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Title:
INTRINSICALLY SAFE MODULAR SENSOR DEVICES AND SYSTEMS FOR USE IN HAZARDOUS LOCATIONS
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2019/195490
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
Systems, methods, and devices for monitoring environmental data in a hazardous environment (25) includes a plurality of modules having an endpoint control module (210) and operational node modules (220) connected to each other in a daisy-chain configuration and connected to the endpoint control module (210), the modules are mounted together on a mounting bracket (260) for a stabilizing placement at a specific location within the hazardous environment. Each operational node has a sensor (226) to monitor a desired type of environmental data and is designed to be interchanged and swapped out easily with other operational nodes. A communication component (250) enables communication between the plurality of modules and a remote data collection center (15) associated with the hazardous location. Each of the modules includes I/O ports (212, 214, 222, 224) to enable power and data communications between the modules. Each of the plurality of modules and I/O ports is compliant with intrinsically safe operational requirements.

Inventors:
SURINYA, Endre (Littke József utca 26, 7632 Pécs, Pécs, HU)
KOLESZAR, Tibor (Zárda utca 55, 7400 Kaposvár, Kaposvár, HU)
TRAGER, Peter (Littke József utca 26, 7632 Pécs, Pécs, HU)
MOLNAR, Laszlo (Littke József utca 26, 7632 Pécs, Pécs, HU)
KUTASI, Fridarika (Littke József utca 26, 7632 Pécs, Pécs, HU)
LABORCI, Helga, Törjékiné (Littke József utca 26, 7632 Pécs, Pécs, HU)
VENTULETT, Thomas, P. (4232 Conway Valley Rd, N.W.Atlanta, GA, 30327, US)
Application Number:
US2019/025680
Publication Date:
October 10, 2019
Filing Date:
April 03, 2019
Export Citation:
Click for automatic bibliography generation   Help
Assignee:
AEGEX TECHNOLOGIES, LLC (Flatiron Building, 84 Peachtree Street N.W, Atlanta GA, 30303, US)
International Classes:
G05B23/02; H04B17/00
Foreign References:
US20160063841A12016-03-03
US20160330825A12016-11-10
US20170062974A12017-03-02
US20170071015A12017-03-09
US20080186205A12008-08-07
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
TODD, Jack, D. (Todd Partners, PCP.O. Box 1876, Atlanta GA, 31126, US)
Download PDF:
Claims:
We claim:

Claim 1. A modular sensor system for monitoring environmental data in a hazardous environment, comprising:

a mounting bracket;

a power supply; and

a plurality of modules including an endpoint control module and a plurality of operational node modules adjacent to each other and connected to each other in a daisy- chain configuration, wherein one end of the daisy-chained configuration of operational node modules is adjacent to and connected to the endpoint control module, the endpoint control module and the daisy-chained configuration of operational node modules being mounted to the mounting bracket for stabilizing the modular sensor system at a specific location within the hazardous environment;

the endpoint control module having a microprocessor, memory in electronic communication with the microprocessor and configured to store the environmental data, the endpoint control module including an I/O port;

a communication component in electronic communication with the microprocessor and with the memory and configured to communicate between the plurality of modules and a remote data collection center associated with the hazardous location;

each of the plurality of operational node modules having a respective endpoint- side I/O port and a respective node-side I/O port, each endpoint-side I/O port configured for mating engagement with the I/O port of the endpoint control module or with the respective node-side I/O port of the adjacent operational node module of the daisy-chained configuration;

at least one of the operational node modules having a sensor configured to detect a predetermined type of environmental data in the hazardous environment;

wherein power and data communications are transmitted through the plurality of I/O ports between the endpoint control module and the daisy-chained configuration of operational node modules; and wherein each of the plurality of modules and I/O ports is compliant with intrinsically safe operational requirements when in operation and when being connected or disconnected with each other while in the hazardous environment. Claim 2. The modular sensor system of claim 1 wherein the power supply includes an internal battery contained within the endpoint control module.

Claim 3. The modular sensor system of claim 1 wherein the endpoint control module further includes an external power port and wherein the power supply includes at least one removeable battery connected to the external power port.

Claim 4. The modular sensor system of claim 1 wherein the power supply includes a battery and wherein the modular sensor system further comprises a battery recharger for connecting the battery to an external A/C power supply.

Claim 5. The modular sensor system of claim 1 wherein the power supply is provided to the endpoint control module from an external A/C power supply and wherein an internal battery is contained within the endpoint control module as a back-up source of power.

Claim 6. The modular sensor system of claim 1 wherein the plurality of modules are mounted to the mounting bracket to maintain alignment and connectivity between the plurality of modules with each other and between each of their respective I/O ports.

Claim 7. The modular sensor system of claim 1 wherein the communication component is contained within the endpoint control module.

Claim 8. The modular sensor system of claim 1 wherein the endpoint control module further includes an external communication port and wherein the communication component comprises an external communication module connected to the external communication port.

Claim 9. The modular sensor system of claim 1 wherein the communication component transmits data to and from the remote data collection center using a wireless or wired communication protocol.

Claim 10. The modular sensor system of claim 1 wherein adjacent I/O ports are configured for mating engagement using a plug and socket arrangement. Claim 11. The modular sensor system of claim 1 wherein adjacent I/O ports are configured for mating engagement using a magnetized connection arrangement.

Claim 12. The modular sensor system of claim 1 wherein the power and data communications transmitted through the plurality of I/O ports is current limited to maintain compliance with intrinsically safe operational requirements.

Claim 13. The modular sensor system of claim 1 wherein the endpoint control module further includes one or more built-in sensors each configured to detect a respective, predetermined type of environmental data in the hazardous environment.

Claim 14. The modular sensor system of claim 1 wherein the sensor associated with the at least one of the operational node modules is contained completely within an external housing of the operational node module.

Claim 15. The modular sensor system of claim 1 wherein the sensor associated with the at least one of the operational node modules extends out of an external housing of the operational node module.

Claim 16. The modular sensor system of claim 1 wherein the at least one of the operational node modules includes a sensor port and wherein the sensor plugs into the sensor port.

Claim 17. The modular sensor system of claim 1 wherein the at least one of the operational node modules includes a sensor port and wherein another operational node module plugs directly into the sensor port to extend the distance of the sensor from the at least one of the operational node modules.

Claim 18. The modular sensor system of claim 1 wherein the at least one of the operational node modules includes a sensor port and wherein another operational node module is located at a distance from the at least one of the operational node modules and is connected to the at least one of the operational node modules using a wired connection extending between the sensor port and a node-side I/O port of the another operational node module. Claim 19. The modular sensor system of claim 1 wherein the at least one of the operational node modules includes a sensor port and wherein a second daisy-chained configuration of operational node modules is located at a distance from the at least one of the operational node modules and is connected to the at least one of the operational node modules using a wired connection extending between the sensor port and a node-side I/O port of the second daisy- chained configuration of operational node modules.

