No More Stealth: Another Wireless Network Emerges

There’s a new blip on the radar screen for industrial users in search of a wireless networking system.

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Banner Engineering Corp. (www.bannerengineering.com), the Plymouth, Minn.-based sensor and automation components supplier, has formally rolled out its SureCross Wireless Network through a series of press releases beginning on June 25. The proprietary network—billed as “the first wireless platform built from the ground up for industry”—is offered in both 900 megahertz (MHz) and 2.4 gigahertz (GHz) versions, and is intended for use in a wide range of sensor monitoring and control applications.

Some might say that SureCross has been flying underneath the radar until now. Though Banner only began publicizing the wireless network this summer, the company has actually been selling it for about a year, and already has “hundreds” of SureCross Wireless applications in the field, says Darvin Kaelberer, Banner business development manager. Information about the SureCross offering went up on the company’s Web site early this year, he adds.

Industrial wireless networking is shaping up to be one of the most hotly contested automation markets in the years ahead, with numerous vendors staking their claims in the space. Venture Development Corp., a Natick, Mass., market research firm, recently projected that the global market for wireless infrastructure networking products used in industrial facilities will expand at a 34 percent compound annual growth rate over the next several years, rising from shipments of $261.9 million in 2006 to more than $1.1 billion in 2011. And Banner is certain to face a raft of competition for all of those wireless dollars.

Banner’s SureCross Wireless Network relies on a star topology; the most basic SureCross network consists of a gateway system controller and one or more remotely located nodes that bring monitoring and control capabilities to connected input/output (I/O). Each gateway can support up to 15 nodes, and each node can accommodate up to 12 I/O points, depending on configuration.

Kaelberer touts a number of features that he says make the SureCross network product stand out. Banner’s proprietary radio architecture enables long-range transmission at low power, he says, allowing up to five years of continuous operation using the company’s FlexPower battery module. The FlexPower technology also offers users the flexibility to switch as needed among battery, DC and solar power, Kaelberer notes. Also key is I/O flexibility, he adds. “We can use virtually any sensor you can come up with,” whether from Banner or another vendor.

SureCross industrially hardened nodes carry an IP67 environmental rating, “so you can put it in a manufacturing environment without having to mount it in a panel, enclose it or put it in a box,” says Kaelberer. That’s an industry first, he contends, “and that’s been really attractive to our customer base.”

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