Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Master of Engineering Science


Electrical and Computer Engineering


Dr. Jin Jiang


A typical sensor consists of a sensing element and a transmitter. The major functions of a transmitter are limited to data acquisition and communication. The recently developed transmitters with ‘smart’ functions have been focused on easy setup/maintenance of the transmitter itself such as self-calibration and self-configuration. Recognizing the growing computational capabilities of microcontroller units (MCUs) used in these transmitters and underutilized computational resources, this thesis investigates the feasibility of adding additional functionalities to a transmitter to make it ‘smart’ without modifying its foot-print, nor adding supplementary hardware. Hence, a smart sensor is defined as sensing elements combined with a smart transmitter. The added functionalities enhance a smart sensor with respect to performing process fault detection and variable prediction.

This thesis starts with literature review to identify the state-of-the-arts in this field and also determine potential industry needs for the added functionalities. Particular attentions have been paid to an existing commercial temperature transmitter named NCS-TT105 from Microcyber Corporation. Detailed examination has been made in its internal hardware architecture, software execution environment, and additional computational resources available for accommodating additional functions. Furthermore, the schemes of the algorithms for realizing process fault detection and variable prediction have been examined from both theoretical and feasibility perspectives to incorporate onboard NCS-TT105.

An important body of the thesis is to implement additional functions in the MCUs of NCS-TT105 by allocating real-time execution of different tasks with assigned priorities in the real-time operating system (RTOS). The enhanced NCS-TT105 has gone through extensive evaluation on a physical process control test facility under various normal/fault conditions. The test results are satisfactory and design specifications have been achieved.

To the best knowledge of the author, this is the first time that process fault detection and variable prediction have been implemented right onboard of a commercial transmitter. The enhanced smart transmitter is capable of providing the information of incipient faults in the process and future changes of critical process variables. It is believed that this is an initial step towards the realization of distributed intelligence in process control, where important decisions regarding the process can be made at a sensor level.