“Nothing that came before—Hart, Foundation Fieldbus, OPC and so on—can compare with what wireless will do for you,” said John Berra, president of Emerson Process Management, in announcing his company’s wireless strategy at a breakfast event held during this week’s ARC Forum in Orlando. “No technology will have the impact on our plants like wireless.”
At the invitation-only announcement—held for Emerson customers, analysts and press—Berra unveiled Emerson “Smart Wireless,” a strategy built on self-organizing wireless networks that use wireless node technology from Dust Networks, in Hayward, Calif., and a family of wireless Hart devices that will be released starting summer of 2006.
While wireless networking technology is not new, it is not yet deeply accepted in process control applications. Some of the problems with its use in industry include security issues, power needs, a lack of standards, insufficient robustness and harsh environment. Said Berra, “Our totally integrated wireless approach solves all these problems.”
Power is gold
For security, Emerson builds in five security methods vs. the usual one. To satisfy power demands, Emerson is using low-power sensors, advanced battery research, careful energy management of transmitters and, eventually, energy harvesting, such as that from thermal, solar and vibration sources. “Power is gold,” said Berra. “You should demand the power life of these devices to be greater than 10 years.”
Self-organizing networks, in which every node can send and receive data, are ideal for the industrial plant’s “canyons of metal,” said Berra. Sensors can reroute data along a different path, if the primary network path is obstructed.
Berra cited three applications of the wireless strategy—remote, such as a pipeline; near plant, such as tank farms; and in-plant, to utilize previously unavailable diagnostic information, what Berra referred to as “stranded diagnostics.” He claimed the wireless application can save 90 percent of typical installation costs for a wired sensor.
While Emerson has not formally released products, it says the first devices and services will be available starting this summer. The company plans to add 20 new wireless courses to its online PlantWeb University, and eventually will release a “small box” for installation on existing Hart devices, for loop-powered wireless communications of diagnostic data.