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Case Studies


Fuelling Smart Heating Systems with Edge Control technology

From industrial waste to clean energy

The costs associated with industrial heating and the disposal of industrial biomass can be significant; both to businesses and to the environment. Ranheat, a leading provider of biomass energy management equipment, design and manufacture wood waste boilers and warm air heaters that generate heat from the by-products of industrial processes rather than sending the waste to costly landfill sites.

In industrial wood mills, the source of biomass fuel is as local as it comes; made up of the wood chips, shavings and dust discarded as by-products of the factory’s processes. Ranheat have designed and manufactured combustion systems that are able to take in wood waste of different particle sizes and convey them pneumatically into silos ready to be converted to heat without the need for pre-sorting.

The smart biomass system incorporates a network of PLCs and sensors to monitor critical aspects of the system such as available fuel level and heat dispersal. Brainboxes BB-400 industrial edge controllers are utilised to create a secure VPN internet connection, circumventing the need for multiple Ethernet connections.

BB-400s repackage unencrypted RS485 cable data from the PLCs at the boiler and silo. Via the cloud, they send this information to BB-400s across the factory where it is unpacked and mediated back onto the RS485 cables that control the air ducts and deliver heat to the various heating appliances.

The BB-400s allow communication across large distances, whether within vast factories or across the world. In the Ranheat system they enable energy managers to have full remote monitoring via encrypted VPN, allowing engineers to reconfigure processes as necessary, bypassing the difficulties often associated with networking devices on-site.


The BB-400 helped one of the UKs largest railway franchises monitor passenger comfort levels, reducing delays and delivering a better customer experience

Fully unattended condition monitoring on trains

Govia Thameslink Railway is one of the UK’s biggest rail franchises, and is committed to delivering a comfortable, reliable and seamless service.

Passenger ride comfort on Govia Thameslink trains is scored based on set standards. When a section of ride falls below the minimum comfort level, speed restrictions are imposed and the operator fined. To identify sections of the track that cause or contribute to reduced comfort levels, a system was designed to monitor vibration sensors.

Sensor data was initially gathered by using a Raspberry Pi-based prototype, before being developed into a battery powered system located under train carriage seats. The deployment of a Brainboxes BB-400 ensured that the hardware met the challenging specifications, stabilised the GPS signal and made the system more manageable. The final version of the tool became a fully unattended monitoring system with the ability to gather and send 55,000 datapoints a day on comfort score and GPS location to the Cloud.

Areas of the map that show a build-up of data points, hot spots highlighted by closely spaced red dots, indicate consistent discomfort in the ride at that section of track. By installing the system onto different coaches of each train, it is also possible to monitor how trains themselves are behaving. The system will ensure issues can be found and track repairs made much faster, and reducing the time spent by workers walking on live tracks. It could soon be rolled out to the whole Govia fleet.


The smart future of HVAC

The smart future of HVAC

With the UK government’s aim for a completely carbon neutral UK by 2050, rethinking industry’s approach to HVAC, in light of the internet of things, could be key, as industrial communications device specialist, Brainboxes, explains.

As dire as the environmental costs associated with manufacturing and inefficient HVAC are, (CO2-emissions from heavy industry are responsible for 14% of the EU total, while heating accounts for the UK’s largest proportion of greenhouse gas emissions at 37%), the potential economic cost of realising the 4th industrial revolution – in control panels, production lines, and factory floors – across the country could prove inhibitive to progress.

Read the full article here.

Products in the HVAC:


How to make a wireless connection from your Brainboxes device to your network

Connect using tunnelling

There are plenty of adaptors on the market that offer a cable free connection from a device to your network. This FAQ explains how the TP Link Nano can be used to create a wireless connection from any Brainboxes' Ethernet to Serial (ES) or Ethernet to Digital I/O (ED) device to a network.

Read the full guide here.


Serial and Remote I/O tunnelling can make a long distance connection simple

Connect using tunnelling

Two devices can be easily set up to communicate over Ethernet just as if they were next to each other.

