As in the classic “chicken or the egg” causality dilemma, I often wonder whether I simply notice delicious irony, or if I create the situations that give rise to my bemused delight.

I have no recourse but to own up to some of it. For instance, several years ago, I purchased a modem recommended by my internet provider to eliminate recurring monthly fees. For some time, all was well, but perhaps two years ago, my provider was acquired by another company. The incoming firm offered new hardware at no cost, but it came with other restrictions I wanted to avoid. Instead, I opted to remain on my legacy plan and equipment.

I’ll bet you can guess what happened next: My WiFi network performance has degraded steadily until, as I prepped this issue, I found myself without any WiFi network signal at times. Feeling extremely put out, I called my provider and asked what could be done. After some troubleshooting and a bit more discussion with my IP’s customer service department, I came to the dawning realization that I had saturated my own network. Voice-enabled assistants, multiple streaming media players, smart phones and tablets, voice-controlled lights, wireless security cameras: the home automation and convenience devices I had added over the last year or two were too much for my legacy equipment. The new equipment needed to restore my network will be installed once I wrap this issue.

Office and home WiFi networks are not the only platforms susceptible to saturation. Industrial facilities are accelerating their use of Industrial Internet of Things technologies such as wireless sensors, cameras and datalogging. In “Optimizing Food Processing Using Wireless IIoT Solutions,” Vizma Bramane of Aranet explains how wireless temperature monitoring can report current conditions, store historical data and alert operators or others when key temperature readings fall outside of critical limits. Such features offer insights than an unconnected plant may not be able to access. To be effective, however, a robust network, shielded from interference generated by plant machinery where needed, should be the first priority for implementing the Industrial Internet of Things.

Elsewhere in this issue, Mark Brewer of IFS explores how trends such as digital twins, chatbots and augmented reality technologies could transform an OEM’s relationship with its plant and its customers. For instance, sensors placed throughout the physical manufacturing process can collect data relating to environmental conditions, temperatures, pressures, speed and airflow as well as equipment behavior to build a robust digital picture of the process. At the same time, chatbots field customer inquiries while a voice-activated assistant reminds service personnel of a step-by-step maintenance procedure.

Also, Chuck Konowalski of Kono Kogs Inc. offers the rebuilder’s perspective on regenerative thermal oxidizer technologies that improve equipment operation. Have features such as rotary-switching valves, mixed media beds, advanced fuel/air ratio control systems and remote monitoring and troubleshooting technologies significantly improved RTOs over their early days? Konowalski argues convincingly that they have, and that any RTO owner can take advantage of these retrofits to reap the gains for themselves.

Finally, in our cover story, Jay Farmerie of Cyrus Rice Water Consultants and Tom O’Donnell and Neptune Chemical Pump Co., focus on ensuring the efficient operation of a closed-loop liquid-recirculation system. Development such as enhanced tubes and plate-and-frame heat exchangers mean the potential for piping and system fouling is greater than before. Technologies that handle water treatment chemical injection and filtration streamline water treatment and help keep closed-loop systems online.