Meiko Equipment Co. LTD: Remote HVAC equipment monitoring

Improving predictive maintenance with IoT and cellular connectivity

About

Meiko Equipment specializes in refrigeration, air conditioning and automatic control equipment, typically handling commercial refrigerators and air conditioners used in supermarkets, stores, agriculture and fisheries. Since these pieces of equipment are deeply related to their client’s business, Meiko frequently performs maintenance on their equipment anywhere from a week to a month after delivery before handing it off to their client.

Remote equipment monitoring has been deployed by major supermarkets but since it requires a large investment, it has not been introduced to several small businesses.  This made it difficult to be proactive and preventive, as Meiko would be sent to their client’s location when the equipment fails completely rather than when it starts to show symptoms. As a result, Meiko wanted to find a way to deliver remote equipment monitoring for small and medium-sized customers.

Challenge

Meiko wanted to record certain variables such as temperature, humidity and pressure within their refrigeration and air conditioning units. They would then take the collected data and visualize it on the cloud so it can be analyzed by a system that would send alerts if there were abnormal values. From the beginning, Meiko had knowledge of using BI tools and knew that they wanted to create a visualization dashboard to display the findings. However, they needed to find a way to remotely collect sensor data from their equipment.

Their first problem was connectivity. For clients that were deployed in stores and supermarkets, WiFi might seem like a plausible solution, however, this would involve sharing a connectivity with other individuals, opening their system to potential threats and risks. In addition, Meiko needed to find a way to convert their sensor information from analog data (4-20mA) output to a format that can be easily exchanged over the Internet.

Solution

Meiko knew about SORACOM Air’s cellular connectivity and decided to invest in a Grove IoT Starter Kit, which includes a microcomputer and sensor kit with a cellular connectivity module. Using this equipment, Meiko was able to assemble a prototype that could acquire sensor data from their refrigeration and air conditioning units. As a result, they could then send the sensor data using SORACOM Air cellular connectivity and visualize the data for analysis with SORACOM Harvest.

Why Soracom

Since SORACOM Harvest can easily be used within the Soracom platform, there was no need to introduce and manage other servers and storage, significantly streamlining their operations. In addition, Meiko decided to use SORACOM Lagoon so they could create a dashboard and share it with each of their clients. 

Customers using Meiko’s equipment can view the data that their equipment is transmitting in real time via the Lagoon dashboard by simply accessing the user console from their web browser.

Future Plans

While Meiko creates the equipment, they are also building information tools that allow them to respond to customer problems and needs much faster. Through these efforts, they plan on expanding the value that they can provide their clients.

With Meiko’s products and services, small to medium-sized businesses are able to invest in quality remote equipment monitoring that can prevent costs. If any anomalies are detected, Meiko can begin maintenance without waiting for their client to call. 

In the future, Meiko plans on expanding the number of refrigeration and air conditioning models that can be connected by expanding from analog 4-20mA to also supporting Modbus RTU with RS-485 I/F.

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