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How to manage data collected from smart sensors

Smart sensors are often used to measure so many different variables within a building that it can be difficult to know where to start when it comes to interpreting the data.

With sensors available to do everything from measuring the temperature of a room to telling you which desks are occupied, you can soon find yourself with an overwhelming amount of information – which is only really useful if you can quickly and easily spot trends or problems within it.

This article looks at the way data is collected from smart sensors and how you can make sense of it once you have it.


How do sensors work?

Sensors are installed around a building to take measurements of various factors like humidity, CO2 levels and occupancy. Or they may be attached to machinery and cables to measure things like current and temperature.

They take live information and turn it in to digital data, which can then be fed into a choice of computer systems that will analyse the information and turn it into actionable insights, allowing you to make adjustments based on the information being received.

Using smart sensors in this way has a number of benefits for businesses, including increased productivity, higher staff satisfaction levels and the ability to carry out predictive maintenance, preventing larger problems before they happen.


How do you get data out of a smart sensor?

Smart sensors usually transmit their data wirelessly, as the vast number of sensors employed in a network, and the location of them, means it is often impractical for them to be plugged in.

This data is usually stored and processed in some form of cloud computing platform, but getting it there is not always as simple as it being sent straight from the sensor to the cloud.

While it is possible to do this, there are a number of reasons why it does not usually happen.

Firstly, it would require the sensors to have an extremely long range, something which can prove to be a huge drain on batteries, or may simply not be possible for low-energy sensors which generate their energy from movement, heat or light within the room. The ideal is for sensors to use as little energy as possible, therefore requiring little maintenance, so it is best to keep transmission distances as short as possible.

Secondly, sending data straight to the cloud can also be problematic in large systems that contain a range of sensors from different suppliers as these may use different languages (more commonly known as protocols) to transmit their information. This can make it difficult to store and analyse it all in the same place, making it hard to gain a concise, overall picture of what is happening in your buildings.

The more common way of getting data out of smart sensors is to use a bridging device known as a gateway in each room. A gateway receives data from the sensors and makes it usable. Data is transmitted from the sensors to the gateway wirelessly. The gateway then converts the sensors data into JSON and sends it wirelessly via WiFi and LTE (4G) or via a wired Ethernet cable to your chosen local or cloud-based MQTT broker. 

What happens to the data once it is in the cloud?

Once the data is in the cloud it can be stored, analysed and displayed in a way that makes it quick and easy to see what you are looking for, enabling you to respond to any problems or issues in real time.

There are a number of different IoT cloud platforms that you can sign up for which will do this processing for you – including IBM Watson, Microsoft Azure and AWS IoT.

All will have different ways of displaying the information but will allow you to create your own dashboard which shows the data that’s most important to you.


What if I don’t want to use a cloud platform?

In some gateways, like those supplied by Pressac, there is also the inbuilt option of creating a dashboard more locally using an application such as Node Red. This allows you to construct a simple dashboard to display the data being received by the gateway without needing to sign up to one of the cloud platforms.

Alternatively, your company may already have its own internal systems for processing and storing sensor information. Using a gateway to turn the data into a widely-recognised protocol like MQTT should ensure it is compatible with these systems and enable the data to be sent straight to them.


To find out more about Pressac’s gateways and smart sensors get in touch.


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