FreeUP from lockdown - an enterprising Manchester scientist could help workers monitor machines at home
As employers look to safely open up their workplaces after the COVID-19 lockdown an enterprising scientist from The University of Manchester has developed a new solution that could help workers monitor their analogue equipment from home.
Dr Tom McNamara, a PhD graduate from the prestigious Manchester Institute of Biotechnology (MIB) and who has studied biochemistry and materials science, has set up a spin-out company to develop analogue-to-digital technology which could be used in scientific, medical, industrial or agricultural environments.Tom’s latest product is the FreeUP system that can digitise virtually any analogue dial and so enable workers to remotely monitor equipment that is fixed in their workplace – and be alerted by text if there is an emergency reading. Current test applications are as diverse as monitoring equipment in a state-of-the-art science institute to a high-tech milking parlour.
“FreeUP would allow automated monitoring of dials which would reduce the need for people to enter buildings and instead, allow workers to remotely monitor a range of activities, such as the consumption of gas from a cylinder or the level of vacuum pressure within a specialist machine,” explained Tom.
“As well as supporting remote working the FreeUP technology is specifically designed to be easy to set up and use. Highly complex sensor systems just won’t be adopted in some sectors and I could see there was a gap in the market – I believe FreeUP is a very easy and effective way to retrofit and upgrade a range of analogue systems.”
FreeUP would allow automated monitoring of dials which would reduce the need for people to enter buildings and instead, allow workers to remotely monitor a range of activities, such as the consumption of gas from a cylinder or the level of vacuum pressure within a specialist machine.
The FreeUP system does this by simply mounting a smart camera directly in front of a dial that needs regular monitoring. The dial face can be ‘read’ just like a human eye by using a highly complex computer code created by Tom - this real time data is then transferred to the cloud allowing common devices, such as smart phones and laptops, to be used to remotely view this information at any time.
This provides accurate historical data which helps to predict when to take action or to analyse trends to help pinpoint any glitches.
The system has been tested in the National Graphene Institute (NGI), a £61milion purpose-built facility to support research and innovation at The University of Manchester. The NGI, which has an argon gas supply system running to various research labs - and this required multiple pressure checks throughout the day to spot if any bottles were running low and therefore needed changing. With the new system in place NGI staff received notifications when a bottle change was needed.
In another trial, Reaseheath College, a leader in land-based education, is using FreeUP technology so that they are able to review the operating pressure of its milking parlour.The FreeUP start-up has been supported by UMI3 Ltd, the soon to be renamed University of Manchester Innovation Factory, the University’s own subsidiary responsible for identifying and leading the commercialisation of its innovations and intellectual property.
For more information visit: https://freeup.world/