Claim 20. The modular sensor system of claim 1 wherein the at least one of the operational node modules includes a sensor port and wherein a pre-existing legacy sensor associated with the hazardous environment is located at a distance from the at least one of the operational node modules and is connected to the at least one of the operational node modules using a wired connection extending between the sensor port and a I/O port of the pre-existing legacy sensor.

Description:
INTRINSICALLY SAFE MODULAR SENSOR DEVICES AND SYSTEMS

FOR USE IN HAZARDOUS LOCATIONS

Cross Reference to Related Applications

[0001] This patent application claims priority benefit under 35 U.S.C. § 119(e) to U.S. Prov. Pat. Appl. No. 62/652,300, entitled “Intrinsically Safe Daisy-Chained IoT Devices and Systems,” filed April 3, 2018, which is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety.

Field of the Present Technology

[0002] The systems, methods, and devices described herein relate generally to sensor devices and systems for detecting a wide range of environmental and equipment data at industrial facilities and locations. More specifically, the devices and systems described herein enable sensors and power supplies to be deployed easily and quickly, and in a modular fashion, within facilities and locations that are regulated as hazardous environments and that require equipment to comply with intrinsically safe (IS) regulatory standards in order to be permitted for use in such environments.

Background of the Present Technology

[0003] Typical industrial facilities and locations install and make use of a wide range of sensors to monitor and collect environmental data around the facility and around equipment and key locations at the facility. Industries, such as oil and gas, mining, petroleum-chemical, power generation, pharmaceutical, and many others, operate facilities and locations that are regulated as hazardous locations. Equipment installed in areas deemed to be hazardous locations must be certified as intrinsically safe.

[0004] Intrinsic safety requires, for example, that equipment be designed in such a way that it is unable to release sufficient energy, by either thermal or electrical means, which could cause ignition of a flammable substance. The thermal and electrical energies required to ignite various explosive groups have been proven by experimentation. Data has been produced, and can be used, to indicate safe levels of energy for various categories of hazardous environments in which such equipment may be used. Intrinsic safety standards often also requires that such equipment be capable of operating safely under a wide range of environmental conditions, including but not limited to humidity exposure levels, exposure to direct water or precipitation, temperature ranges, pressure ranges, wind levels, dust and particulate exposure.

[0005] Intrinsic safety certifications are overseen by international governing bodies to ensure that certified devices operate safely when used in explosive atmospheres and hazardous environments. The theory behind intrinsic safety is to ensure that the available electrical and thermal energy within equipment installed or used at such locations is always low enough that ignition of the hazardous atmosphere cannot occur.

[0006] A very small amount of energy is required to cause an ignition. For example, a mixture of hydrogen in air requires only 20 pJ of energy to ignite. In electrical circuits the mechanism for the release of this ignition energy is one or more of the following:

Open circuit or short circuit components or interconnections in a resistive circuit;

Short circuit of components or interconnections in a capacitive circuit;

Open circuit components or interconnections in an inductive circuit; or

Ignition by hot surfaces.

[0007] As of July 2003, organizations in the European ETnion (EU) must follow the directives to protect employees from explosion risk in areas with an explosive atmosphere. Globally, most countries and multi-national businesses have adopted the EU standard for defining intrinsic safety called ATEX - (ATmosphere EXplosibles - English, Explosive Atmospheres). In the United States (US), UL 913 is the primary standard. Both UL 913 and ATEX have similar testing methodologies.

[0008] There are two ATEX directives (one for the manufacturer and one for the user of the equipment):

The ATEX 95 equipment directive 94/9/EC applies to equipment and protective systems intended for use in potentially explosive atmospheres; The ATEX 137 workplace directive 99/92/EC defines minimum requirements for improving the safety and health protection of workers potentially at risk from explosive atmospheres.

[0009] Employers must classify areas in which hazardous explosive atmospheres may occur into zones. The classification given to a particular zone, and its size and location, depends on the likelihood of an explosive atmosphere occurring and its persistence if it does.

[0010] Areas classified into zones (0, 1, 2 - for gas-vapor-mist and 20, 21, 22 - for dust) must be protected from potential sources of ignition. Equipment and protective systems that are intended to be used in zoned areas must meet the requirements of the directive. Zone 0 and 20 require Category 1 marked equipment; zone 1 and 21 require Category 2 marked equipment; and zone 2 and 22 require Category 3 marked equipment. Zone 0 and 20 are the zones with the highest risk of an explosive atmosphere being present. See TABLE 1 (below).

[0011] The aim of directive 94/9/EC is to allow the free trade of“ATEX” equipment and protective systems within the EEG by removing the need for separate testing and documentation for each member state.

[0012] The regulations apply to all equipment intended for use in explosive atmospheres, whether electrical or mechanical, including protective systems. There are two categories of equipment: I for mining and II for surface industries. Manufacturers who apply its provisions and affix the CE marking and the‘Ex’ marking are able to sell their equipment anywhere within the EEG without any further requirements being applied with respect to the risks covered. The directive covers a wide range of equipment, potentially including equipment used on fixed offshore platforms, in petrochemical plants, mines, flour mills, and other areas where a potentially explosive atmosphere may be present.

[0013] In very broad terms, there are three preconditions for the directive to apply. Specifically, the equipment: 1) must have its own effective source of ignition; 2) be intended for use in a potentially explosive atmosphere (air mixtures); and 3) be under normal atmospheric conditions.

[0014] Manufacturers/suppliers (or importers, if the manufacturers are outside the EEG) must ensure that their products meet essential health and safety requirements and undergo appropriate conformity procedures for ATEX certification. This usually involves testing and certification by a“third-party” certification body; however, manufacturers/suppliers can“self- certify” Category 3 equipment (technical dossier including drawings, hazard analysis, and user’s manual in the local language) and Category 2 non-electrical equipment. For Category 2, the technical dossier must be lodged with a notified body. Once certified, the equipment is marked by the‘CE’ (meaning it complies with ATEX and all other relevant directives) and ‘Ex’ symbol to identify it as approved under the ATEX directive. The technical dossier must be kept for a period of 10 years.

[0015] Certification ensures that the equipment or protective system is fit for its intended purpose and that adequate information is supplied with it to ensure that it can be used safely.

[0016] There are four ATEX classifications to ensure that a specific piece of equipment or protective system is appropriate and can be safely used in a particular application:

1. Industrial or Mining Application;

2. Equipment Category;

3. Atmosphere; and

4. Temperature.

[0017] EN 60079-11 outlines the ATEX assessment criteria for intrinsic safety. The markings for an ib rated ATEX Category 2 marking could be presented as follows: ATEX II 2G Ex ib IIC T4 (IECEx Gb), where the markings are defined as follows:

II - Electrical Equipment intended for use in places with an explosive gas atmosphere (other than mines susceptible to firedamp).

