California-based MEMS mass flow sensing products manufacturer Siargo has released a new product line of innovative connected gas usage meters for gas cylinders based on its proprietary microelectromechanical system (MEMS) mass flow sensing technology with wireless connections to the cloud computing platforms of the Internet of Things (IoT).

The production and distribution of gas in cylinders is a multi-billion dollar business. It serves the markets from industrial, medical, to residential utilities. Managing the logistics of producing and distributing them is a huge challenge. For example, residential energy gas cylinders are still the best of the choices for remote countryside where the pipeline construction is too costly.

An empty gas cylinder can be a major interruption to daily life, while for medical customers, it can be a life support issue. Medical gas cylinder manufacturers in a big city often struggle to schedule regular and irregular dispatches to the customer requirements due to inaccurate statistics or unexpected events, including city traffic. For manufacturing industries, insufficient gas can interrupt production and cause significant economical loss.

To solve the problem, the knowledge of the precise usage of the gas inside cylinders and instant access to such information would be the key. However, monitoring the gas consumption in real time is a non-trivial matter for cylinder distributors. The majority of gas cylinder monitoring devices on the market today are based on mechanical pressure gauge, which is an indirect measurement for gas usage that is inaccurate and not easy to remotely access. Not to mention that even today, customers are still advised to pour a bottle of hot water over the surface of the cylinder, and hand feeling the cylinder surface temperature to determine if a refill or replacement is needed.

Data concept business

Siargo’s new release provides a complete solution for gas cylinder management and logistic planning. This low power, wirelessly connected and IOT-enabled device is based on mass flow sensor inherited from the company’s earlier utility gas meters. Unlike the mechanical pressure gauges of the pressure regulator installed to the gas cylinders, this device actually measures and accumulates the gases flow out of the cylinder, a direct measurement of the gas usage. The data can be transmitted via most standard communication protocols, a cell phone network, or WIFI, to the cylinder supplier’s cloud database, or directly managed by an APP on a smart device. Siargo’s proven mass flow meter features a large dynamic range that provides the custody transfer or tariff accuracy. Therefore, the cylinder supplier knows precisely how much gas is left in each cylinder, the usage rate, and the location.  This information allows cylinder suppliers to plan distribution in advance with confidence and efficiency, as well as providing business intelligence on customers’ consumption trend.  

In addition to real time usage, this device can provide functions that no other products can do. The connected mass flow meters are sensitive enough to detect the gas leakage, thanks to its large dynamic range. This function can effectively prevent accidents due to valve malfunction or other unattended events. Users may also define alarms for maximum or minimum flow rates. An additional gas sensing feature allows the meter to identify the gas composition to avoid any damage caused by installation mistakes – an integrated MEMS pressure sensor for additional data integrity and safety is also optional.

The demand to improve gas cylinder distribution and logistics management to match the recent advancement of IT infrastructure and big data is both present and urgent for this huge market.  Several options with RFID, ultrasonic level sensors, and electronic pressure sensors have been offered to address these issues, but none of them could be effectively metering the gas consumption and detecting the possible leakage that would also be a critical factor – particularly in specialty gas installation. Siargo’s innovation makes the new enabling product affordable, fully connected and operable with battery power.

Snapshot

Established in 2003, Siargo is a leading supplier in innovative MEMS mass flow sensing products. The company commercialised the first product line of utility gas meters for city natural gas metering and is a leading company with flow sensors serving markets of medical, environmental, instrumentation and energy industries.

With the world’s first and only commercially available thermal time-of-flight sensing technology and sensor fusion platform, Siargo’s continued innovation offers a broad spectrum of customisable MEMS-enabled sensors and meters for gas and liquid flow measurement – and the company is expanding its capability into microfluidics, and gas concentration.