To Stand Out in the Field, Filter Manufacturer Adds IoT

Donaldson is offering its customers a means for remotely tracking the filters' lifespan, with the goal of keeping their operations flowing smoothly.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor

The early design of the solution that ATEK devised for Donaldson, which is called WaveLength, used pressure sensors that fit inside existing mounts for manual sensors in the manifolds leading into and out of the filter, so that pressure differences can be accurately tracked. But the production model "utilizes a differential pressure (DP) transducer," explains David Anderson, an ATEK program manager, in an email. "The pressure that is measured and read by the Wavelength unit is the difference between the high and low side pressures. For a filter application, the DP represents the amount of 'effort' the system has to push the fuel through the filter system. The higher the pressure reading, the more restriction exists, and [this] is indicative of the amount of dirt the filter has removed."

The DP is hardwired to a microcontroller attached to a cellular radio inside a ruggedized box mounted to the tank. The unit is powered by a battery.

Because there is no set schedule by which Donaldson's customers fuel their vehicles, WaveLength had to be designed to monitor the fueling system throughout the day, in order to determine when it should begin recording data. Every five minutes, the controller awakens the sensors and takes a pressure reading. If a system detects a rise in pressure, this indicates that fueling is taking place, and the sensors continue to monitor pressure levels until fueling is complete.

The data is sent via ATEK's cloud-based server, and is forwarded to Donaldson's customers via a web-based or mobile interface. Managers can set up email or text message alerts as soon as the pressure drops below a set threshold, indicating that the filters are beginning to clog and reduce flow rate significantly. They can then call personnel at the fueling site and ask them to replace the filters—even it is 3 AM and the managers are not on the job site.

Thus far, Grossbauer says, WaveLength is being used at a couple dozen customer locations across the United States, both as permanent deployments and, in some cases, as beta tests. Donaldson formerly announced WaveLength's availability late last month at the MINExpo show, held in Las Vegas.

Customers pay a single fee for the WaveLength hardware, as well as a year of cellular data service and a subscription to the WaveLength web- and mobile-based application. In subsequent years, the customers will pay only the subscription and cellular fees, which will be roughly one third of the first year's costs. (Grossbauer declines to provide the specific price, noting that it varies based on quantity.)

The product and service "[are] an opportunity for us to have different conversations with our customers," Grossbauer states. "We're usually talking about filter media with them—but this is about using information to drive efficiencies in their biz. Mining, just like oil and gas, is in a downturn right now, and so [the value proposition] is about how they can invest in technology to save costs. That's our message and it's being well received. It gives us a differentiation in the marketplace."

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