2G - Equipment suitable for Zone 1 (Gas). Zone 1 - A place in which an explosive atmosphere is likely to occur in normal operation or can be expected to present frequently (10 - 1000 hours/year).

Ex - Symbol indicating explosive protection.

ib - Type of protection, Intrinsic Safety as per EN 60079-11 see Table 1 below. IIC - Explosive gas group, surface industry, typical gas is Acetylene/Hydrogen, < 20 pJ of ignition energy.

T4 - Temperature class, max surface temp of l35°C based on ambient 40°C.

[0018] See TABLE 1 below for further definition.

TABLE 1

[0019] In addressing ATEX standard for intrinsic safety, as defined above in TABLE 1, the level of protection should be defined specific to the use case. In determining the appropriate level of certification, key questions need to be answered, such as where are target users working and is there wireless coverage present. Where zone 0 might reach all employees, wireless service is not likely to exist in these environments. Zone 1“Ex ib” reaches the majority of the labor force, while operating in areas likely to maintain wireless coverage.

[0020] To achieve ib level of protection, the ATEX standard requires, in testing or assessing the circuits for spark ignition, that a safety factor of 1.5 be applied in accordance with section 10.1.4.2 of the directive. The safety factor applied to the voltage or current for the determination of surface temperature classification must be 1.0 in all cases. [0021] Additionally, ib protection requires a fault assessment on all circuits within the system. The system is defined as the entire electronic apparatus - including battery and any accessories operating in the ib rated environment. Faults are defined as follows:

Countable fault - A countable fault is a safety design element that is not fail safe, and can fail under foreseeable conditions.

Non-countable fault - A non-countable fault is a safety design element that is assumed to fail at any time, and is not relied upon for intrinsic safety protection.

Infallible isolation - An infallible component or isolation is one that is not subject to a countable fault or remains safe after being subject to a countable fault.

[0022] In order to test countable faults to determine infallible isolation, the following test standard applies. Non-countable faults applied may differ in each of the below circumstances.

Um = Maximum voltage that can be applied to the non-intrinsically safe connection facilities of associated apparatus without invalidating the type of protection.

Ui = Maximum voltage (peak AC or DC) that can be applied to the connection facilities of apparatus without invalidating the type of protection.

[0023] With Um and Ui applied, the intrinsically safe circuits in an electrical apparatus with a level of protection“ib” must not be capable of causing ignition in each of the following circumstances:

In normal operation and with the application of those non-countable faults which give the most onerous condition.

In normal operation and with the application of one countable fault plus the application of those non-countable faults which give the most onerous condition. [0024] In normal uses, electrical equipment often creates very small internal sparks in switches, motor brushes, connectors, and in other places. Such sparks can ignite flammable substances present in air. For example, during marine transfer operations when flammable products are transferred between the marine terminal and tanker ships or barges, non- intrinsically safe two-way radio communication is kept to a minimum for safety purposes.

[0025] Intrinsic safety can be achieved by ensuring that only low voltages and currents enter the hazardous area, and that all voltage and currents are protected utilizing other means, such as for example but not limited to Zener diodes, capacitors, resistors. Sometimes an alternative type of barrier known as a galvanic isolation barrier may be used. Another aspect of intrinsic safety is controlling abnormal small component temperatures. Under certain fault conditions (such as an internal short inside a semiconductor device), the temperature of a component case can rise to a much higher level than in normal use.

[0026] With the level of protection determined for a device, an assessment of the product is necessary. An intrinsically safe circuit on such device where“ib” level of safety is sought, must satisfy three basic criteria:

No spark ignition can result when the circuit is tested or assessed, as required by Clause 10 for the specified level of protection (see Clause

5) and grouping (see Clause 4) of electrical apparatus.

The temperature classification of intrinsically safe apparatus must be carried out in accordance with 5.6 and the temperatures requirements of IEC 60079-0 so as to ensure that ignition is not caused by hot surfaces. Temperature classification cannot apply to associated apparatus.

The circuit must be adequately separated from other circuits.

[0027] Since most electronic devices include a number of different functional components, the ATEX assessment can be summarized with the following areas:

[0028] (1) Battery - The battery must comply with EN 60079-11 section 7.4 (Primary and secondary cells and batteries) & section 10.5 (Tests for cells and batteries). The battery must be tested for spark ignition, max surface temperature (l35°C), and electrolyte leakage and at least 2 levels of protection.

[0029] Some types of battery cells, particularly lithium types, may explode if short-circuited or subjected to reverse charging. The use of such cells must be confirmed by their manufacturer as being safe and compliant for use in intrinsically safe equipment as well as EN 60079-11.

[0030] If a device contains battery cells that will not be changed while in an explosive atmosphere, the spark ignition discharge at the terminals of a single cell does not have to be tested, provided that the single cell delivers a peak open-circuit voltage of less than 4.5 V (reference EN 60079-11).

[0031] A battery that supplies less than 33W under short circuit conditions may be exempt from spark ignition testing. If the battery has the potential to supply more than 33 W under short circuit conditions, it must pass a short circuit test, and not exceed a surface temperature of l35°C (T4), and electrolyte leakage is not allowed. The test must be conducted on 10 samples, and without the use of protection devices, unless such devices are encapsulated with the battery cell.

[0032] (2) Capacitance - The total system capacitance cannot exceed the limits outlined in

EN 60079-11 Table A.2 (Allowable capacitance = 370 pF (Group IIC, 4.25V, l.5x safety factor)). (See FIG. 4). Circuit capacitance must be limited to ensure that the available electrical and thermal energy in the system is always low enough that ignition of the hazardous atmosphere cannot occur.

[0033] To maintain performance standards set by communication governing bodies including but not limited to FCC, RT&TE, GCF, PTCRB and others, if power requirements of a device exceed 370 pF, isolated PCB design and structure must be custom configured. Methods for achieving this goal include, but are not limited to:

The charging circuitry is not to be used in the hazardous environment, therefore it can be ignored as long as it is inactive, and isolated from the rest of the circuitry.

Eliminate any unnecessary capacitance. Limit working voltages to allow for higher capacitance.

Infallibly isolate major system blocks.

Evaluate local working voltage.

Must be fault tolerant.

Isolate charging circuitry.

Employ Zener barriers for fault immunity.

2 levels of redundancy.

Local encapsulation of highly capacitive electrical nodes

Must be infallibly isolated.

