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Standards Help Industrial Wireless Devices Gain Traction

The prospect of adding wireless devices to the process automation architecture is a compelling one from the perspective of tangible business benefits and incremental operational improvements.

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"The potential market for wireless devices is one of the closest-watched segments in process automation.  Still served largely by proprietary solutions, the advent of robust industrial wireless standards has captured the attention of end users, OEMs, and system integrators alike.  Increased availability of products and solutions that support industrial wireless standards will help spur double-digit market growth due to the tangible business benefits that can be achieved through use of wireless instrumentation," says ARC Vice President Chantal Polsonetti, the principal author of ARC's "Wireless Devices in Process Manufacturing" report.

As the WirelessHART and ISA100.11a standards gain footholds at the sensor level, the majority of the process wireless market will gravitate away from legacy proprietary solutions that continued to account for a large share of the 2011 market, says Polsonetti. Concurrent with this shift, a migration away from standalone point-to-point installations will occur in favor of mesh-based, inherently redundant device level solutions that interface to a Wi-Fi-based plant or facility backbone.
Tighter integration of wireless implementations with the overall automation scheme is central to this migration. The addition of incremental measurement points due to availability of wireless devices is attractive, but the ability to integrate, analyze and act upon these additional measurements is reliant on integration with the control or monitoring system, insists Polsonetti.
The availability of industrial wireless standards at the device level is leading to the mainstreaming of wireless devices, and consequently to higher supplier participation. The relatively recent introduction and certification of the industrial standards means that many products are still in the developmental pipeline.  ARC expects the supplier landscape to expand dramatically over the next decade as numerous sensor, transmitter, actuator and other device-level product suppliers introduce wireless offerings.
Growth in wireless implementations by geography is largely driven by the presence of the leading adopter industries and/or the radio frequency (RF) regulatory landscape. Availability of greenfield projects versus add-ons will also impact the relative size of the market by geography, says Polsonetti.
For more on how WirelessHart and ISA 100.11a are competing for dominance as the enabler of smart instrumentation, see
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