The Wireless Industrial Networking Alliance (WINA) announced the results of its first end-users survey on the application of wireless technology in the automation industry at the ARC Forum in Orlando, Fla.
"Given today's economic outlook, we wanted to go directly to the end users of various industries to establish a benchmark," said WINA president Steven Toteda. "We posed questions to our large member base about what, in their view, the major issues and contributing factors in wireless implementation are and what the future may hold for wireless at their sites."
According to WINA, survey results showed that the process automation industry overwhelmingly agrees there is a clear shift toward preference for wireless field devices, with only 5% believing industry will not embrace wireless. Illustrating this point, nearly 40% of respondents expect wireless devices to make up 20% or more of their field devices by 2015 and of this group, over 50% believed wireless devices would account for 30% or more in the same time frame.
"Heavy industry moves slowly, but very methodically," explained Toteda. “The growth of wireless devices from the current average of 5% to that of between 20% to 30% in five years represents a staggering advance for wireless, especially when you consider the size of a refinery or water treatment plant that may have 50,000 sensor points over several square miles," added Toteda.
Security concerns remain the number one barrier among those who had not yet implemented wireless, with 50% of survey participants believing that wireless solutions were less secure than wired. On the flip side however, within those industries surveyed that had more experience with wireless, oil and gas for example, respondents most frequently perceived wireless to be as secure or more secure than wired.
Predictably, security and robust industrial design topped the list of qualities considered vital when users conducted side-by-side comparisons. Standards-based solutions were also rated as most or very important by 40% of respondents. Surprising, however, was that 55% of those surveyed believed a brand name product was of little or least importance.
According to Toteda, there is still a lot for suppliers to do to educate end users on the security benefits of wireless. "I look at these results and am impressed by two things," says Toteda. "First, that the industry as a whole has failed to adequately address the misconception that wireless security is not as effective as hard wired — the truth is, wireless is far more secure because of the use of strong encryption technology and network controls that eliminate unauthorized devices from being on the network. Second, the fact that according to our results, decisions are not being made based on brands that may be already installed. This may imply new market share gains for existing vendors moving aggressively, or an opportunity for new vendors to emerge."