[0034] A very intense and detailed analysis of the system from a capacitance/power perspective is required. The results of this analysis will reveal what capacitance (if any) can be reduced, or eliminated, and what the effective system capacitance really looks like. Based on the effective capacitance, a trade-off study can be completed to identify appropriate areas in the design to be isolated, and encapsulated, or clamped to a more favorable working voltage.

[0035] (3) Inductance - (reference EN 60079-11).

[0036] (4) Surface Temperature - Max allowable surface temperature under normal, and fault conditions is l34°C (T4).

[0037] (5) Detailed stress analysis required for each component, including battery, PCB traces, and any wiring.

Evaluate maximum power dissipation and surface temperature.

Evaluate under most onerous fault conditions.

Evaluate at 40°C ambient.

Perform stress analysis, and address non-compliant components on a

case-by-case basis. Enclosure - The enclosure must be in compliance with environmental requirements as well as thermal conditioning, and impact tests outlined in IEC 60079-0.

Housing should be anti-static in nature.

Marked properly pursuant to IAW EN60079-11.

Subject to drop test pursuant to IAW IEC 60079-0.

Battery compartment must be secured with special fasteners pursuant

to IAW EN60079-11.

External contacts for charging must be enclosed.

• Enclosure > IP30.

• Contacts must be separated per EN 60079-11 clause 6.3.

Glass beads (or equivalent) to displace volatile gas.

• May lighten requirements related to spark ignition or surface temp.

• Enclosure should be designed per the specifications of the Environmental Test Plan. Components of this plan include:

• Highly durable, heat and chemical resistant materials.

• Shock and Drop Tested to standards such as Mil Std 810 G

• IP67 or above dust and water proof test

[0038] (6) RF - Ignition hazards from RF radiation - Typical threshold power for group IIC is 2W CW max. The system may be utilized for life safety applications and managing the trade off of communications quality with certification safety has to be managed. PTCRB, GCF, FCC, CE, RT&TE among other wireless radio certifications impact performance guidelines and are established independent of ATEX or EIL safety standards.

[0039] Establish infallibly limit RF output power to remain compliant without adverse impact to the communications quality of the system. [0040] (7) Piezo-electric Devices

[0041] The maximum energy stored by the capacitance of a crystal at the maximum measured voltage shall not exceed 50 pj for Group IIC apparatus.

[0042] Requires impact testing I AW IEC 60079-0

[0043] Address non-compliant components on a case-by-case basis, Energy limiting methods may apply.

[0044] (8) Creepage/clearance - Creepage distance - Creepage distance is the shortest path between two conductive parts (or between a conductive part and the bounding surface of the equipment) measured along the surface of the insulation. A proper and adequate creepage distance protects against tracking, a process that produces a partially conducting path of localized deterioration on the surface of an insulating material as a result of the electric discharges on or close to an insulation surface. The degree of tracking required depends on two major factors: the comparative tracking index (CTI) of the material and the degree of pollution in the environment. Used for electrical insulating materials, the CTI provides a numerical value of the voltage that will cause failure by tracking during standard testing.

[0045] (9) Clearance distance - Clearance distance is the shortest distance between two conductive parts (or between a conductive part and the bounding surface of the equipment) measured through air. Clearance distance helps prevent dielectric breakdown between electrodes caused by the ionization of air. The dielectric breakdown level is further influenced by relative humidity, temperature, and degree of pollution in the environment.

External Creepage Distance

Internal Creepage Distance

Insulation Thickness

Clearance Distance

[0046] Some things to consider when analyzing the Creepage/Clearance requirements for this or any design are:

Soldermask does not provide an effective barrier to Creepage. Conformal Coating can provide good protection, and eliminate the path for breakdown.

Running traces under components should be avoided.

[0047] Currently, facilities in or having hazardous locations typically design and install environmental sensors on a case-by-case basis. The sensor itself is usually an off-the-shelf item, but to comply with IS standards, the power supply, housing, shielding, mounting, and communication requirements must be customized to support the specific sensor and the location at which it is being installed. Despite on-going improvements in wireless communication and technology associated with electrical and electronic equipment, it is often cost-prohibitive in design or certification requirements to try to retrofit or replace a pre-existing legacy sensor in hazardous locations with a more up-to-date sensor that has, for example, Internet of Things (IoT) capabilities.

[0048] Therefore, there is a need for systems, devices, and methods for installing, retrofitting, and using environmental data sensors in hazardous environments in a manner that is safe, IS compliant, cost-effective, versatile and easy to install, and easy to configure and reconfigure in real time.

[0049] Further advantages, needs, features, and improvements, as well as additional aspects and business applications provided by the present inventions, when compared to conventional systems, methods, and devices, are disclosed herein and will become readily apparent to one of ordinary skill in the art after reading and studying the following summary, the detailed description of preferred embodiments, and the claims included hereinafter.

Summary of the Present Technology

[0050] The present inventions described herein relate generally to systems, methods, and devices for detecting a wide range of environmental and equipment data at industrial facilities and locations. More specifically, the systems, methods, and devices described herein enable sensors and power supplies to be deployed easily and quickly, and in a modular fashion, within facilities and locations that are regulated as hazardous environments and that require equipment to comply with intrinsically safe (IS) regulatory standards in order to be permitted for use in such environments. Briefly described, aspects of the present invention include the following. [0051] In a first aspect of the invention, a modular sensor system for monitoring environmental data in a hazardous environment, comprises a mounting bracket, a power supply, and a plurality of modules including an endpoint control module and a plurality of operational node modules adjacent to each other and connected to each other in a daisy-chain configuration, wherein one end of the daisy-chained configuration of operational node modules is adjacent to and connected to the endpoint control module, the endpoint control module and the daisy-chained configuration of operational node modules being mounted to the mounting bracket for stabilizing the modular sensor system at a specific location within the hazardous environment, the endpoint control module has a microprocessor, has memory in electronic communication with the microprocessor and is configured to store the environmental data, the endpoint control module includes an I/O port, a communication component is in electronic communication with the microprocessor and with the memory and is configured to communicate between the plurality of modules and a remote data collection center associated with the hazardous location, each of the plurality of operational node modules has a respective endpoint-side I/O port and a respective node-side I/O port, each endpoint-side I/O port is configured for mating engagement with the I/O port of the endpoint control module or with the respective node-side I/O port of the adjacent operational node module of the daisy-chained configuration, at least one of the operational node modules has a sensor configured to detect a predetermined type of environmental data in the hazardous environment, wherein power and data communications are transmitted through the plurality of I/O ports between the endpoint control module and the daisy-chained configuration of operational node modules, and wherein each of the plurality of modules and I/O ports is compliant with intrinsically safe operational requirements when in operation and when being connected or disconnected with each other while in the hazardous environment.