Brainboxes’ software makes configuring tunnelling just a few simple clicks away. Both remote I/O and Serial tunnelling can be set up in minutes, by simply knowing the IP address of both devices. Using two devices to tunnel can often remove the need for a PC or another computer.

Read more about tunnelling in our FAQs:


Many pieces of medical and scientific equipment use a serial data connection for security and reliability. Brainboxes Ethernet to Serial devices allow accurate readings to be taken at the right times, freeing up nurses and minimising recording errors.

Dialysis application

Brainboxes devices can be integrated into existing systems using the company’s range of APIs (Application Programming Interfaces). In this application, a dialysis suite, Brainboxes helped the installer write a program in C# that can display useful patient information, removing the barrier between data and user. An authorised doctor can then review the progress of dialysis patients.

Using Power over Ethernet meant there was no need to install additional power sockets or use an extensive cable run, minimising disruption to the hospital.

Hospital Staff Benefits

  • No need to manually enter data from dialysis machine read onto paper or tablet
  • Staff time freed to deal with patient care
  • No data entry errors
  • Consultants can review data remotely

Patient Benefits

  • Real time monitoring of key metrics
  • Experts from other hospitals can review information and advise
  • Trends can be detected over time


‘Out of the frying pan into the cloud!’

A remote I/O solution from Brainboxes is used to monitor outputs from waste disposal machines, and get them into the cloud. This data can be used to calculate important information about the machine’s usage, aiding the customer to optimise their operation.

Food waste disposal

Waste disposal company Mechline had been struggling with machine monitoring before they started working with Brainboxes. Mechline’s Waste2O units are installed in hospitals, hotels and shopping centres, processing unused food into organic waste which can be safely disposed of. Without these machines food would normally be thrown away and enter landfill. The Waste2O units use enzymes that break the waste down so it can be safely disposed of as harmless waste water direct to the drain.

Important data, like how much food was being recycled, was being hidden from the client.

Mechline’s John Towersey identified that the company could easily calculate this data from signals on the Waste2O unit; the output drain, minus the input of clean water, would equal the food waste volume. The information was locked in the machine as a simple output signal, but Mechline needed to get it in front of the client in a user-friendly format.

Mechline had tried various pieces of hardware for monitoring, notably an Arduino with a Bluetooth shield, but the device wouldn’t store data on reboot and the wireless signal was unreliable.

This is typical of any machine or factory line; there are outputs everywhere that any electrician could break into, then feed through a monitoring device without interference to the normal operation of the line. The machine used a PLC – technology engineers understand well – but PLCs emerged before networking and ‘big data’. While PLCs perform deterministic activities, today’s process engineer and factory manager want to see an overall analysis of their production line and productivity, and this is where PCs and their capacity for data analysis come in.

A Brainboxes BB-400 NeuronEdge Controller was used to generate reports from the data now being accessed, such as the amount of waste being saved from landfill, the number of times the door to the machine was opened and the number of times it was overloaded.

“I wish I had discovered this product a year ago!” – John Towersey, Mechline Developments Ltd


Production lines often fail to reach their maximum capacity – can you afford to ignore your potential?

Production line monitoring

Remote IO devices like the ED504 help improve efficiency and profitability by maximising production and minimising hidden costs such as down time.

The big benefit of control, monitoring and automation for factories and plants is the improvement of efficiency often measured as OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness).

Construct a stable, cost effective and secure infrastructure to accommodate both standard DNC and Machine Data Collection applications.

This is a future proof solution that will allow system expansion whilst still connecting decades old CNC machines.

“Probably the most innovative device produced for the DNC and Machine Data Collection market in the last twenty years” Mark Hebbard, Hebbard Engineering


The University of Oxford's Global Jet Watch project uses five 0.5m telescopes in different parts of the world to study astrophysical phenomena around the clock. The telescopes are operated remotely from the project’s HQ in Oxford, and Brainboxes products are integral to this process. The company’s ethernet switches and ethernet to serial converters were chosen because of their ruggedness and ability to withstand extremes of temperature, enabling each observatory’s devices to communicate efficiently with the project’s control computers.