Sensors, RTOSs & Beer

May 24th, 2013 by

By Bryan Levey
Vice President of Engineering

As you approach the office, your car signals your work station to turn on. Even better, your regular coffee shop senses you coming and starts your morning cappuccino.

Science fiction? Not at all.

Wired Magazine’s Bill Wasik in Welcome to the Programmable World writes convincingly that this future is not far off. He describes a world in which myriad of devices collecting data about our everyday activities communicate with one another, automating many activities.

Wasik says device synchromization will reshape our private lives and drive progress in the industrial realm.  In the factories of the future every machine, every room will supply a symphony of information that identifies and solves problems as they happen.

This article jogged my memory. As a young software engineer focused on manufacturing systems, I was watching the bottling line at a brewery when a jam occurred. Bottles of beer flew into the air, smashing on the floor and on adjacent bottling lines.  It seemed an eternity before a plant worker hit the “big red button” and shut down the machines.  Hundreds of broken bottles of beer was a lot for my post-college male psyche to handle.

Today such trauma is avoidable. Sensors and the software that manages them are becoming more and more sophisticated.  Real-time operating systems (RTOSs) provide microsecond responses so even if a brewery line jam can’t be prevented, the line would shut down in real time with no loss, no waste.  In today’s high tech plants, leading manufacturers are combining sensors with EtherCAT, multicore systems, fine-tuned robotics, Microsoft Windows and IntervalZero’s RTOS scheduler. Welcome to Programmable Production. 

In this bright future no young college grad will have to endure the agony of watching one of nature’s most perfect elixirs flowing down the floor drain of a manufacturing plant.


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