[0052] In a feature, the power supply includes an internal battery contained within the endpoint control module. In another feature, the endpoint control module further includes an external power port and the power supply includes at least one removeable battery connected to the external power port. In a further feature, the power supply includes a battery and the modular sensor system further comprises a battery recharger for connecting the battery to an external A/C power supply. In yet another feature, the power supply is provided to the endpoint control module from an external A/C power supply and an internal battery is also included within the endpoint control module as a back-up source of power. [0053] Preferably, the plurality of modules are mounted to the mounting bracket, among other reasons, to maintain alignment and connectivity between the plurality of modules with each other and between each of their respective I/O ports.

[0054] In one embodiment, the communication component is contained within the endpoint control module. In other embodiments, the endpoint control module further includes an external communication port and the communication component comprises an external communication module connected to the external communication port. Preferably, the communication component transmits data to and from the remote data collection center using a wireless or wired communication protocol.

[0055] In a further feature, adjacent I/O ports are configured for mating engagement using a plug and socket arrangement. Alternatively, or in combination with the plug and socket arrangement, adjacent I/O ports are configured for mating engagement using a magnetized connection arrangement.

[0056] In another feature, the power and data communications transmitted through the plurality of I/O ports is current or energy limited to maintain compliance with intrinsically safe operational requirements.

[0057] In one embodiment, the endpoint control module further includes one or more built- in sensors each configured to detect a respective, predetermined type of environmental data in the hazardous environment. In other embodiments, the sensor associated with the at least one of the operational node modules is contained completely within an external housing of the operational node module. In further embodiments, the sensor associated with the at least one of the operational node modules extends out of an external housing of the operational node module. In some embodiments, the at least one of the operational node modules includes a sensor port. In one feature, the sensor plugs into the sensor port. In another feature, another operational node module plugs directly into the sensor port to extend the distance of the sensor from the at least one of the operational node modules. In another feature, another operational node module is located at a distance from the at least one of the operational node modules and is connected to the at least one of the operational node modules using a wired connection extending between the sensor port and a node-side I/O port of the another operational node module. In a further feature, a second daisy-chained configuration of operational node modules is located at a distance from the at least one of the operational node modules and is connected to the at least one of the operational node modules using a wired connection extending between the sensor port and a node-side I/O port of the second daisy-chained configuration of operational node modules. In another feature, a pre-existing legacy sensor associated with the hazardous environment is located at a distance from the at least one of the operational node modules and is connected to the at least one of the operational node modules using a wired connection extending between the sensor port and a I/O port of the pre-existing legacy sensor.

[0058] To the extent required, the present inventions also encompass computer-readable media having computer-executable instructions for performing methods, functions, and sub processes of the present inventions, and computer networks and other systems that implement the methods, functions, and sub-processes of the present inventions.

[0059] Further advantages, needs, features, and improvements, as well as additional aspects and business applications provided by the present inventions, when compared to conventional systems, methods, and devices, are disclosed herein and will become readily apparent to one of ordinary skill in the art after reading and studying the following summary, the detailed description of preferred embodiments, and the claims included hereinafter.

Brief Description of the Drawings

[0060] The foregoing summary, as well as the following detailed description of illustrative embodiments, is better understood when read in conjunction with the appended drawings. For the purpose of illustrating the embodiments, there is shown in the drawings example constructions of the embodiments; however, the embodiments are not limited to the specific methods and instrumentalities disclosed. In addition, further features and benefits of the present technology will be apparent from a detailed description of preferred embodiments thereof taken in conjunction with the following drawings, wherein similar elements are referred to with similar reference numbers, and wherein:

[0061] FIG. 1 is a high level system view of various embodiments of the present invention;

[0062] FIG. 2 is an exploded, side view of various components of one embodiment of a modular sensor system of the present invention;

[0063] FIGS. 3A-3D illustrate embodiments and arrangements for a variety of operational node modules according to the present invention; and [0064] FIG. 4 illustrates Table A.2a from safety standard EN 60079-11, showing permissible capacitance relative to voltage to satisfy safety standards under. EN 60079-11.

Detailed Description of Preferred Embodiments

[0065] Before the present technologies, systems, products, articles of manufacture, apparatuses, and methods are disclosed and described in greater detail hereinafter, it is to be understood that the present technologies, systems, products, articles of manufacture, apparatuses, and methods are not limited to particular arrangements, specific components, or particular implementations. It is also to be understood that the terminology used herein is for the purpose of describing particular aspects and embodiments only and is not intended to be limiting.

[0066] As used in the specification and the appended claims, the singular forms“a,”“an” and“the” include plural referents unless the context clearly dictates otherwise. Similarly, “optional” or“optionally” means that the subsequently described event or circumstance may or may not occur, and the description includes instances in which the event or circumstance occurs and instances where it does not.

[0067] Throughout the description and claims of this specification, the word“comprise” and variations of the word, such as“comprising” and“comprises,” mean“including but not limited to,” and is not intended to exclude, for example, other components, integers, elements, features, or steps. “Exemplary” means“an example of’ and is not necessarily intended to convey an indication of preferred or ideal embodiments. “Such as” is not used in a restrictive sense, but for explanatory purposes only.

[0068] Disclosed herein are components that can be used to implement the technologies, systems, products, articles of manufacture, apparatuses, and methods described herein. These and other components are disclosed or described herein, and it is to be understood that when combinations, subsets, interactions, groups, etc. of these components are disclosed that, while specific reference to each various individual and collective combinations and permutation of these may not be explicitly disclosed, each is specifically contemplated and described herein, for all technologies, systems, products, articles of manufacture, apparatuses, and methods. This applies to all aspects of this specification including, but not limited to, steps in disclosed methods. Thus, if there are a variety of additional steps that can be performed, it is understood that each of the additional steps can be performed with any specific embodiment or combination of embodiments of the disclosed technologies, systems, products, articles of manufacture, apparatuses, and methods.

[0069] As will be appreciated by one skilled in the art, embodiments of the present technologies, systems, products, articles of manufacture, apparatuses, and methods may be described below with reference to block diagrams and flowchart illustrations of methods, systems, processes, steps, and apparatuses. It will be understood that each block of the block diagrams and flow illustrations, respectively, support combinations of means for performing the specified functions and/or combinations of steps for performing the specified functions.

[0070] The present systems, methods, and devices enable automatic configuration of actions to be performed by the modular sensor system disclosed herein based on the type of environmental location in which the components or modules is being used.

[0071 ] The present systems, methods, and devices are designed to meet the high international standards for safety in hazardous locations to enable large-scale, deployable IoT platforms for industries that operate such hazardous locations or in such hazardous environments. Hazardous locations are defined, under international standards, as those areas prone to an explosion and more specifically defined under the ATEX, IECEx and EIL 913 standards. The present systems, methods, and devices are designed to be field-customizable to meet highly localized monitoring requirements in a diversity of critical operational situations, as found from off shore rigs to chemical production plants. The present systems, methods, and devices are support secure open standards to connect to major cloud platforms tor o private on-premise systems. Further, the present systems, methods, and devices are designed to operate in block chain architecture to ensure immutability of data and shared authentication.

