One doesn't have to look far to see that major automation vendors are increasingly integrating wireless technologies into their products to sow the seeds for this next generation of plant automation. Going wireless is seen as a way to cost effectively add more monitoring capabilities and points of measurement, enhance workforce mobility, improve safety and security, and drive more efficient utilization of assets, raw materials and energy.
However, for wireless to work in these often difficult and changing environments the technologies must deliver reliable performance, ease of use and cost effectiveness. Although wireless is heralded as the next big thing in automation, it certainly isn’t new. The move to use wireless technology to reduce costs and improve efficiency has been underway for some time in manufacturing organizations such as in the warehouse for asset tracking, materials handling, and supply chain management and at the points of entry for security and access control. Industrial facilities have also been using wireless as part of SCADA systems, telemetry and microwave communications for decades, in places ranging from waste water treatment facilities to offshore oil platforms.
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