Ekatra to easily integrate IoT edge devices into industrial tank equipment, extend application intelligence to these IoT edge devices, and then integrate tank data into their cloud, allowing them to cut development time for the application from six to three months.

“Small and medium-sized companies are driving the growth of the Industrial IoT with innovative, practical, problem-solving applications that are transforming industries,” says Olivier Pauzet, VP product IoT solutions at Sierra Wireless. “Ekatra is an excellent example, transforming regular liquid fertiliser tanks into smart tanks that can tell you when they are leaking or automatically stop themselves from being overfilled, and in only three months. By eliminating the need to build IIoT infrastructure from scratch, Octave makes it easier and faster to get IIoT applications from concept to market, allowing practically any company today to begin realising the benefits of Industry 4.0.”

In addition to reducing development time, Octave has delivered Ekatra additional benefits, including:

  • Edge intelligence and distributed processing: Octave enabled Ekatra to develop and deploy edge processing rules in its IoT gateways from the cloud using simple Javascript code. This provides Ekatra with additional flexibility and capabilities, such as processing and filtering tank data at the IoT gateway before it’s transmitted to the cloud. Data transmission costs are reduced, while edge device battery life is extended by minimising the power they use to transmit data.
  • Predictable pricing: The Octave subscription includes full access to the Sierra Wireless Global Wireless Network, development tools, and cloud APIs with a predictable message-based pricing that enables Ekatra to pay for the data they need, when they need it.
  • Easy application updates: With Octave, Ekatra can send firmware and application updates over the air to thousands of devices, making it easy to update their application to meet specific customers’ needs or to add new capabilities over time.
  • End-to-end security: Octave devices are pre-provisioned to automatically connect to an encrypted global connectivity network with proven security measures to establish a trusted connection between edge devices and the cloud, helping Ekatra ensure that no malicious actors steal or alter customer data.
  • Device and fleet management: Octave provides single-user interface to develop at the edge, in the cloud, monitor, control, update and maintain all edge devices and assets.

“Octave freed us from having to build any IIoT infrastructure for our new fertiliser tank monitoring application, allowing our team to focus almost exclusively on building the application itself,” comments Alexey Klimenko, founder and CEO of Ekatra. “In addition to reducing total development time for the application, Octave simplified practically everything involved in the deployment and management of the application’s IIoT infrastructure for us. By making it easy for us to get the right equipment data, at the right time, to the right system, Octave has not only improved our new application’s ROI, but also saved me and my team from a lot of headaches dealing with IIoT hardware, cellular service, device certification, embedded software and device management.”

Lowering costs by proactively detecting fertiliser tank leaks

Owned by large farms and fertiliser distribution companies, leaks from liquid fertiliser tanks – caused by corrosion, problems with their liners, or overfilling the tank – can lead to costs of $100,000 (€85120) or more related to tank repair, lost liquid fertiliser, contamination clean-up costs and government fines.

Alexey Klimenko

Recognising the opportunity to reduce these costs, Ekatra partnered with Heartland Tank Services, one of the nation’s leading providers of liquid tank construction, internal containment liners, and inspection services, to develop a new IIoT application. By collecting data on nitrogen fertiliser concentration, temperature, pressure and drain liquid level, the application would alert tank owners, operators, and service companies if a tank had a leak in real-time, and also automatically close fertiliser intake valves to prevent tanks from being overfilled.

Octave provides the Industrial IoT infrastructure needed to quickly create a smart tank

In order to proactively detect fertiliser leaks, Ekatra engineered and built unique sensors. However, the key to success was connecting them to Ekatra’s Tank Monitoring cloud application. Each sensor is equipped with a Modbus interface and Ekatra needed to figure out the most efficient way to connect the sensors to the cloud.

After determining it would be faster to buy an IIoT infrastructure solution than to build their own, Ekatra embarked on an evaluation process of IoT gateway solutions, assessing these solutions based on their cost, support for LPWA cellular standards(LTE-M), available cellular plans, ability to perform firmware and application updates over the air, and nine other criteria. Octave emerged from this evaluation with a score establishing it as the clear leader, leading Ekatra to partner with Sierra Wireless to bring their new IIoT liquid fertiliser tank monitoring application to market.

Octave greatly simplified the IoT application development process for Ekatra, enabling them to connect their Modbus-enabled sensors to the cellular network using Sierra Wireless’ FX30 IoT gateways. In addition, they were able to use JavaScript to connect the FX30 IoT gateways to their cloud-based IoT application platform in less than two days.

Combined with Octave documentation and support that allowed them to quickly understand how to use the solution, Ekatra was able to develop and commercialise their IIoT liquid fertiliser tank monitoring application in three months – three months less they would have expected if they built the IIoT infrastructure themselves.

Liquid fertiliser tank remote monitoring application already delivering benefits

Heartland Tank Services has already deployed Ekatra’s liquid tank monitoring application at sites throughout the United States, with plans to extend the application to the thousands of tanks it services over the next 12 months. Already Heartland Tank Services is seeing benefits from the new application, with their team able to respond to tank leaks quicker, and fewer problems with tanks being overfilled.

“As a pioneer in using internal PVC liners as a primary containment mechanism for storage tanks, Heartland Tank Companies has been at the forefront in using innovative new technologies to improve tank storage since its founding,” said Chris Brooks, president of Heartland Tank Services. “Our partnership with Ekatra to deploy this new liquid fertiliser tank monitoring applications builds on this heritage, allowing us to help our customers reduce costs by detecting tank leaks early. By providing us with the ability to deliver real-time data on tank leaks to our customers, this application enables us to offer our customers a completely new service, one that significantly improves our value proposition.”

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