[0072] Referring now to the drawings, in which like numerals illustrate like elements throughout the several views, FIG. l is a high level view of a facility 100 located in a hazardous environment 25 employing modular sensor systems, methods, and devices according to the principles and techniques described herein. More specifically, FIG. 1 illustrates the facility 100, which includes an enclosed building 15, which is isolated and considered a safe space within the hazardous environment 25. Equipment within the enclosed building 15 does not have to meet or comply with intrinsically safe requirements. The isolated building 15 can be deemed to be a remote central data collection center for the facility 100 or can be used as an intermediate point to communicate with a remote data collection center (not shown) located geographically distant from the facility 100.

[0073] The facility has a number of pre-existing legacy sensors 50 located at different points around the facility. These points around the facility indicate areas where specific environmental conditions or equipment need to be monitored. Legacy sensor 50a is shown near the enclosed building 15 and is hard-wired directly thereto using cabling 35. Cabling 35 can be used to provide data from the legacy sensor 50a to the enclosed building 15 and may also be used to provide power thereto. Legacy sensor 50b is shown somewhat further away from the enclosed building 15 and has been configured to transmit data wirelessly 45 to the enclosed building 15. Although wireless data transmission is not frequently used with legacy sensors 50b, such capabilities can be implemented at existing facilities on a sensor-by-sensor basis, but at great expense and design effort.

[0074] Several modular sensor systems 200 according to the teachings herein are also shown installed and in operation at the facility 100. Modular sensor system 200a is shown near the enclosed building 15 and is hard-wired directly thereto using cabling 55. Cabling 55 can be used to provide data from the modular sensor systems 200 to the enclosed building 15 and may also be used to provide power thereto. A singular modular sensor system 200b is shown somewhat further away from the enclosed building 15 and has been configured, as described herein, to transmit data wirelessly 45 to the enclosed building 15. Two modular sensor systems 200c are also shown at different locations at the facility 100. Each of these two modular sensor systems 200c are connected to pre-existing legacy sensors 50c. By connecting to the modular sensor systems 200c, the pre-existing legacy sensors 50c are able to provide data directly to the modular sensor systems 200c and have their data transmitted wirelessly 45 to the enclosed building 15. Finally, modular sensor system 200d is shown connected or linked, by cabling 65, to another modular sensor system 200e. Data from each of these linked modular sensor system 200d, 200e is preferably transmitted wirelessly 45 to the enclosed building 15.

[0075] In FIG. 2, a preferred embodiment of a modular sensor system 200 is illustrated in exploded, disconnected side view in order to show the various connection points between modules, when not connected. The modular sensor system 200 includes an endpoint control module 210, a plurality of operational node modules 220a, 220b, 220n, a battery pack 230 used to supply power to the modules 210, 220, and an optional battery recharger 240 having a cord 245 that may be used to connect the battery pack 230 to an external A/C power supply. A communication component 250 is preferably connected to the endpoint control module 210 to enable the endpoint control module 210 to communicate wirelessly to the remote data collection center.

[0076] Preferably, the modules 210, 220 and battery 230 are configured to mount securely, but removably, to a mounting bracket 260. The mounting bracket 260 is used to stabilize the various components of the modular sensor system 200 and to assist in aligning and maintaining the data and power connections between the same, using the I/O ports described hereinafter. The endpoint control module 210 includes an I/O port 212 to provide data communications and power to the one or more operational node modules 220a, 220b, 220n that extend from and are connected in a daisy-chain arrangement off of the endpoint control module 210. Each of the one or more operational node modules 220a, 220b, 220n includes a respective endpoint- side I/O port 224a, 224b, 224n and a respective node-side I/O port 222a, 222b, 222n. Each of the endpoint-side I/O ports 224a, 224b, 224n is configured to connect or plug into the I/O port 212 of the endpoint control module 210 or to a node-side I/O port 222a, 222b, 222n of an adjacent operational node module 220. Each of the operational node modules 220 shown includes a sensor 226a, 226b, 226n for detecting a specific environmental data point at the facility.

[0077] The endpoint control module 210 includes a communication port 216 to enable an external communication component 250 to connect thereto using its own port or socket 252. The endpoint control module 210 also includes a power port or socket 214 to enable the external battery 230 to connect thereto using its own port or socket 232. The external battery pack 230 includes a charging socket 234 for connection to the optional battery recharger 240 using its own port or socket 242.

[0078] FIGS. 3A-3D illustrate various operational node module embodiments and arrangement that could be used or interchanged with any of the operational node modules 226 shown in IG. 2. FIG. 3A illustrates the basic operational node module 300 similar to all of those illustrated in FIG. 2. The basic operational node module 300 includes an endpoint-side I/O port 324 and a node-side I/O port 322. The endpoint-side I/O port 324 is configured to connect or plug into the I/O port 212 of the endpoint control module 210 (as shown in FIG. 2) or to a node-side I/O port 322 of an adjacent operational node module (not shown). The basic operational node module 300 includes a built-in sensor. [0079] FIG. 3B illustrates a slightly modified operational node module 320 that includes an endpoint-side I/O port 334 and a node-side I/O port 332. The endpoint-side I/O port 334 is configured to connect or plug into the I/O port 212 of the endpoint control module 210 (as shown in FIG. 2) or to a node-side I/O port 322 of an adjacent operational node module (not shown). The slightly modified operational node module 320 includes a socket 326 that can be used to insert a removable sensor (not shown). As shown, a node extender 340 plugs into the socket 326 through its own socket 344. The node extender 340 also has a node-side I/O port 342 for connection with the basic operational node module 300 using endpoint-side I/O port 324 (as previously shown in FIG. 3A). The basic operational node module 300 includes a built-in sensor 326.

[0080] FIG. 3C illustrates the slightly modified operational node module 320 (shown in FIG. 3B) that includes the endpoint-side I/O port 334 and the node-side I/O port 332. The endpoint- side I/O port 334 is configured to connect or plug into the I/O port 212 of the endpoint control module 210 (as shown in FIG. 2) or to a node-side I/O port 322 of an adjacent operational node module (not shown). The slightly modified operational node module 320 includes the socket 326 that can be used to insert a removable sensor (not shown). As shown, a cable 370, having end sockets 372 and 374, enables the slightly modified operational node module 320 to connect to a remotely-located basic operational node module 300 (as shown in FIG. 3 A) between socket 336 of the slightly modified operational node module 320 and the node-side I/O port 322 of the basic operational node module 300. As shown, the basic operational node module 300 again includes a built-in sensor 326.

