Wireless Technology Primed for Rapid Process Industries Growth

Buoyed by emerging standards, wireless process sensing will become the largest and fastest growing segment, study says.

The market for wireless devices and equipment in process manufacturing is projected to grow at 32 percent per year, to more than $1.1 billion in 2012, according to a new report from ARC Advisory Group Inc., Dedham, Mass.

The market will also change its character during the period from 2007 to 2012, as new standardized wireless sensing products and hardened wireless local area networks (LAN) penetrate the process market, says the study, titled “Wireless in Process Manufacturing Worldwide Outlook.” Deployment of wireless in continuous process manufacturing industries (e.g., chemicals, oil & gas, oil refining, electric power, mining & metals) has lagged other manufacturing industries, such as automotive and aerospace, because process plants are often larger and located mainly outdoors, and because the presence of dangerous and potentially explosive materials mandates use of equipment carrying special certifications.

Wireless process sensing is expected to be the fastest growing market segment. Today it accounts for only a small portion of the total market, but according to ARC, it will become the largest segment during the next five years, as the market absorbs a deluge of new wireless sensing products that comply with wireless versions of industrial standards.

Low cost driver

Two industrial networking standards—WirelessHart, from the Hart Communication Foundation, and the Instrumentation, Systems and Automation Society’s ISA100—use the same sensor radio hardware as the ZigBee standard, but with their own software. The driving force for wireless process sensing is its dramatically lower installation cost, which ARC believes will cause the normal change-averse process industries to use it wherever they can, leading to more rapid adoption.

Wireless LAN use will also grow rapidly, spurred by the introduction of new access point products that can safely be installed in the hazardous environments that may be present in such plants. The longer range and clearer signals of future Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ IEEE 802.11n wireless standard will also make them attractive to process industry customers.

“Manufacturers in the process industries know that they need better visibility into operations that occur inside their own fence,” said Harry Forbes, ARC senior analyst. “ARC’s end-user research indicates that manufacturers believe better visibility has huge potential value in the form of more consistent use of best practices, higher plant utilization, and improved operational safety.”

ARC Advisory Group Inc.
www.arcweb.com

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