Wireless Extends Instrumentation Boundaries

With this issue, Automation World is kicking off a new focused publication—Process Sensing & Instrumentation Review.

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Dave Gehman, who has been the series contributing editor for the Wireless World Review, will be heading up this new project. He will be expanding his coverage of wireless—a key component of the future of instrumentation—with coverage of new developments in networks and diagnostics, sensing technologies and analytical products. Please contact him with your thoughts and ideas for coverage of this often under-reported part of automation.

While the industry failed to rally around a single wireless networking for instrumentation standard, there are only two. And, even better, companies are busily developing products so that engineers can implement them in the field. I’ve talked with several engineers who either have implemented wireless sensing networks or are planning to. All see great benefits to the technology. What was needed was for the technology to stabilize, giving them assurance that what they bought and installed now would work into the future. We are at that point. I think that we’ll see a burst of creativity in 2010 around wireless as engineers solve real problems. Better instrumentation means everyone will have a better understanding of what’s happening in the plant, and will be able to make better, more informed decisions.

Future issues will cover developments, technologies and applications concerning this basic, foundational part of the automation system. One of the “big ideas” broached by supplier thought leaders at the beginning of this wireless instrumentation push was “what if we could put hundreds of inexpensive sensors out in the plant so that we could know more about how the plant is operating?” We’ll continue to monitor this area of sensor technology to see what new types of sensing are being developed and deployed—and whether the price point is dropping. We’ll also continue
to explore all the benefits of fieldbuses—including the value of diagnostics, as well as the convergence of device descriptor technologies that make them easier to implement. As always, your ideas are welcome. Write to Gehman (dgayman@rcn.com) or me (gmintchell@automationworld.com) with your ideas, questions and concerns.

Check out the on-demand Webcast, “Extending Industrial Ethernet with Wireless Technologies,” at www.automationworld.com/webcast-6296.

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