From left - Leo Meng and Ian Bain

Scottish SME targets growth through IoT technology

Livingston-based tech start-up, Sensor-Works, is set to grow after developing an Internet of Things (IoT)-enabled condition monitoring device that could revolutionise asset management in a variety of industries.

The technology, named BluVib, allows any business that operates machinery to cut the cost of maintenance, minimise downtime, and detect faults by recording and analysing a range of data – including vibration and temperature. Developed in conjunction with CENSIS, the Scottish Innovation Centre for Sensor and Imaging Systems, it could be employed in sectors as wide ranging as petrochemicals, water management, renewables, and manufacturing.

Connected through Bluetooth to an app on potentially any type of handheld device, the product is a low-power, cost-effective alternative to existing condition monitoring equipment. Through innovative design and manufacturing, it is significantly lower cost than competing products.

In one of the first Industry 4.0 demonstrators in Scotland, BluVib will be used at the University of Strathclyde’s Advanced Forming Research Centre (AFRC), part of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, to measure vibrational signatures on specific machines.

The data acquired will be analysed to predict issues, in real-time, relating to machine performance, providing an early indicator of conditions where machine instability can occur.

Ian Bain, Managing Director at Sensor-Works, said: “BluVib presents a huge opportunity to our business. It has potentially universal application, both in sector and geographical terms, and is a very different proposition to what is already available on the market: it’s appreciably cheaper, low power, and can be used wirelessly with any kind of device – you’re not locked in to expensive associated proprietary technologies.

“Initial interest has been very strong, particularly from the US market, with whom we’ve been in regular dialogue to develop the product. In Scotland, we see the renewables and petrochemicals sectors as our biggest opportunity – BluVib could be used to effectively and efficiency monitor wind turbines, for example.

“We believe it can take us from start-up stage to the next point in our evolution: we’d be aiming to grow sales from current levels to between £200,000 and £300,000 in the next 12 months. Thereafter, supported by Scottish Enterprise’s High Growth Start-up Unit, we aim to move onto a multi-million pound turnover in the coming years. The product, and its deployment at the AFRC, gives us a significant opportunity to showcase its potential and take advantage of the emerging market for intelligent systems in manufacturing technology.”

The development of BluVib from proof of concept to market-ready product is CENSIS’s 50th project since its inception in 2013. Its project portfolio, currently worth £12.5 million in project activity, is expected to deliver an estimated £95 million in Gross Value Added (GVA) for the Scottish economy.

As well as working with Scotland’s 170 sensing and imaging companies, CENSIS now works with end-user businesses from a range of sectors, including oil and gas, subsea, built environment, and life sciences. The Innovation Centre also launched its IoT Centre in 2015, which Sensor-Works used to develop BluVib; and last year CENSIS announced the launch of a series of Internet of Things low-power wide area networks across Scotland – the network established in Glasgow is the UK’s most advanced testbed of its kind.

Ian Reid, Chief Executive at CENSIS, said: “Reaching 50 projects is testament to the quality, as well as quantity, of the links being forged between Scotland’s world-renowned academic institutions and industrial base. Technological innovation has seldom played a more important role in the growth of businesses of all sizes and our aim has been, and will continue to be, to keep Scottish companies at the forefront of an ever-changing landscape.

“Sensor-Works is a perfect example of that objective in action. It also demonstrates precisely what our IoT Centre was designed to do: help SMEs take their products to the next level more quickly and bring new technology from early-stage development to being ready for launch. BluVib has huge potential in a number of sectors, particularly in oil and gas, petrochemicals and renewables where maximising efficiency and cutting costs are currently extremely pertinent. It is also a clear demonstration of the opportunities presented by the IoT to SMEs and large businesses alike.”