[0081] Although not shown, it should be understood that the node extender 340 of FIG. 3B and the cable 370 of FIG. 3C can be used to connect not just to a single, basic operational node module 300, but to a plurality of daisy-chained basic operational node modules. In such a design, it is preferable, for stability and I/O port alignment purposes, for such plurality of daisy- chained basic operational node modules to be mounted to its own mounting bracket.

[0082] Turning now to FIG. 3D, the slightly modified operational node module 320 (shown in FIG. 3B) that includes the endpoint-side I/O port 334, the node-side I/O port 332, and socket 326 can be used to connect to a legacy sensor 305 that may already be installed at a facility in a hazardous location. A suitable cable 390, having end sockets 292 and 394, connects between socket 326 of the slightly modified operational node module 320 and socket 307 of the legacy sensor 305. [0083] Additional details of the systems and components shown in FIGS. 1-3D are described below in greater detail.

[0084] The present systems, methods, and devices operating in areas deemed as hazardous due to the risk of spark ignition meet a broad range of global and country-specific certifications. More specifically, components described herein are designed intrinsically safe and do not rely on explosion proof housings. The diversity of hazardous locations and the requirement for a diversity of“things” to be monitored require the devices to: (i) support hot-swappable sensor nodes, meaning sensor nodes can be replaced in a hazardous location; (ii) low-cost installation including scalable battery power and universal mounting methods including, for example, DIN rails or other such similar methods of mounting and stabilizing the component when installed and in use; (iii) low-cost cloud integration and, therefore, having the operational node modules configured to be self-identifiable and having pre-configured threshold settings based on the environmental data being sensed by such node. To meet IS certification requirements, the various components of the modular sensor systems described herein are designed to withstand and be used in the following operating conditions, including but not limited to: (i) Low temp (-20° C) environments, (ii) High temp (+60° C) environments, (iii) Salt Air, Salt Spray conditions, (iv) IP 67 or higher certification, (v) Corrosive Environment, (vi) Vibration - Fixed mounted, (vii) Variability of up to 32 custom operational nodes connected to a single endpoint control node.

[0085] Typically, A/C power outlets do not exist in hazardous locations; therefore, DC systems with“daisy chain” battery design are preferably used to enable long-life operation in a hazardous location with limited installation cost. Additionally, each endpoint has the option for an internal power back-up for redundancy to maintain critical communications.

[0086] Preferably, it is desirable to be able to provide IS certification for the modular sensor system described herein so that end users and facility operators can mix and match pre- configured nodes or nodes with legacy 3 ld 0party sensors to give a holistic view of operations at the facility or within the hazardous location.

[0087] Preferably, operational node modules may monitor basic “vital signs” at each endpoint to establish baselines for conditional machine learning. Rather than simply monitoring for a single gas, for example, understanding vital data enables the present system to predict plumes, future failures, and predictive outcomes in hazardous locations. Vital sign that are typically monitored using the herein described system include: Vibration, Light, Temperature, Humidity, Air Pressure, Power, and Connectivity. IoT sensors can improve efficiency. By deploying an effective mobile integrated IoT strategy, oil and gas companies have the potential to capture their share of $600 billion of value at stake between 2016 and 2025, according to Cisco Consulting Services. For a $50 billion O&G firm, this translates into an 11 percent bottom-line (EBIT) improvement.

[0088] The endpoint control node preferably hosts a motherboard and I/O ports for connecting to the operation node modules. Each operation node module preferably hosts individual sensors and intelligence to identify itself to the motherboard on the endpoint control node. Each endpoint and node is connected by an I/O port with power and communications.

[0089] The port connections described herein enables the connection of endpoints and nodes (up to 32 in a single daisy-chain configuration) while operating safely in a hazardous location. The port connections allow for continual operation, connection and disconnection without creating an arc, spark, or heat at such a level to ignite hydrogen in a concentration, as defined by IECEx Zone 1, ATEX Zone 1 or LIL 913 Class 1 Division 1 designated areas. Additionally, the port connections are designed to meet IP 67 standards for water and dust ingress protection and to operate, connect, and disconnect safely in inclement conditions, including water and salt spray conditions.

[0090] As described above, each endpoint and node is preferably equipped with a communications and data port that is designed as intrinsically safe. Each endpoint or node has two port connectors (a male connector on one side of the endpoint or node and a female connector on the other side of the endpoint or node). The port connectors (male and female) are comprised of multiple terminals and each port terminal and a corresponding wire connection has a current limiting feature, which preferably includes a resistor or such other current limiting component, to limit the energy on each terminal to maintain IS compliance. The current limiting feature on each terminal creates an intrinsically safe terminal during operation, connection, and disconnection. Bus communications are modified to enable the slave (node) components to initiate communications with the master (endpoint). This enables power savings across the system, whereas each slave device alerts the master only on condition changes - rather than the conventional master-slave communication protocol that requires the master to poll slaves for status or conditions. By controlling the current on each terminal to be intrinsically safe, each port connector is therefore made intrinsically safe during operation, connection, and disconnection. With both the male and female port connectors intrinsically safe, the subsequent operation of each connection between endpoints or nodes likewise remains intrinsically safe during operation, connection, and disconnection. Therefore, the entire system of daisy-chained connections between endpoint and nodes remains intrinsically safe during operation, connection, and disconnection.

[0091] Preferably, endpoints and nodes are preferably housed in a cold-cast, two-or-more resin component material that provides each component with high electro-static discharge (ESD) qualities that creates a limited resistance surface, chemical resistance, and environmental protection. This approach ensures the long field-life of each component and its compliance to ESD requirements for hazardous locations while avoiding the need for standard cylindrical metal or plastic housings traditionally used in explosive environments. Further, this method enables each component to remain lightweight and easy to install, which mitigates high installation costs. By using this design method of low-cost (acquisition and installation) IoT devices for hazardous locations, pervasive monitoring can be obtained, which is a necessary component for effective machine learning.

