Bulgin Podcast Episode 16: Smart Technology and the Importance of the Humble Connector

Bulgin Podcast Episode 16: Smart Technology and the Importance of the Humble Connector

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Welcome to the Bulgin podcast my name is Mark and  i'm your host more and more of us are familiar   with the concept of smart technology from our  homes for example maybe we'll have a smart fridge   or we have smart bulbs and a smart device to  control them but out with our homes the concept of   smart technology is evolving and it's growing at  a fast pace from factories and farms and much more   in this episode of the podcast i'm joined by  David Pike the connector geek and we'll talk   about the concept of smart technology what  it is and how Bulgin is playing a key role   in its evolution David welcome back to the Bulgin  podcast i hope you're well yes thank you Mark yeah   good to see you so what we're going to talk about  today um is another um sphere in which Bulgin   is playing an important role through the humble  connector and it's the world of smart technology   so i think all of us are familiar and to agree  with what smart technology is if we've got a   smart device in our home so it could be one  of those little sort of pocket pocket shaped   things that you talk to and you can tell it to add  things to your shopping list or turn the lights on   um but smart technology is an area that's  grown and expanding so can you just elaborate   a little bit on exactly what smart technology is  absolutely i mean you've hit it on the head it's   smart technology are is is a series of devices  that are connected and will talk to each other   so you talk about talking to your speaker at  home and adding things to your shopping list   that's done because the the connected technology  sees each of these machines talking to each other   so you tell a smart speaker to add stuff to your  shopping list that then talks to the cloud it   adds to your shopping list and you can recover  that at any time and then you've got the smart   home where you can do exactly as you say you can  turn the lights on and off you can set the heating   before you get home so it's nice and toasty  warm when you get in they're just two simple   examples of how these things work it's all about  machines talking to each other so in this case   we've got our smartphones we'll talk to our house  our smartphone will talk to our refrigerator   the fact is that's just the the tip of  the iceberg smart technology is all about   machines communicating with each other and that  could be in the factory environment that could   be outside in the city that could be where  energy is being created in the in the grid   it's all about sharing information from one  machine to another in order to make the system   as a whole work more flexibly uh more quickly  and to gather more information okay so i mean   when you're talking about that there's one word  that continually comes into mind for me and maybe   it does for those are watching and listening  but the word is connectivity and of course   when you say connectivity you immediately hear  connector and you know if you work at Bulgin   your eyes should light up so this world of  connectivity is expanding and growing isn't it   it is it's not all about connectors but part of  this this new smart revolution is being powered   by wireless technology the fact that we've now got  things like 5g wireless technology that can all of   a sudden share data as quickly as if it was on a  plugged in cable but the fact is that all of these   devices still need huge amounts of connectivity  even wireless devices need aerials and antennae   to receive information that needs then to be  connected to the rest of the device so there   are connectors within the box there's connectors  on the outside of the box everything needs power   it could be that they're powered by the mains  it could be that they're charged with a battery   but they needed a battery charging connector  there will be connectors all over these things   so for for an engineer um this is a world that  they will no doubt be increasingly having to   delve into um you know the world of connectivity  but with a specific purpose of power and smart   technology and that's when we need to go beyond  the home the domestic setting and move into   places like smart factories now we've previously  spoken on the podcast about smart farm and we'll   touch on that again on this episode but what is a  smart factory and how does a smart factory differ   from a traditional factory a smart factory is  a facility where all of the machines again it   comes back to machine sharing information all  of the machines will be networked together   and sharing information with each other so a  traditional factory if you think about the the old   19th century picture of a factory with machines  doing one operation each machine would work in   isolation it would be operated by a single person  they'd perform that one function then whatever   they would making would would move on to another  another machine somewhere else but each machine   will be controlled locally and work on its own  the idea of a smart factory is that each of these   machines shares information with each other about  what they're up to so if you're talking about a   production line but there's a whole series  of processes that happen one after the other   each machine will communicate with its neighbours  to say right well i'm doing process x as soon as   this