#pAutomator: Martin van Rijn, SenZ2
This time, we spoke to Martin van Rijn as our next #pAutomator. He is responsible for Product Management and Business Development at SenZ2. An Industrial Engineer keen on radar-based sensor systems, van Rijn has been involved in systems design and research in intelligent sensor networks and sensor technology for defense and public safety at TNO since 2006.
In 2016 van Rijn joined SenZ2. There, he focused on applying new radar-on-chip technology in the process industry. In this conversation, he shares his thoughts on the changing transformation of the industry with the use of radars and the latest digital practices.
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Excerpts from the interview…
How do you trace your journey in this industry?
I completed my education in Industrial Engineering and Innovation Management. After that, I was working in my own start-up. Moving on, after a postgraduate course of the Dutch Ministry of Defense, I joined TNO in The Hague in the department of sensor systems for defense.
Within this department, I started working for sensors and information processing. There, I also worked with radars, ultrasonic transmitters, cameras, radio and communication technology. Thereafter, I moved into applying defense technologies in the public domain and resources and worked on applying radar in the smart city and smart building applications.
At the end of 2015 I joined SenZ2 that delivers industrial grade radar level monitoring solutions for liquids and solids. Here, we focus on low-power wireless radar chip technology, disrupting the way levels and fill-levels are monitored today.
What has been your favorite part of your job? Any memorable moments you have experienced in your career?
Figuring out applications for the industry has been quite fascinating for me. I enjoy learning from customers, learning from all their experiences and applications. What’s more, I really like thinking of new solutions in radar technology and learning from all practical applications.
Explaining the specifications of a product and getting appreciated for my core products by customers has been memorable. I remember one instance where a company that provides water treatment solutions for livestock called our monitoring system a “godsend.”
For this company, it was important to monitor and regulate all the levels of chemical fluids. Here, the solution did not need any infrastructure from the customer side to deliver reliable field level measurements remotely. For example, some dosing pumps might have problems. The sensor system provides an extra safety check because it monitors the exact output of the dosing pumps remotely. It does this by measuring the drum/IBC level with mm accuracy.
Can you tell us more about the business dynamics of SenZ2? What are the target areas you hit and how do you see the industry evolving in the upcoming years?
At SenZ2, we concentrate on the production and sales of sensors. Currently, we offer one sensor in our portfolio and all upcoming products will be variations of this, focused on specific applications.
In terms of the market, we are targeting the distribution of liquid and chemical market. We have just entered into the distribution of solids in the Feed & Food industry and we are also concentrating on the water & wastewater sector. Another application is in the collection of hazardous liquids such as waste oils and waste chemicals.
I have observed two technological developments. First is the use of simple and low-cost radar sensors in the level measurement technology market. I believe the market will eventually evolve towards radar technology. In fact, our main goal is to make radar technology simple to use and accessible for all sectors and applications.
Secondly, the latest digital practices, such as Internet of things, Industry 4.0 and all other connectivity trends are changing industry operations to a great extent.
Today, we are able to connect every device to the Internet, where you can monitor the sensor performance, as well as changing the settings as required. And, of course, you can also share real-time measurements to optimize business operations.
Speaking about your product portfolio, what are the major products you sell? Which do you receive the most queries for?
Currently, we have only one product in our portfolio. However, we have more in the pipeline. We have one 60Ghz wireless radar level sensor in our portfolio that works on 2G / GPRS technology. By the end of this year, we plan to extend our portfolio with 4G version incorporating LTE-M and NB-IoT technology. This will open the gates to markets like the USA, Australia and Singapore, where 2G technologies are phased out. 4G technology will bring advantages in energy consumption, which will benefit the battery-life time of our wireless radar devices.
In terms of customer queries, there is always a demand for specialized sensors for different applications. A good example is the demand for measuring a wastewater overflow. We are developing an accessory for our Wireless Level Radar to trigger the Radar sensor when the wastewater level rises. In this case, the Wireless device will be able to measure the water level in high resolution only when the overflow is active.
Can you share an interesting challenge that you solved for a customer?
Yes, of course! There was a company into the maritime application, where there were 25.000l tank containers placed on a ship. These containers were using chemicals for adhesive production on board and wanted insights into the levels inside these containers. In this case, we had to build a local communication system to transfer the real-time measurements on the ship to a control panel.
For a customer to select the right instrument for the right application, what are the difficulties one must address to make the customer’s experience smooth and efficient?
The first thing to do is to get in contact with customers and understand their applications. For example, when do they want a local measuring system to feed control processes with local analogue output? Or, when do they want a remote monitoring process collecting data and feed business processes?
Understanding and evaluating customers’ challenges is very important. In our industry, we provide sensors with Internet connectivity. Understanding how they suit customer applications is extremely important.
If the engineers can have access to the data regarding real instrument/sensor performances in the field, then they can select future sensors based on these instruments’ evaluation of real performance data. Today, with a wide choice of instruments in the market, engineers can evaluate this entire process better. For example, if you apply an instrument in an application and find out that the instrument gets dirty or needs maintenance, it is so much easier with the help of real sensor performance data from the field.
How do you think the industry will transform owing to the changing transition of the digital landscape?
The management of all instrumentation will transform. With digitalization, not only the measurement data will change, but also the configuration of sensors in the fields can be remapped for the future.
For instance, we can monitor our total fleet of wireless radar level instruments in the field. We can set the threshold on certain critical aspects of our sensors’ performances and warn our clients before things go wrong. The industry will transform from a reactive maintenance model based on periodical checks to a so-called pro-active model with predictive maintenance.
Looking forward, what advice would you offer next-generation engineers?
You should definitely consider radar technology for measuring levels and fill-levels of liquids as well as solids. The adaption of radar technology and especially radar-on-chip technology will grow rapidly as costs and complexity of radar sensors drop.
Another important aspect is the ability to keep track of your sensors and instruments during operations. With upcoming fourth generation (4G) telecommunication technologies become available worldwide, the coming years monitoring sensing performances can be monitored remotely. This will lead to a pro-active management and maintenance of sensor, automation and control systems.