Why? Think about it—users are already downloading similarly formatted ringtones to cell phones at a startling rate. According to research group ARC, ringtone sales were $3.5 billion worldwide last year, up by 40% from 2002. Sales of ringtones, costing up to $4 each, have now overtaken those of CD singles. By contrast, Apple's iTunes generates annual worldwide sales of less than $100 million.
With production rates in the hundreds of millions per year, it is inevitable that "smarter" phones will offer users increased memory storage and sound quality, enough to make carrying a single-use device like an Mp3 player redundant and unnecessary. The scenario will repeat itself for inexpensive digital cameras, and also for virtually any mobile computing application.
Overwhelming economies of scale in the cell phone market mean that it will soon be feasible to equip all plant personnel with a smartphone priced under $100. These devices will deliver a host of integrated features including global positioning, RFID tags, video recording, digital displays, web browsers, e-mail, biometric user authentication, and corporate Virtual Private Network (VPN) connectivity.
At that point, SCADA applications will be limited only by the imagination of end users. Remote cell phone access via SCADA screens, photos, and other information accessed via the corporate network will help technicians pinpoint problems. Remote access to control systems via a VPN will then allow long-distance troubleshooting from virtually anywhere in the world.COTS For All, So Software Defines the System
For several years major OS vendors fought the "Open" wars. The UNIX vendors couldn’t agree on open systems, and PC OS vendors complicated the picture when networking took the PC away from its stand-alone model. Because there wasn’t any one networking standard, systems integrators had a difficult time establishing even basic communications.
"Asset management provides first-pass diagnostics based on reported symptoms."
Today, Microsoft gives away its services for UNIX, establishing connectivity between Windows and UNIX systems. And the Internet has created one large, open network. So if there are connectivity problems, it’s usually not due to platform issues.
Commercial-Off-The-Shelf (COTS) software owes its success to open standards. And this has benefited HMI and control software. Says Steve Young, vice president of platform technology development at Invensys, "Thanks to the increasing use of open standards such as OPC and XML along with COTS technologies, control systems are becoming more open, interoperable and the cost/performance ratio of these systems continues to improve."
But application compatibility is not yet perfect. ABB’s (www.abb.com
) president and CEO, Dinesh Paliwal says there is a real lack of application interoperability, even when hardware and operating systems are compatible. He adds that the industry has made substantial progress at the OS/COTS and fieldbus levels, but not at the application level.
According to the Venture Development Corp.’s (www.vdc-corp.com
) study "Global Market Demand and User Requirements for Industrial Distributed/Remote I/O," application software compatibility is still a major issue. According to the study, compatibility with other software and systems was the most-identified requirement cited by at least 60% of the users for each application (DCS, PC-based, and PLC)."
"North America is the undisputed world leader in agriculture and in biotech. Which could provide thousands of jobs for process control professionals."
What steps can be taken to make applications more compatible? Mody suggests that any one system should be able to normalize diverse sources of data into a secure, object-based environment. Microsoft’s .NET is one technology that might provide a suitable backbone for application vendors to accomplish Mody’s vision. Its Web services, built on OPC and XML can provide data sharing among applications regardless of platform, OS, and device. It’s then up to the application developers to take advantage of .NET’s services.
Software will continue to define the control system, and control systems—whether industrial or consumer—will sink or swim based on the software that defines them. Without the right features and the convenience of controls defined in software, hardware, no matter how good it is, will go begging for buyers. Wireless, Again
As the table reveals, wireless has made our technology trend list for the past three years. It makes the list again this year as growth rates continue at a blistering pace.
According to VDC, wireless Ethernet infrastructure networking components will experience a growth rate of nearly 35% over the next three years. Shipments of wireless Ethernet infrastructure access point/networking components for use in industrial facilities are forecast to increase from $62 million in 2003 to $152 million in 2006.
Another VDC report shows that portable wireless operator interface terminal shipments are expected to grow to over $80 million by year-end 2005, a compound annual growth rate of 53.3%. These types of growth rates clearly mark a trend, and process control industry players agree.