It seems to me that a Times reporter attending an instrumentation trade show is a highly uncommon event. Something truly unusual was going on and wireless sensor networks seems to fit the bill. A San Diego market research firm (ON World) is forecasting almost a 50-fold increase in wireless sensor network revenues by 2010 reaching $7 billion. While $7 billion is hardly an earth-shaking amount (to the general business press), the rate of growth is noteworthy and potential applications have mass reader appeal.
"As a revolution it's not here yet, but as an idea it's everywhere."
Other standard wireless protocols, particularly Bluetooth and WiFi, have advantages in terms of data rate but they are optimized for voice and graphics transmission.
With its low power usage and large number of available nodes, ZigBee is optimized for most industrial monitoring and control situations.
On-stream analyzers could be an important test for industrial wireless technology in general including the ZigBee protocol. There is a wireless option in the plan for NeSSI (Sample Handling Initiative). NeSSI GENERATION III offers both wired and wireless Ethernet for communication with the DCS. Field trials could begin as early as next year.
Bob Sherman, Editor of ISA’s Practical Guide Series volumes on process analyzers and widely featured lecturer on analyzer topics, comments: “Heck, even intrinsic safety is a dangerous innovation to a lot of analyzer specialists, let alone wireless and ZigBee.”
The up-coming IFPAC/2005 meeting (www.ifpac05.org) in Washington, DC (January 1013, 2005) is an obvious way to stay current on process analyzer application technology as well as glimpse the future. Co-chairs Ali M. Afnan (FDA CDER) and Jerry M. Clemons (ABB Process Analytics) have developed a technical program that should challenge the most demanding observer (Yes Peter, I’m thinking of you).
Terrence K. McMahon, McMahon Technology Associates: Tel: 201-585-2050; Fax: 201-585-1968; Mcmahontec135@aol.com