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Remote calibration – What are the deal breakers and how to circumvent them?

We have all heard about the true importance of calibrating instruments. Manufacturers and end-users are constantly dependent on laboratories to help carry out the process of keeping all delicate instruments at par with the existing quality control standards. The entire process of calibration puts a huge dependency on laboratories, wherein industries can even be put to a standstill if the laboratories do not finish calibrating the instruments in time.

Imagine a scenario, where an industry has only two instruments of the same kind. While one is sent out for calibration the other is used. What would happen if the calibration process carried out by the laboratory takes longer and the instrument cannot be returned in time? The instrument in use would wear out and the entire industrial process could come to a standstill.

Such issues put forth the idea of a possibility of remote calibration. Remote calibration is defined as the process of calibrating an instrument on-site instead of sending it to a calibration laboratory with the help of a standard communication bus interface on the instrument. This process has many advantages with saving time and money topping the list. Imagine the time that could be saved from sending the equipment to the lab and waiting while it is being calibrated?

So, how does it work?

Remote calibration is carried out with the help of a client service architecture, where the DUT (instrument to be calibrated) and the calibrating device are situated in the same location and connected to the client network. The client system receives commands from the server run by the calibration laboratories which is sent to the devices through the preferred interface. It scans the instrument reading and transmits it to the server over an active Internet connection. All operations required to prepare the calibration certificate are performed by the server.

So, why is it that this possibility has not been exploited yet? What could be the possible remote calibration challenges?

1. Safety

There is a huge subset of legality issues associated with remote calibration. As we discussed before to carry out this process, we would require open communication channels with the instrument, and this poses huge risks. It makes it easier to hack and can question the entire accuracy of the process.

2. Lack of accessible, affordable communication technology

Even with huge developments in IoT, a huge number of instruments that require calibration are small. The entire cost of calibration itself is sometimes costlier than the instruments themselves. The majority of existing instruments do not facilitate built-in hardware enabled for communication, which makes the remote calibration process harder to implement.

Now, let us talk about the existing ideas to incorporate a simple remote calibration methodology. A paper published on a generic environment for internet calibrated environment discusses a simple architecture with which remote calibration is deemed successful and addresses various ways in which security of the entire process is maintained. The paper puts forth security protocols to be maintained between the laboratory and the manufacturer which in turn circumvents the problem of safety in both software and hardware.

Even with the current limitations posed in calibrating from a distance, it is an avenue that has huge growth potential and will soon overtake the field leading to easier mechanisms that can even address the problem of dearth of skilled employment in this field.

An industry that is rapidly evolving and calibrating from a distance is now not so far away!

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