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5G shakes instrument engineering to its foundations

5G shakes instrument engineering to its foundations

How Omnidots can instantly connect the dots

Piling builders, roaring trains, humming pumps and genuine earthquakes – the earth is shaking quite a bit under our feet. Omnidots, a Groningen-based company, has developed a device to measure these tremors better than ever. Accurately, cheap and, thanks to 5G, wireless and fast in the bargain. Director Marko Bolt explains.

Omnidots conducts a pilot at 5Groningen, the testing ground for the latest generation of mobile internet: 5G. 5Groningen is an initiative of Economic Board Groningen. Here, entrepreneurs and not-for-profit organizations work with experts like VodafoneZiggo to develop use cases with 5G.

Instrument box
In the old days, you sometimes ran across a seismograph in old buildings. A device under a bell jar, accurately recording the slightest motions of the building by drawing lines of ink on a roll of paper. The trouble with this kind of seismometers was that you had to physically go to the machine to get hold of the measurement results. And those devices were quite costly too. Just like the next generation of seismometers, large boxes packed with electronics, saving the measurements on a hard drive. If you are lucky, it contains a modem. If not, you have to use a flash drive to collect the data.

Focus
"There must and should be a better way to do this, my associates and I thought", says Marko Bolt. That belief led to the inception of Omnidots. A company measuring external influences like tremors in a modern and simple way. Bolt: "Our first product is the Swarm, a handy-sized wireless sensor that instantly transmits its measurement data."

Real-time
All tremors caused by builders, hauliers and industry are subject to guidelines and standards. These have been defined to prevent damage and nuisance to the environment. The sooner you notice values are being exceeded, the better your chances to limit the damage. For this reason it is essential that you receive the data right away, day and night, instead of having to collect them every now and then. Bolt: "This is where our online platform comes in. It provides our customers with a real-time overview of everything their Swarm devices record. If a limit value is exceeded, the customer is immediately notified. As a result he can go and inspect the location in question and take any necessary action."

Pilot
The Swarm was launched back in 2017, at the end of that year. Bolt: "But innovation never stops, of course, also in our line of business. Take the arrival of 5G, for example. This new network offers so many great opportunities for our application. Faster data transmission, lower latency and more energy efficiency." To test these benefits, Omnidots engaged in a pilot with 5Groningen. The result is a collaboration project together with MUG Consulting Engineers, the University of Groningen and VodafoneZiggo. Bolt: "MUG combines our data that are transmitted by NB-IoT with other measurement data and available information about a building and the piece of land on which it has been erected. In this way locations can be monitored very accurately."

Test church
In this pilot 5G is tested in an extraordinary project. Bolt: "Our guinea pig is the Walfridus church in the Groningen village of Bedum. Not to worry, the beautiful church – with its famous slanted church tower – is not at risk at all. On the contrary. Should an earthquake occur, we are the first to know." The church has been fitted out with five Swarms. All of them connected to the university servers by NB-IoT. Bolt: "In turn, these servers send the data to our platform and that at MUG. So far, everything goes like clockwork. The technology works, the connection is stable, as are the foundations of the tower."

Rollout
Bolt is enthusiastic about his product and about the future: "It looks bright, in our view. We already do a lot of projects abroad, in Europe and Asia. The good thing is, our technology has so much potential. Especially if we scale up and sensors become even cheaper. Besides, we also plan to add other types of sensors, refine our instruments and make the data more accessible for our customers. The rollout of the internationally recognized 5G can be a significant contributing factor."

Relevant
Jarmo Wilkens collaborates in the project on behalf of VodafoneZiggo. He is enthusiastic: "It's a great case, and also relevant to this area. The technology can help to make the problems in the soil of the Groningen region visual and as a result, more manageable. We are quite happy to contribute to that. In addition, the international demand for the Omnidots sensors makes it interesting for us to extend the partnership beyond the test phase."