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Utilising Cloud Computing for Coating Inspection and Test Data Management

J F Fletcher Elcometer Limited : Technical Support Manager

Until recently there

have been two different streams of computing

data-transfer protocols, one for industry and another for consumers.

For example, design data could be trans-

ferred using CAD-CAM systems for industry and the Internet could be

used for e-commerce with consumers

buying/downloading books and music on the move.

The differences

between these two streams have now

become blurred with the introduction of Cloud Computing, which allows file sharing via the Internet to any

location for very affordable fees

and using mobile platforms.

The history of coating inspection processes in the field shows that seventy years ago the industry was totally dependent on very skilled and exper- ienced individuals and their ability to visually inspect for defects in the coating process. Sixty years ago mechanical, magnetic coating thickness gauges were introduced making measurements of thickness possible in the field. These were followed by electronic gauges, initially analogue designs with moving needle meters indicating the thickness and then digital designs with the thickness displayed as a numeric value.

With the utilisation of microprocessors in the design of hand-held gauges in the late 1970’s, improved measurement accuracy was coupled with the ability to collect batches of data and print the results. Further computer-like features soon became available and were developed until the modern gauge with the large memory for readings in multiple batches, wireless data communication via Bluetooth®

and data

management software support became common place. These types of electronic gauges now cover a broad range of measurement parameters for coating processes such as surface profile, climatic conditions, coating thickness, material thickness, gloss, viscosity, etc.

However, the provision of Cloud Computing via the Internet has again revolutionised the way data can be shared, making remote communication without a network, or even a computer, extremely simple and cost effective.

It is already clear that in the emerging markets access to the Internet is via mobile devices, such as a Smart phone, a tablet computer or a feature phone. In fact it was reported in the Financial Times on 7th May 2012 that “This year has seen a momentous change in the shape of the global internet. More people now access the web on mobile phones than PCs in China, home to the world’s largest population of internet users. North America and Europe are not far behind in making that digital switchover, as are fast-growing internet markets such as Turkey and Indonesia.”

“Games developer Rovio, which claims a billion downloads for its original Angry Birds game, had 100m downloads for its latest sequel after just three months – figures rarely attained in

28 SURFACE WORLD may 2013 traditional PC or console gaming.”

A method for sharing inspection data using mobile devices is required to speed communi- cation and decision making and this can now be achieved using the Elcometer ElcoMaster™ 2.0 software. This software enables simple and quick communication between gauges and either computers running the software or mobile devices operating with Android systems and utilising the ElcoMaster™ for Android programme.

The Cloud allows data to be transferred, stored and accessed through an Internet provider’s hardware, without the need for a local computer. There are a number of providers such as Dropbox, Amazon Cloud Drive, Google Drive, Skydrive, etc. and these services can be accessed using both personal computers and mobile Internet capable devices.

Imagine an Inspector working at a remote site with no access to a computer network, or a number of inspectors working at different places on a large site or even on different sites, all need- ing to quickly communicate data to a central point. It would even be practical for several inspectors at several sites in different countries with a client in yet another country to commun- icate quickly and simply using the cloud drive as a commonly accessed database resource.

The inspection measurements can be taken on the structure and stored in the memory of the gauge. These readings can then be transferred from the gauge to any Smart phone or tablet using Android via the Bluetooth®


and using the Android-based ElcoMaster™ Mobile software. This data can be e-mailed to the Cloud. The specific Cloud drive can then be (continued on page 30)

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