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. Availability of robust industrial wireless network protocols, such as WirelessHART and ISA100.11a, for use with IEEE standard technology makes the prospect even more attractive relative to past proprietary, often standalone wireless implementations. This potential is somewhat offset, however, by competition between these standards that leads customers to fear that wireless is emerging as the next platform for the automation fieldbus wars.
“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 (www.arcweb.com) “Wireless Devices in Process Manufacturing”.
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. Concurrent with this shift, a migration away from stand-alone 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.
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