finishes this needs to go on to process  y which is the next machine over that machine   needs to then draw upon the resources the the raw  materials that it might need to continue out that   process so it becomes a fully integrated network  of machines sharing information and allowing   things to work smoother there's also another  advantage especially with these new generations   of machines is that that they can adapt very  quickly because they're sharing information with   each other and then with the larger network of the  rest of the business it allows these machines to   change almost immediately from one process  to another to respond to different demands   so the smart factory is not just hopefully more  efficient and quicker than the old-fashioned   image that we have of a production line but it's  so much more responsive that's going to be great   for the manufacturers it cuts down response  times it reduces time to market it makes them   more efficient in the use of their resources one  of the key things especially when we're looking at   connectivity though is these machines are having  to work on the factory floor and the factory floor   can be a pretty unforgiving place you've got heat  you've got vibration you've got potential for for   moisture and other contaminants lubricants all  sorts of stuff sloshing around the factory floor   and we're starting to deploy this advanced  technology into that harsh conditions and   this technology was never designed to cope with  that kind of stuff so all of a sudden it's being   put into an environment that could potentially  damage it so designers are having to do a lot of   work to make sure that they're protected and they  continue to function even in those conditions so   it sounds like the information the data that is  necessary to make these smart factories function   to allow the machines and the various different  components in the factory to communicate with one   another that data that information is a commodity  it's a resource the way that cotton or steel would   have been in factories and traditional factories  in years gone by yes data is is a raw material now   in the same way that all those other materials  you mentioned would be data is going to be   vital to how these things are put together that  data is gathered by sensors by vision systems   by all sorts of different sources that all need  to be then transmitted back to either a central   location or to what's called edge computing which  are devices that are are placed close to where   they needed to be used and this information  then gets processed and then redistributed   so as we've spoken about before on the podcast  and has a theme that will i think we'll always   come back to as the within these smart  factories within these environments   um the connectors that Bulgin manufacture will  play a key role in making sure that the the data   and the power are securely and reliably and  robustly transferred around these smart factories   yes the the the smart factory has all these  different processes that that will expose all the   equipment to the these conditions and at the same  time there needs to be that security of data that   security of power to make sure that everything  continues to function and the connectors play   one of the most important roles in this connect is  one of the few components that sit on the outside   of an enclosure a lot of the electronics will  be hidden within the enclosure protected in   a nice waterproof box or protected on shock  mounts so that they're not vibrated to death   the connectors are the bits that actually people  see there are the bits on the outside of the box   so they have to withstand all of these harsh  conditions possibly more than any other component   again it's it's a world that's evolving that's  changing and it's an ongoing concern because   the technology is evolving and changing you've  mentioned the rollout of 5g the internet of things   as something that isn't just in people's  homes you know the idea of a smart fridge   that can order milk for you without you even  realizing that you've that you need milk um is   one thing but when it comes to the goods the  services that are part of our country's gdp   that are you know produced in factories this  move this evolution into smart factories as   it sounds like essential for the sort of ongoing  success of the economy yes and it's it's in it's a   really interesting thing to think about we've been  talking about a smart factory and i think almost   all of us will think of a large building with  all the machines contained within but we could   equally be talking about a a distributed system  so you mentioned about things like logistics   we could assume or we could talk about a smart  factory being the the accumulation of all of   the systems so in the case of a logistics setup we  could be talking about the vehicles themselves and   the distribution center all of which are sharing  information because we've got this 5g network   that means that we can we can share information  wirelessly so the smart factory doesn't need to be   just in a uh one big building it could be a  large distributed network over a large distance   it could be as we say logistical vehicles it  could be we've talked about the farm it could   be the farm with with different vehicles at  different parts of the farm we even talking   about things like the power generation grid  the grid that gets our power to our homes   this is a large distributed  network and we're talking about   