IoT Blog
IoT Blog

Sercel Builds S-Lynks, a New Structural Health Monitoring Business Using the Octave Industrial IoT Edge-to-Cloud Solution

by Benoit Tournier, Director of Marketing, Transportation
Companies around the world talk about digital transformation constantly. Hardly a day goes by when you don’t hear about how new artificial intelligence, machine learning, Internet of Things (IoT) or other digital technologies are providing companies with an opportunity to offer new or enhanced services to customers, reduce costs, or otherwise improve business outcomes.

Sercel isn’t just talking. They are digitally transforming themselves, combining their seismic sensor expertise and solutions with advanced processing and Industrial IoT technologies -- including Octave, Sierra Wireless’s all-in-one edge-to-cloud solution for the Industrial IoT – to build a new business monitoring the health of buildings, bridges, dams, and other large structures.

Combining Existing Expertise with advanced processing and the Industrial IoT 

Headquartered in Nantes, France, Sercel is an industry leader in providing oil, gas, and mineral extraction companies with seismic sensing solutions. Like a CAT-Scan generates an image of what is in the body, these solutions generate images of the shape and physical properties of the earth’s underground geological layers. By producing acoustic waves that penetrate the ground, capturing and recording how these waves are reflected by earth’s subsurface, and then analyzing these waves, they create images showing where oil, gas, and valuable minerals are likely to be located underground. 

Sercel realized that new Industrial IoT and advanced processing technologies, would allow them to use their existing seismic sensing expertise and solutions to build a new solution that would monitor the behavior of large man-made structures subjected to ambient vibration. By using advanced algorithms to monitor the evolution of structure dynamic properties using IoT devices installed on the structure, the Sercel S-Lynks system can identify potential weakness and trigger preventive maintenance to ensure its continued availability or to extend its life. 

What came out of this realization was Sercel’s new S-Lynks solution. A typical system uses 20 nodes embedding QuietSeisTM MEMS accelerometers that are placed at various points on a structure to capture vibration data. The nodes then transfer this data, (as well as state of health) at predetermined intervals to a gateway also attached to the structure. The gateway pre-processes this data, and then sends it wirelessly to Sercel’s cloud infrastructure, where additional data analytics are used to determine if there is a problem with the structure’s health that requires preventive maintenance.

Overcoming Industrial IoT Obstacles with Octave

Octave has helped Sercel address many challenges that might otherwise have slowed development of the S-Lynks solution. For example, Sercel uses Wi-Fi wireless networking technology to connect its structural nodes to its gateway. While this technology addresses Sercel’s local connectivity needs, they do not provide them with the low-power, long-range, global connectivity they need to transmit data from the gateway to the cloud. 

Octave however includes the AirPrime WP7702 module, which supports Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) networking technologies, including LTE-M. By integrating the WP7702 module into their gateway, Sercel can securely and reliably transmit data from structures located around the world to the cloud using cellular LTE-M networks, while minimizing the amount of gateway power needed to transmit this data. 

Another challenge for Sercel was efficiently orchestrating the delivery of data from its gateway to the cloud, and then integrating this data into their cloud-based structural health monitoring system. The observation engine in Octave allows Sercel to process, buffer, filter, store, forward and otherwise orchestrate the transmission of readings from their edge devices so that Sercel has exactly the structural physical indicators and other device data they need, when they need it. In addition, Octave’s built-in cloud APIs make it easy for Sercel to integrate this data into the S-Lynks solution’s cloud-based IT system.

Using Octave to Remotely Update S-Lynks System Mission Profiles

Sercel also needed a way to remotely change the mission profiles of their structural health monitoring system’s edge devices. For example, under the “Standard” mission profile, the nodes and gateways automatically collect and send data on a weekly basis, preserving power so these edge devices can last for years without needing new batteries. Every week or so, this “Standard” mission profile data is interpreted, and variations of some advanced indicators are analyzed to determine if there are any problems with the structure. 

Sercel also has an “On demand” mission profile that directs the nodes and gateway to immediately collect and send data to the cloud. With the “On demand” profile, Sercel can immediately assess the health of a structure after an earthquake or other events that might have damaged it. 

Octave’s ability to update edge device application rules allows Sercel to quickly and easily change their S-Lynks mission profiles remotely from the cloud. This ability to update edge device application rules and firmware not only makes their structural health monitoring system more flexible, but also allows the company to improve the system over time with new edge device rules or firmware updates. For example, Sercel can modify their current mission profiles, or even create a new mission profile for their edge devices if needed. 

Digital Transformation Delivers a New Industrial IoT Solution

Sercel has rapidly developed its new SHM solution. In the spring of 2019 they started working on an initial proof of concept using Octave and Sierra Wireless’s mangOH Red open hardware development platform. In the fall of 2019, they built a full-fledged solution with Sierra Wireless’ WP7702 module, and this spring they implemented a pilot project with an infrastructure owner. Thanks to the pilot program’s success, Sercel currently plans to commercially introduce its S-Links solution at the Le Pont civil engineering conference in October, fully launching the 60 year old company into a new business built by combining its seismic sensor expertise with the Industrial IoT. 

Start with Sierra to learn more about how the Octave can help you use your existing expertise, machine learning, and new Industrial IoT technologies to bring to market new solutions and services that digitally transform your business.