Industrial plant networks go wireless

Sept. 20, 2013
Sheila Kennedy says wireless networking adds speed, intelligence, and safety to industrial plants.

Wireless data networking adds speed, intelligence, and safety to industrial plant processes at a lower installed cost than wired applications. New wireless technology options simplify the management of dispersed, mobile, and hard-to-reach equipment and resources. Innovations in cellular routers and LAN controllers extend the benefits of wireless networking to a wider range of industrial environments. Integrating multiple wireless network protocols into a single standard environment eases remote operations management.

Wireless applications

Wireless networks facilitate equipment condition monitoring. For example, the new automated steam trap monitoring application using the wireless acoustic transmitter from Emerson Process Management, Rosemount Division (, helps operations to reduce energy costs. The self-organizing, self-healing WirelessHART monitoring system automatically finds the best communication paths.

“Using the Rosemount 708 wireless acoustic transmitter, you can monitor your critical steam traps every minute of every day to address failures as they happen and maximize your energy savings. A combination of temperature measurement with acoustic ‘listening’ gives visibility into steam trap states,” says Boyd R. Coleman, product engineer, Rosemount Wireless Services.

Our New Product Resource Center features thousands of industry-leading products, all searchable by category, product type and manufacturer.

Within the plant control room, wireless networking technologies give operators greater situational awareness. OneWireless Network’s new interface for the Honeywell Enraf FlexLine radar gauge gives oil and gas storage terminal operators access to reliable inventory data in the control room, allowing improvements to productivity and safety. The OneWireless universal mesh network extension allows the gauges to integrate with any supervisory system.

“The solution provides redundant sensor gateways and dedicated virtual LAN for sensor traffic that ensures the sensor data will reach its destination even in the event of a hardware failure or a network capacity degradation brought on by environmental changes,” says Soroush Amidi, product marketing manager for the OneWireless Network, Honeywell Process Solutions (

Automatic guided vehicles used for parts delivery and forklift applications see benefits from wireless radios. “The 702-W wireless radios from Red Lion Controls can be configured to operate in station, station WDS, access point, or access point WDS modes and will operate as a bridge or router within the network,” says Diane Davis, director of Ethernet networking at Red Lion Controls (

Locating personnel during emergencies is quicker and easier with wireless mustering systems. The ION Mustering application from Apprion replaces manual processes with automated, up-to-the-second personnel tracking via Wi-Fi, GPS, or RFID tags, and provides a visible trail of recent movement.

Sheila Kennedy is a professional freelance writer specializing in industrial and technical topics. She established Additive Communications in 2003 to serve software, technology, and service providers in industries such as manufacturing and utilities, and became a contributing editor and Technology Toolbox columnist for Plant Services in 2004. Prior to Additive Communications, she had 11 years of experience implementing industrial information systems. Kennedy earned her B.S. at Purdue University and her MBA at the University of Phoenix. She can be reached at [email protected].
Subscribe to the Technology Toolbox RSS feed

“Safety is a key focus at Apprion, and one of our most popular solutions to date is the ION Mustering application. ION Mustering provides real-time wireless tracking, communication, and visual confirmation of the safety of every individual within the facility,” says Doug Donzelli, Apprion ( CEO. Apprion and Nivis recently announced they are partnering to provide ISA100.11a functionality consistent with the ISA100.11a “Corrigendum” release.

Wireless infrastructure developments

Routers that are compatible with major carrier long-term evolution (LTE) networks benefit from wire-line equivalent speeds. The Sixnet IndustrialPro 6000 and RAM 6000 series of industrial cellular routers from Red Lion Controls are now certified by Bell Mobility, AT&T, and Verizon 4G LTE networks. The routers are suited for harsh industrial environments where space is limited and wired connectivity is not feasible.

Industrial wireless LAN (IWLAN) controllers reduce the time and cost of large-scale automation application installations. The centrally configured Scalance WLC711 IWLAN controller from Siemens complies with the IEEE 802.11n IWLAN standard and monitors up to 32 access points and client modules. Operating two controllers in parallel increases the network’s availability.

“Wireless LAN controllers have been used for many years in the office and IT world. Siemens developed one that fits the industrial space. The new WLC711 wireless LAN controller is based on a fanless industrial PC that can be directly installed on the plant floor, with no air-conditioned cabinet required,” says Tim Pitterling, product manager for Industrial Ethernet Infrastructure at Siemens Industry Sector (

Coordinating data from devices on multiple networks simplifies the management of geographically dispersed assets and resources. Integrating existing wireless networks for process automation can be accomplished through the Foundation for Remote Operations Management (ROM) solution from Foundation Fieldbus (

“A successful predictive and proactive maintenance strategy for remote assets requires standardized access to remote I/O, ISA100.11a and WirelessHART operating, alarm, and diagnostic data over shared wireless backhaul networks,” says Dave Glanzer, technology director at Foundation Fieldbus. “Our object-oriented block infrastructure provides a single environment for this, eliminating inflexible custom and hard-to-maintain systems.”

Read Sheila Kennedy's monthly column, Technology Toolbox.

Sponsored Recommendations

Arc Flash Prevention: What You Need to Know

March 28, 2024
Download to learn: how an arc flash forms and common causes, safety recommendations to help prevent arc flash exposure (including the use of lockout tagout and energy isolating...

Reduce engineering time by 50%

March 28, 2024
Learn how smart value chain applications are made possible by moving from manually-intensive CAD-based drafting packages to modern CAE software.

Filter Monitoring with Rittal's Blue e Air Conditioner

March 28, 2024
Steve Sullivan, Training Supervisor for Rittal North America, provides an overview of the filter monitoring capabilities of the Blue e line of industrial air conditioners.

Limitations of MERV Ratings for Dust Collector Filters

Feb. 23, 2024
It can be complicated and confusing to select the safest and most efficient dust collector filters for your facility. For the HVAC industry, MERV ratings are king. But MERV ratings...