devices within that network that are sharing  information with each other so the the bits   that put it together don't need to be in one  building they could be separated by kilometers   and they need connectivity locally they need the  connectivity of the data back to the center part   so it's all it's all of a similar piece but the  the actual form it takes could be vastly different   everything you're describing certainly plays into  the definition of the fourth industrial revolution   where all of these components of manufacturing of  industry and they could be in disparate sectors   but they can all be connected via networking data  etc and of course we always have to go back to   Bulgin connectors are absolutely playing a part  and will play a part in that revolution yes   these devices being especially when we're looking  at the the distributed network that we talked   about these devices are going to be deployed  into all sorts of conditions and they need to   work and so in order to provide the connectivity  to make them work engineers need to rely on the   the components they choose and Bulgin are experts  at designing products that will survive in those   harsh conditions they will put up with extremes  of temperature they will be able to resist the   wind and weather they'll be resistant to the the  ultraviolet radiation that comes from sunlight   and they can resist things like the the lubricant  oil fuel oil that might get spilt on them   and still continue to work because especially if  these things are in a large distributed network   getting to a component and fixing it might  not be the easiest thing in the world   so to be able to provide the security that says  we know that part's going to continue to work   it won't need to be maintained it won't need to be  looked after it's just going to carry on working   needs confidence in the components  and that's what Bulgin provides   so you mentioned their harsh environments and  we've got a full episode on agriculture but   we need to bring smart farms into the discussion  of smart technologies and internet of things and   you know the fourth industrial  revolution how traditional aspects of   producing things are evolving and changing as the  technology is allowing it to and of course smart   farming as is one of them so as i said we've  got a full episode on agriculture but for the   purposes of talking about smart technology David  just give us a quick overview of um what a smart   farm actually is well smart farming is taking  some of those ideas that we we've seen in the   smart factory and applying it to that agricultural  world so agriculture is under a lot of pressure   there are more and more people in the world more  food needs to be produced and at the same time   we're more and more concerned about our impact  on the environment so farmers are trying to do   more with less use less water use fewer pesticides  herbicides and technology is playing a big   part of that because technology can help the  farmer identify how their farm is performing   and technology is is providing that data so again  it comes back to the fact it's data the devices   that might be scattered around the farm or fitted  to farm machinery like tractors and combines   they will be collecting information about the farm  sharing it back with the farmer allowing them to   to make decisions about the best way to look  after their crops whether it's to irrigate   certain parts of the the farm more more often  or whether it's to provide feed to another part   that technology is is working in a  very similar way to the factory but   for a different end the technology that's going  to be used on a farm um it's not necessarily   going to be different from the technology that you  already described would be used in a smart factory   you know we're talking about the connections  required to transfer power and to transfer data   what about the size of the components is sizing an  issue on a smartphone size is is becoming more of   an issue when it comes to things like connectors  because it's interesting the electronics world   is seeing all of the devices that have been  created to be smaller and smaller so we're   looking at sensors that could be the size of your  thumb or even smaller vision systems that can sit   onto a printed circuit board that's the size of a  postage stamp and yet give really high definition   video so the electronics that is is being created  to to gather this information is getting smaller   that means that the connectors need to be  smaller because connectors are now coming to   the point where they are one of the largest  components that designers have to deal with   so from that point of view manufacturers like  Bulgin are are developing solutions that allow   smaller and smaller connectors to  do the jobs that they need to do   so if we look at the the mini series and even the  4000 sorry the 400 series buccaneer connected from   Bulgin these things are about 19 millimeters  across again about the size of your thumb   so they're no bigger than the sensors that they  might need to connect back but at the same time   they still need to provide the same level  of environmental protection that the bigger   connectors from the buccaneer range do the things  that need both hands to to plug in because they're   providing huge amounts of power so electronics  and its miniaturization is providing challenges   for connected designers but Bulgin are providing  solutions that that help solve that so on a smart   farm then like any