HomeConnectivitySierra Wireless provides ‘full-stack’ IoT for fertilizer tank LTE-M solution

Sierra Wireless provides ‘full-stack’ IoT for fertilizer tank LTE-M solution

IoT provider Sierra Wireless has been selected by IoT tracking firm Ekatra to underpin its industrial tank monitoring solution, which is geared particularly towards fertilizer tanks in the farming industry. Ekatra has integrated the Cabadian firm’s ‘full-stack’ Octave IoT platform into its new product, to simplify development and deployment.

US-based Heartland Tank Services, a provider of liquid tanks and inspection services, had originally engaged with Ekatra to develop an application to collect data on nitrogen fertilizer concentration, temperature, pressure and drain levels. The idea was to alert tank owners, operators, and service companies in real-time if a tank had a leak, and automatically close fertilizer intake valves to prevent overfilling.

Leaks from liquid fertilizer tanks, owned by large farms and fertilizer distribution companies, can lead to costs of $100,000 or more for tank repairs, lost liquids, clean-up, and government fines, reckons Sierra Wireless. Common causes of leaks include corrosion, problems with liners, and overfilling the tank. But Ekatra had trouble getting the data out of the system.

Its IoT sensors, engineered for the task, were running a Modbus interface, to glean data from tanks; IP-based connectivity to the cloud was not straightforward. In the end – after a rigorous search, as the story goes – it picked the “full-stack” Octave IoT platform from Sierra Wireless, based on cost and support for LTE-M. Cellular was identified as the way to go, it seems, because of “updates over the air”. There were nine other criteria, alongside.

The new tank monitoring solution, deployed by Heartland Tank Services and now available to the rest of the market, backhauls data from Modbus-enabled sensors over an LTE-M connection, via FX30 IoT gateways from Sierra Wireless. Ekatra was able to commercialise the application in three months, according to Sierra Wireless – three months less than if it had built the solution from scratch.

Ekatra has been able to develop and deploy edge processing rules in its IoT gateways from the cloud using simple Javascript code, enabling processing and filtering of tank data at the gateway before it goes to the cloud – also reducing cellular costs and extending edge battery life by minimizing the transmission power.

Heartland Tank Services has deployed the monitoring solution at sites “throughout the US”, apparently; it has plans to extend to “thousands of tanks it services over the next 12 months”. Sierra Wireless bills for message-based pricing, covering global connectivity, developer tools, and cloud APIs.

Olivier Pauzet, vice president of product IoT solutions at Sierra Wireless, said: “Small and medium-sized companies are driving the growth of industrial IoT with innovative and practical applications. Ekatra is an excellent example, transforming regular liquid fertilizer tanks into smart tanks that can tell you when they are leaking or automatically stop themselves from being overfilled, and in only three months.”

Alexey Klimenko, founder and chief executive at Ekatra, said: “Octave freed us from having to build any industrial IoT infrastructure for our new fertilizer tank monitoring application, allowing our team to focus almost exclusively on building the application itself. 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.”

Chris Brooks, president of Heartland Tank Services, said: “Heartland Tank Companies has been at the forefront in using innovative new technologies to improve tank storage since its founding. [This] partnership… 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.”

Sierra Wireless released its Octave IoT platform last year as an integrated offer with Microsoft’s Azure IoT cloud solution. It claims the platform is “unique” as the only ‘full-stack’ IoT package on the market, combining hardware, connectivity, and management software in a single bundle.

The Octave IoT platform is targeted mainly at original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) serving industrial markets, looking to offer analytics-based services on top of their hardware. The platform – containing analytics dashboards, control functions, and device and connectivity management – is being sold as an ‘all-in-one’ solution with Sierra Wireless’ IoT hardware modules and IoT connectivity bundles.

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