Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Minimising downtime by decentralising control

31.10.2008
When complex, computerised control systems encounter a malfunction in any part of the process they control, the whole operation often grinds to a halt while the problem is diagnosed and fixed. Software developed by European researchers overcomes that problem by decentralisation.

Power stations, oil refineries, factories and other types of industrial plant will, when some more development work has been done, be much better able to work around localised faults, thanks to European research.

Road vehicles, ships and aircraft could also benefit from the results and prototypes developed by the EU-funded NeCST project which came to an end in late 2007.

With a partner mix comprising four universities, two software developers and an oil company, the project set out to develop and test a set of algorithms – simple software programmes – for use in networked control systems (NeCS).

These systems may operate at a number of different levels in complex industrial facilities. The project made them fault tolerant by making individual components of the overall system as autonomous as possible. This means, once a fault is diagnosed or predicted, and the problem is being pre-empted or fixed, the rest of the network can carry on operating as normal.

Autonomous but unified

Says project coordinator Eric Rondeau: “The systems can be seen as a distributed network of nodes operating under highly decentralised control, but unified in accomplishing complex system-wide goals.”

In human terms, this is somewhat analogous to a team sport, such as rugby where there are specialist players performing different functions, but all also working together as a team to fulfil the same objective – winning. If one team member is injured or sent off, the team still continues and compensates for the loss.

For example, in a petroleum-oil refinery (which was the actual practical testing ground for a prototype NeCST algorithm) the overall objective is to produce high-quality products. To do this, there are a large number of different processes, all of them falling under a networked control system. If a fault develops in one of the processes, then rather than the whole system shutting down for it to be fixed, NeCST isolates the fault and allows the rest of the system to continue functioning.

Tolerance is a virtue

To carry the rugby analogy further, if the captain is the one injured that still does not mean the team stops playing as other players step in and fill the leadership gap. In a NeCST system there are individual processors, each controlling a specific function. If the network goes down, and system control is cut off, they are still able to operate autonomously and make sure their part of the system continues working towards the common goal.

The partners set out to develop both a software platform and a toolkit of software modules or algorithms. These run on the platform and provide the monitoring, diagnostic and remedial-action functions for a fault-tolerant network – that is a network which can work around a fault rather than being forced to close down.

A key part of the project was to ensure the software developed could be integrated with, and embedded in, users’ current and future control systems. Once in place, the project objectives required it to be able to generate information on network behaviour and to communicate with, and advise, human operators.

Wider implications

These objectives were achieved during benchmark tests in a laboratory environment and a real-time test was successfully conducted in the oil refinery operated by the end-user partner.

Now the two software companies, which were partners in the test, are working on developing commercial applications, and the research work has been found to have wider implications.

French company PREDICT has integrated the NeCST software into its KASEM (Knowledge Advanced Services for E-Maintenance) platform. This is designed for nuclear and conventional power plants, oil refineries and shipping.

By creating a fault-tolerant control network, KASEM allows operations to continue when part of the system is down for whatever reason. This guaranteed continuity of service means regular maintenance work can be undertaken without the need for plant closure, which is of particular value to power plants.

Slovakian partner SAE-Automation has produced its own proprietary OpcDbGateway software based on the NeCST research. The first commercial installation of this will be in a HVAC (Heating, Ventilating, Air Conditioning) system in Malaysia.

“Although we were looking at the implications for industrial facilities, the software can be used in any situation where there is a networked control system, a modern car for example,” says Rondeau.

While there is still a lot of development to be done before the NeCST system is in widespread commercial use, its viability has been proven and there are important implications for enhanced performance in a range of fields.

Christian Nielsen | alfa
Further information:
http://cordis.europa.eu/ictresults
http://cordis.europa.eu/ictresults/index.cfm/section/news/tpl/article/BrowsingType/Features/ID/90183

More articles from Information Technology:

nachricht New technology enables 5-D imaging in live animals, humans
16.01.2017 | University of Southern California

nachricht Fraunhofer FIT announces CloudTeams collaborative software development platform – join it for free
10.01.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Angewandte Informationstechnik FIT

All articles from Information Technology >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

Im Focus: How to inflate a hardened concrete shell with a weight of 80 t

At TU Wien, an alternative for resource intensive formwork for the construction of concrete domes was developed. It is now used in a test dome for the Austrian Federal Railways Infrastructure (ÖBB Infrastruktur).

Concrete shells are efficient structures, but not very resource efficient. The formwork for the construction of concrete domes alone requires a high amount of...

Im Focus: Bacterial Pac Man molecule snaps at sugar

Many pathogens use certain sugar compounds from their host to help conceal themselves against the immune system. Scientists at the University of Bonn have now, in cooperation with researchers at the University of York in the United Kingdom, analyzed the dynamics of a bacterial molecule that is involved in this process. They demonstrate that the protein grabs onto the sugar molecule with a Pac Man-like chewing motion and holds it until it can be used. Their results could help design therapeutics that could make the protein poorer at grabbing and holding and hence compromise the pathogen in the host. The study has now been published in “Biophysical Journal”.

The cells of the mouth, nose and intestinal mucosa produce large quantities of a chemical called sialic acid. Many bacteria possess a special transport system...

Im Focus: Newly proposed reference datasets improve weather satellite data quality

UMD, NOAA collaboration demonstrates suitability of in-orbit datasets for weather satellite calibration

"Traffic and weather, together on the hour!" blasts your local radio station, while your smartphone knows the weather halfway across the world. A network of...

Im Focus: Repairing defects in fiber-reinforced plastics more efficiently

Fiber-reinforced plastics (FRP) are frequently used in the aeronautic and automobile industry. However, the repair of workpieces made of these composite materials is often less profitable than exchanging the part. In order to increase the lifetime of FRP parts and to make them more eco-efficient, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) and the Apodius GmbH want to combine a new measuring device for fiber layer orientation with an innovative laser-based repair process.

Defects in FRP pieces may be production or operation-related. Whether or not repair is cost-effective depends on the geometry of the defective area, the tools...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

Nothing will happen without batteries making it happen!

05.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Multiregional brain on a chip

16.01.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

New technology enables 5-D imaging in live animals, humans

16.01.2017 | Information Technology

Researchers develop environmentally friendly soy air filter

16.01.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>