farm and we'll come to the  subject of urban farms in a minute because they're   obviously a little bit different but you know your  traditional farm it's outside it's going to be   exposed to potentially extreme cold and extreme  heat depending on geographically where it is   it's going to be exposed to moisture and it's  going to be exposed definitely to dust and other   elements that you just do not want or can't afford  to have ingressing into a data or power connection   so with that in mind what sort of manufacturing  what sort of materials should um an engineer   be looking for in a connector when they're  considering introducing them into a smartphone   yes all of those elements will  will try and attack the connector   and because we're talking about agriculture being  a long-term process many of these devices will   need to be installed outside in the elements  exposed to all those things you've mentioned   and need to be left there for weeks if not months  at a time so the materials that the engineer   chooses have to provide the stability that means  that they're going to continue to function so   plastics are a key part of Bulgin connectors many  Bulgin buccaneer connectors are manufactured from   from plastic material it's lightweight it's  resistant to corrosion to standard corrosion that   you might find attacking a metal connector but at  the same time not all plastics are created equal   certain plastics can degrade in the ultraviolet  radiation that is found in sunlight and it changes   the structure of the plastic so it's important  that the right materials are chosen that are   going to provide the the qualities that the  connector will need over a long period of time   a lot of the Bulgin connectors are made from  polyamide which is a very strong very stable   plastic for certain other applications they might  use polycarbonate or delrin depending on the   the application needed but the common thing  between all of these is that the material   has got to provide the protection over a long  period of time when left in those environments   whether it's dunked in a puddle or whether it's  stuck up a tree being blasted by sunlight every   day the the materials have got to provide that  kind of security and you know we we've said   this previously on the podcast at any point  if at any point you know an engineer who is   watching or listening to this podcast if they  have any questions about the type of connect or   the infrastructure that they um they're going to  need to bring into a project that they're planning   go to the Bulgin website Bulgin.com you can review  case studies you can dive into industry industry   specific case studies so you could be working  on developing um a smart farm and developing   a network in a smart factory you can go into the  Bulgin website and you can get lots of information   plus there's the ability to reach out and speak  to um an industry-specific expert who can give you   even more information on the type of connectors  and the components that that you're going to need   to utilize in your network that's that's a sort  of covered the the evolution of the traditional   farming to the smart farm but there's another  type of farming where um connectors are playing   a hugely vital role for similar reasons but for  some different reasons and that is urban farms   so David give us an overview of what an urban  farm is an urban farm is an installation that   happens away from the traditional farm of their  mines normally we think of farmers as broad fields   taking up a huge amount of space urban farming  actually tries to make use of the spaces that   are available within the city so whether it's  old subway tunnels or whether it's basements of   buildings and using those spaces to grow plants  far away from traditional sunlight or the wind   and weather that would normally provide them the  moisture so we're talking about crops being grown   in trays sometimes called vertical farming because  they're often stacked one on top of the other   at one of each other the plants have been grown  in these trays with their roots either dangling   in water or even more nowadays uh being used was  called aeroponics so they're being sprayed with   a fine mist that includes all the nutrients  that they need to grow so these are plants   that are grown in the middle of cities which is  very close to where they're going to be needed   so we're keeping our food miles down it's a hugely  efficient use of space because we're talking about   abandoned buildings that might not be used  for anything else and because we're stacking   the crops one on top of the other we're getting  more yield for every square meter that we've got   so they're very ecologically friendly  and they're being able to provide   fresh greens for example to the set city centers  without having to travel many miles but in order   to do this because it's a completely artificial  environment there's no sunlight there's no rain   the farmer has to control every aspect of what's  going on inside this farm so that's everything   from the temperature the the light because we're  using LEDs to create artificial light to help the   plants grow we're talking about all of the feed  all the nutrients all the moisture that they need   and technology is vital for that we need sensors  that are going to tell us what the conditions   are at the moment that we need computing power to  be able to understand how that's going to affect   how these plants will grow and then we're talking  about the