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Worthington’s Portugal Team Develops Internet of Things (IoT) Technology for Lightweight Residential Gas Cylinders

Innovation in the low-pressure gas (LPG) industry is no small challenge. While promising new technologies might be available, the cost doesn’t always align with customers’ needs. And the competitive nature of the industry leaves little room for anything less than the best.

At Amtrol-Alfa, Worthington’s Portugal facility, the team knows all too well the challenges of the industry and the opportunities innovation can bring. So, when they received the request from Galp, a valued customer, for a “lighter, smarter cylinder that would revolutionize the industry,” the team launched into action. 

Providing Peace of Mind

In-home gas cylinders are widely used in many parts of the world to fuel day-to-day activities: cooking a stovetop dinner, relaxing in a hot shower and delivering warmth during the winter season, to name a few. Integrating technology into these cylinders to provide real-time data would eliminate the guesswork on fuel levels, gas usage and more. Additionally, technology-enabled solutions could facilitate a stronger, more direct relationship between users and distributors, making exchanging easier and more efficient—for both parties.

A Web of Effort

In 2017, conversations began around the development of a cloud-based, industrial communication system that could track cylinders and collect associated data. Bringing a truly transformational, technology-centric and lightweight gas cylinder to market required a lot of heavy lifting from the Portugal team. “We had to consider multiple variables: Network hosting, back-office databases, dashboards, mobile applications—to name a few,” explained Pedro Vieira, manager, Research and Development. There were also safety measures to meet, data privacy laws to consider and a cylinder to design that would be capable of housing the hardware. “We needed to leverage the strategic partnerships and customer trust we have cultivated over the decades.” 

Fine-Tuning the Solution

 In 2020, the first working prototype of a lightweight LPG cylinder with integrated IoT technology was presented to the customer. Three years later—through rigorous testing, redesigning, reconfiguring and finalizing all the details—the solution, called Nexi, was ready for rollout. 

The Nexi solution includes a small, cylinder-mounted IoT device that generates system data for more efficient, sustainable and intelligent control, including location (when allowed), usage history, cylinder levels, temperature and more. It utilizes ultrasound technology to provide accurate fuel level readings and consumers can easily access consumption information and even order a refill—all through a mobile app. 

A Gateway to Fleet Management

Beyond end-user amenities, an important advantage of a smart cylinder is producing operational efficiencies for gas distributors. To achieve this, gateway devices are strategically placed. As trucks carrying loads of cylinders equipped with the Nexi devices pass near a gateway, information is exchanged and stored in the database. This allows distributors to know the status of every cylinder at all times, so they can better manage fleets, implement optimized logistics and decrease operating costs. 

Filipe Pedrosa, Vice President, Sales & Marketing, Amtrol-Alfa

For the first time, end users have a direct connection to their cylinder data so they’re able to make more informed decisions, and the relationship between users and gas distributors is stronger.

Working & Living Smarter

In late 2022, Galp released a new version of their Pluma LPG cylinder and became the first to feature Nexi technology in their product. Marketed as the world’s first smart cylinder, Pluma is built with a polymeric handle and foot ring, making it ultra-lightweight and portable, with the Nexi device installed securely on the underside. 

Today, there are already hundreds of thousands of devices in use while production runs strong. “This is truly a breakthrough,” said Filipe Pedrosa, vice president of Sales & Marketing in Portugal. “For the first time, end users have a direct connection to their cylinder data so they’re able to make more informed decisions, and the relationship between users and gas distributors is stronger.” While just the beginning, Worthington’s Portugal team has demonstrated the impact of innovation-forward thinking in the LPG industry.