A New Way to Monitor Industrial Equipment

In diverse industries, including manufacturing, construction, and utilities and power generation, site inspection and monitoring are vital components of routine operations. These inspections can help improve efficiency, detect issues before they cause downtime, and ensure site safety.

Today, there are two common methods of conducting routine inspections. The first is to send personnel on rounds to record data. But people aren’t designed to do highly repetitive tasks, so there is a risk of errors or inconsistencies occurring while they collect this information. There are also places on these sites that operators can’t go safely, and other projects they need to get done. All of this combines to limit the quality, quantity and frequency of data that you can capture.

Another option is to use static sensors to capture every data point you need—for example, to monitor the temperature of a key piece of equipment. But this option can quickly become expensive, since you need a sensor for each gauge and pump you want to monitor, and for every data type you want to gather. Additionally, these sensors offer a limited perspective, since they can only provide coverage for one fixed view of how that equipment is operating.

Agile mobile robots like Spot, that can automatically walk throughout a facility while equipped with high performance sensors, offer an alternative: dynamic sensing. With this approach, you mount your required sensors onto the robot and have it move through your site autonomously. This approach is highly repeatable, economical, and provides the data you need for a much broader perspective on the state of your site and the condition of your equipment.

Automating Inspections with Spot

Spot’s Autowalk feature makes it simple to record automated missions of the robot inspecting equipment throughout your facility, and have those missions run automatically at the interval required. You can then view the collected data as often as needed—all with an intuitive interface that provides actionable insight about your equipment.

Recording a Mission

Use the Autowalk function on Spot’s tablet controller to configure a few basic settings, undock the robot, and hit Record. At this point, the robot will “remember” everything you tell it to do, building a digital map for the new autonomous mission.

Manually drive Spot along the specific path you want it to take through your site—potentially replicating existing manual operator rounds or creating a new route for the robot. As you go, you can tell Spot which actions to perform along the way, taking a thermal scan of a motor or photographing an analog gauge for example.

When you’ve completed the mission, return the robot to the dock and save the recording. Finally, you can set mission parameters, like how often Spot will perform that mission, how often you’d like the robot to communicate with the tablet, and more.

Playing Back a Mission

Missions are stored locally on the tablet or centrally on Orbit, our fleet management software, and can be played back on a set schedule or on an ad hoc basis. When you tell Spot to start a mission, the robot will run through it autonomously, walking the path you determined and performing all the actions you recorded. Using Orbit, operators with internet access and the proper permissions can follow along with Spot in real time, as well as trigger missions, schedule missions, and review captured data.

Reviewing Data

The data captured by Spot can be integrated directly with your enterprise asset management (EAM) solution to trigger alerts or work orders. Orbit also makes it simple to review any data collected on any previous missions. For example, if Spot is taking thermal readings, you can view the images in Orbit, compare to previous captures, and check trends over time to quickly determine whether there’s a potential issue that needs immediate attention.

You can also integrate computer vision (CV) or other machine learning models with Spot. This technology helps speed the review process, automate alerts, and empower predictive maintenance strategies.


Sensor Payloads

A dynamic sensing approach to inspection offers benefits not only in automation, but also in increased flexibility in the types of data captured. Spot is a platform that can be equipped with a number of sensors and payloads to collect and process the data you need—whether that’s visual, thermal, acoustic, radiation, vibration, or other types of readings. These payloads allow you to capture multiple types of data on each autonomous mission and are easier to update than fixed sensors if your inspection needs evolve. Here are a few examples.

  • Spot CAM+IR: This camera payload gives you three different views. It includes a 360° panoramic camera, a pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) camera to get a clear view of assets even at a distance, and an IR camera for capturing thermal data.
  • Spot CORE I/O: This computational payload enables you to run CV models, process data at the edge, and connect Spot to your command center over 5G, as well as to design and integrate your own sensor payloads.
  • Third Party Payloads: There is a robust ecosystem of partner payloads for Spot, as well as a full API to make it easy to integrate your preferred sensors or software solutions on the Spot platform.

Communicating with Spot

Finally, you need a reliable communication method between Spot and the controller, as well as whatever system you are using to analyze and review data. So how does Spot connect to your tablet, to Orbit, or to other software tools? There are several options to choose from, depending on your needs.

  • WiFi: Spot can generate its own network, or connect to an existing network. This makes it simple to communicate with the robot from whatever visualization client you use.
  • Mesh Radio: These devices create a mesh network, which acts as a relay. This is a quick and effective solution in areas without WiFi coverage or when it’s impractical to connect existing WiFi networks. Just four radios can provide coverage over 200,000 square feet.
  • 5G/LTE: Another option for communications, especially over long ranges, is 5G or LTE services. The Spot CORE I/O payload includes a built-in 5G modem, offering additional flexibility for operators to get data off of Spot remotely on both private and public 5G networks.

To see Spot in action, learn more about these applications, and see how your peers are using dynamic sensing for site inspection, check out the on-demand webinar, Intuitive Inspection: How to Maximize Site Efficiency with Spot’s Newest Capabilities.