machinery that will help deliver   those things the plants need whether it's moisture  or feed and it's all going to require technology   and that's again where the connectors  come in everything within this network   has got to be connected together and it's got to  withstand these again quite harsh environments   we might not be out in the sunlight we might  not be out in the wind and weather but there's   a lot of moisture about there there's a lot of  light from these these LEDs that are going to be   around there's lots of conditions that that mean  it's it's tough on electronics and ultimately   food is being grown so there can't be anything  in that process that's susceptible to breakdown   so again it comes back to the the reliability  the robustness of the Bulgin connectors that   are going to be used and the data and  networking infrastructure of a smart farm   absolutely nothing within the connectors has  got to be allowed to contaminate the food   and then once maybe one crop has been grown there  will be the need to wash down the whole urban farm   before the next crop is grown that might use high  pressure spray so again the electronics needs to   be able to withstand the needs of the urban  farmer who needs to wash down his his setup   before he grows the next crop so again it's a  pretty unforgiving environment for electronics   okay so that's us covered off smart factories  smart farms including urban farms let's talk about   smart cities so smart cities sounds like it's an  extension of what we can already access technology   and um internet of things in our own homes but i  spread across an entire city is that correct or   is there a bit more to it than that and smart  city will actually incorporate a whole range   of things so it could be as simple as a network  that will control the traffic management within   a city but what makes that different to the  traffic management systems of the past is that   the the participants within that the  vehicles the pedestrians and so forth   they will start to become an active member of  that network so the smart city is designed to   take all of these things into account and  react to live situations rather than simply   working in a certain way it will allow the the  managers of that smart city to to use data that's   collected from lots of places again we're talking  about sensors collecting information from lots of   different places and using that to to help make  decisions about the infrastructure of the city if   more buses or trams need to be provided to one  part of the city because of a spike in demand   it will allow information to be collected and  the the managers to actually perform some kind of   changes to make that happen we're also potentially  looking at the idea of distribution of energy   around the city to again respond to demands  that are locally spiking for whatever reason   but again it is about data being collected  at large different parts of the city   shared centrally and then acted upon and again  connectors are going to play a big part of that   and again they're out in the the the wilds of  the city the wind the weather the road spray   the things that you might not find in the smart  factory you're going to find on the streets we   know the streets can sometimes be a bit dirty a  bit mucky there's spray everywhere the electronics   has got to last within those environments as  well yeah i mean in our studio we've got a 5g   hub so basically it gathers it collects a  5g signal from the air and it distributes   it wirelessly around their studio and i think  it's easy to fall into the trap of thinking that   just because you don't see physical wires you  don't see physical connectors in your home or even   you know in an office or a studio setting like  this that there aren't wires and connectors   at us but of course there are and in the smart  cities is going to be across the entire city   there will be connectors there will be wires  and again power and data are having to be   managed and controlled and evenly distributed in a  reliable way and as we keep saying the connectors   will play a vital role in this yes wireless  connectivity or wireless communications don't   mean the death of the connector it's just another  part of an integrated system connectors are still   going to be needed all over the place you've  actually hit upon another interesting thing you've   got your own little 5g cell within the studio 5g  is actually enabling that same thing to happen   in different parts of industry it could be that a  factory will create their own 5g cell within the   factory or a farm might be its own 5g cell again  it helps the data to be transmitted it means that   you don't necessarily have to rely upon the the  the mobile communications 5g cell you can provide   your own technology but again connectors are  going to be all over this providing data providing   power but what you just described in in terms of  our own a little little um local pockets of data   sounds similar to um something that that's  described as a distributed energy resource   in a in a local area they can have their own  energy and they can access it am i picking   that up correctly or have i missed the the  boat entirely there odrs distributed energy   resources that that relates to the smart grid  so again we're using that word smart once more   in this case it's to do with energy production  so traditionally the best and most efficient way   of producing energy was in an absolutely enormous  power station and then transmitting