[0092] In preferred embodiments, the system includes a software-based IoT Configurator, which is an on-line application with which users can select from a list of nodes to attach to endpoints in order to: (i) Suggest sensor nodes necessary to monitor data variables (“things”) in a hazardous environment, such as gases, ambient conditions, vibration, etc., (ii) Suggest the appropriate or necessary communications node to meet bandwidth, range, and other variables that would be addressed based on the location of the sensor nodes, such as wi-fi, LTE, Bluetooth, LoRa, etc.; (iii) Determine the appropriate or necessary power supply requirements to meet the operational requirements of the nodes and the anticipated reporting requirements, such power supply requirements including one or more battery nodes, charging nodes, or A/C power source - specifically, the configurator calculates the current draw of the endpoint and all nodes daisy-chained on each installation based on operational and reporting settings and determines the number of battery nodes necessary to operate the system. Each node installation can support multiple battery nodes while maintaining its IS certification for operation in hazardous locations; and (iv) Determine if 3rd party sensors can integrate into a“wild-card” node that supports any sensing device that has been certified to operate in a hazardous location with an operating amperage ranging between 4 and 20 mA. [0093] In preferred embodiments, endpoints can support up to 32 of any of the following exemplary types of sensor nodes, including duplicates of each: Temperature, Light, Humidity, Air Pressure, Vibration, LED System Status, Gas (Oxygen 02), Gas (Carbon Dioxide C02), Gas (Carbon Monoxide CO), Gas (Methane CH4), Gas (Nitrogen Dioxide N02), Gas (Sulphur Dioxide S02), Gas (Ethanol C2H60), Gas (Butane C4H10), Gas (LPG), Gas (Hexane C6H14), Gas (Smoke), Gas (Hydrogen H2), Gas (Ammonia H3), Gas (Ozone), Gas (Hydrogen Sulfide H2S), Gas (Phosphine H3P), Air Quality (Dust), Nuclear Radiation, Laser (Pipe Alignment^, Laser (Gas Detection), Pipe Pressure, Fire/Flash, Pipe Sonar, Wind direction, Wind Speed, Rain Gauge, Light Intensity, Proximity, Sound Intensity, Wi-Fi Radio, LTE Ml / MB1 Radio, LTE Cat 9 Radio, Bluetooth Radio, LiFi Radio, LoRa Radio, NFC, "Wild Card" 4 -20mA Node, DC Power Input (Solar/Wind), AC Power Input, and Battery.

[0094] Additionally, sensors may be embedded in a node or configured as a tethered connection from a node to reach remote locations that may not be accessible by the installed endpoint/node configured device, as described with reference to FIGS. 3 A-3D.

[0095] Nodes types (as listed above) that are connected to an endpoint wirelessly communicate, using the endpoint, to a system that preferably includes a database or other similar data management application, identify themselves to the system, and then the system automatically updates the database on the installation and performance thresholds of the corresponding operation node module.

[0096] A carbon dioxide node, attached to an endpoint, is illustrative of how the system works. The CO operational node module has stored performance and threshold values for a carbon dioxide sensor. These values are updated in a monitoring database, which removes the need for software “cloud” development each time a node is operating, connected, or disconnected. The physical system is virtually mirrored in a cloud instance without integration or additional provisioning. The end user or facility operator has the ability to customize the sensor node settings, if necessary, including but not limited to alternate thresholds, warning/alarm levels, units, reading frequency, etc. The immense number of possible configurations for each endpoint/32-node system installation, and its ability to be field- modified at any time, would conventionally be expected to present an immeasurable software configuration challenge. The IoT node self-provisioning configuration enables rapid and low- cost deployments of vastly customizable sensor solutions in hazardous environments. [0097] In vast and diverse hazardous locations, the ability to monitor operations in real-time drives operational excellence. To ensure accuracy of data captured, easy and low-cost integration and integrity of a monitoring system is desirable. The present system does this by enabling IoT nodes to“self-identify” themselves, as they are daisy-chained to an endpoint. This mitigates the requirement of programming a cloud or on-premises monitoring application and creating an opportunity for a sensor node to be mis-identified. Given also the hot- swappable nature of the nodes in a hazardous location, users can continue to trade out, replace, add, or remove sensor nodes from an endpoint and subsequently update a monitoring application as such changes occur. Each IS sensor node module is configured for easy plug and play using the following data parameters that are communicated by each operational node with the endpoint control module: (i) Unique Serial Number (e.g.“SENS000001” through “S999999999”); (ii) property/data variable that is measured (e.g. “temperature”), (iii) Measurement Unit (e.g.“°C”), (iv) Min. value (e.g.“-50”), (v) Max. value (e.g.“+120”), (v) Noise threshold (e.g.”0.2”) - no new data will be sent until the measurements are within the threshold limit compared to the last data that was sent; (vi) Low warning level / High warning level; and (vii) Low alarm level / High alarm level. Each IoT (non-sensor) node preferably includes its own Unique Serial Number (e.g.“NODEOOOOOl” through“N999999999”). And each endpoint control module preferably also includes its own Unique Serial Number (e.g. “GATEW00001” through“G999999999”).

[0098] Finally, the modular approach (swappable Endpoint and Nodes) allows for different power management configurations: (i) Nodes that enable AC power for power intensive applications (Wi-Fi, LTE, video (camera), power consuming sensors, etc.); (ii) Battery nodes that can be daisy-chained for low power communications, low current draw sensors, and/or back-up power for AC power configurations; (iii) DC input nodes for energy harvesting (running on batteries that are charged from solar panels or wind turbines, etc.). Low energy consuming configurations require special system architecture: (i) Certain parts of the system preferably go to sleep mode when not in use; (ii) Programmed node thresholds can turn off communication during stable and normal periods. For example, Nodes will only communicate if the set interval is reached or the measured value crosses a set threshold. Further, this kind of communication setup enables each node in the daisy-chain independently to initiate a communication using the endpoint without powering up any other node and further initiate a communication to a remote cloud or on premises monitoring system. [0099] In view of the foregoing detailed description of preferred embodiments of the present invention, it readily will be understood by those persons skilled in the art that the present invention is susceptible to broad utility and application. While various aspects have been described herein, additional aspects, features, and methodologies of the present invention will be readily discernable therefrom. Many embodiments and adaptations of the present invention other than those herein described, as well as many variations, modifications, and equivalent arrangements and methodologies, will be apparent from or reasonably suggested by the present invention and the foregoing description thereof, without departing from the substance or scope of the present invention. Furthermore, any sequence(s) and/or temporal order of steps of various processes described and claimed herein are those considered to be the best mode contemplated for carrying out the present invention. It should also be understood that, although steps of various processes may be shown and described as being in a preferred sequence or temporal order, the steps of any such processes are not limited to being carried out in any particular sequence or order, absent a specific indication of such to achieve a particular intended result. In most cases, the steps of such processes may be carried out in various different sequences and orders, while still falling within the scope of the present inventions. In addition, some steps may be carried out simultaneously. Accordingly, while the present invention has been described herein in detail in relation to preferred embodiments, it is to be understood that this disclosure is only illustrative and exemplary of the present invention and is made merely for purposes of providing a full and enabling disclosure of the invention. The foregoing disclosure is not intended nor is to be construed to limit the present invention or otherwise to exclude any such other embodiments, adaptations, variations, modifications and equivalent arrangements, the present invention being limited only by the claims appended hereto and the equivalents thereof.