it around the   country using high temperature high tension  cables the big overhead cables that you see   well that's hugely expensive and it also  it there's an impact on things like energy   security we saw example last year where  snow storms in texas had a really bad   effect on power distribution of thousands  of homes left without power for a long time   snow is unusual enough in texas that they  didn't really have a plan to cope with this   distributed energy resources are is basically  it's micro generation it's locally produced power   so you see that a lot people have windmills  on their roof they've got solar energy   cells on their on their roof as well the idea is  that you're collecting and creating energy locally   at a much smaller scale but the modern technology  has finally allowed that to happen efficiently   all of a sudden we can have these small local  power stations that might provide energy to   one home or a small cluster of homes that's  then integrated into the the grid they're not   disconnected from the standard energy grid  but there's technology that that provides   the link between the grid because sometimes  a home might be consuming consuming power   from the grid because it's not producing energy  enough energy of its own at other times when it's   super sunny like it is here at the moment there'll  be tons of energy being produced and low demand   so the house can then share the the power back to  the grid and actually be paid for it so there's a   lot of sophisticated electronics within that that  will manage that sharing function of this power   and we're not just talking about solar  energy and wind energy with the things   that we're familiar with we're talking about  the latest things like uh biofuel reactors small   small reactors that will use uh organic fuel to  create energy we've been hearing about biodiesel   for for the powering of vehicles that may be  part of it so it uses very similar technology   to achieve a different goal in this case it's  it's producing power locally sharing that with   the network we'll share the network sharing  power with you and having to control it okay so   across the board you know and the theme of today's  episode is smart technologies across the board   things are changing some of it very subtle some  of it on a much bigger scale is more obvious but   across the board the world of connectors  is an absolutely key and vital component   of this evolution that's taking place now out  of the Bulgin connectors out of the mass of   family Bulgin connectors would it be fair to say  that the circular connector the humble circular   connector from Bulgin is going to play a huge part  in the evolution of all these smart technologies it is because Bulgin the circular connector is a  it's an ideal form for creating a connector that   can withstand these conditions and that's the one  thing we have to remember when we're talking about   these these smart technologies one of the one of  the things that's in common between all of them   is that we are deploying more and more technology  into these tough conditions and so the connector   needs are going to to continue to need to be  protecting against that environment the Bulgin   connector that the standard buccaneer that was  the original connector is a circular screw locking   connector that's designed to withstand all of  these nasty conditions and the clever thing   that Bulgin has been able to do is take that that  proven technology and then they've scaled it so   we've got very large connectors that can provide  power connections for things like these ders that   we're talking about that the power needs of homes  and and vehicles and then at the other end we've   got very small connectors that can provide the the  the interlink for sensors and for other devices   they all use that same circular technology they  will use the same materials the same idea of a   screw locking connector that will protect against  the environment to perform almost any function   that you need and again just to just to sort of  wrap up and bring the conversation to a close   the Bulgin website is the key place to go to for  this because then you'll be able to do a deep dive   into the range of buccaneer connectors these  circular connectors that David's been talking   about you can research the the housing componentry  so would you want them to be metal you need to be   made of a polymer what ip rating d needs your  connector to be you can research all of that   over on the Bulgin website and as i  mentioned earlier you can dive into   case studies where these connectors have  been used and of course you can get help   should you need it and choosing the the best  connector from the building range for the project   that you're working on so David it looks like the  smart revolution is something that's here to stay   and um we're going to be seeing the benefits  of it in our own lives going forward   absolutely it's not going anywhere and in fact the  the joy of it is that engineers will always find   new and innovative ways to be able to  use this technology so we'll find it   creepy into other parts of our lives but yeah  smart technology is definitely here to stay   okay David thank you for joining us  on this episode of the Bulgin podcast   great to talk to you Mark thank you very  much hope you found this episode of the   Bulgin podcast useful and helpful thanks  for watching and thanks for listening you

2022-07-10 00:49

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