Control News from Europe January 2008

Andrew Bond Reports from Europe

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Emerson adds more wireless, makes deal with Cisco

Last month saw Emerson hosting a major European press event on wireless for the second time in 2007, a measure of its determination to exploit to the full what it perceives as the advantage over arch rival Honeywell created by last September’s release of the WirelessHART protocol in the face of last minute objections from Honeywell president, Jack Bolick.

Back in January the venue was Bologna, Italian birthplace of wireless pioneer Guglielmo Marconi. This time Emerson’s European PR supreme, Charles Lewis, chose Vienna, with the entertainment including a ride on the Ferris wheel featured in Carol Reed’s film, “The Third Man.” Could Lewis be seeing Emerson’s newly appointed president for Europe, David Dunbar, replacing Orson Welles as Harry Lime, perhaps with himself standing in for Trevor Howard as the archetypal English intelligence officer, Major Calloway? Or were we to find parallels somewhat earlier, with wireless redrawing the process automation map of Europe as profoundly as the Congress of Vienna redrew the political map back in 1815?

Despite these real or imaginary subtleties, however, once we’d all thawed out after drinking Glühwein in not just one but two separate and sub-zero al fresco locations, the principal message wasn’t very subtle at all. Emerson now claims to dominate the global process automation market, and its wireless strategy is designed to reinforce and extend that domination as the industry goes through what it anticipates will be the major discontinuity brought on by the rapid adoption of wireless technology.

Market leader - which market?

In 2007, said Dunbar, Emerson Process Management had sales of $5.7 billion and contributed earnings of $1.1 billion to corporate coffers, generating an industry-leading margin of 18.7%. That, based on a conflation of data from ARC, Western Research, Morgan Stanley, Lehman Brothers and Emerson’s own “internal estimates,” gave it a claimed 17.2% share (compared with 10.7% in 1999) of a market that it believes was worth $32.9 billion in 2007. For the record, Emerson estimates its competitors’ shares as, in descending order, ABB 10.8%, Yokogawa 6.7%, Honeywell 6.3%, Siemens 4.7%, Invensys 4.5%, Endress + Hauser 3.7% and Rockwell 1.4%. And before hands are thrown up in horror or jaws dropped in disbelief, Dunbar concedes that Emerson defines the market as being made up of those sectors, and only those sectors, in which it participates.

Field focus

Significantly 76% of those sales were of field devices, compared with just 24% in systems, solutions and services, which explains, if explanation were necessary, why Emerson focussed its initial wireless efforts on field-device networking rather than taking the more all embracing approach embodied in Honeywell’s OneWireless concept. Now however, so the argument goes, field-device wireless networking has moved out of the development phase so that, as Dunbar put it, “We’re now ready to look at higher applications.” That may be, but it didn’t stop him focussing his own presentation almost exclusively on the successes that have been achieved at the device level since Emerson first introduced products to North America in October, 2006 and to Europe last January.

The achievements are impressive. Emerson is now able to point to real installations, solving real problems for real customers, including PPG Lake Charles, Wheeling Pittsburg Steel, Croda and Milford Power. In Europe, there have already been a total of nine applications since product was released in June of this year, including on Statoil’s Grane platform in the North Sea and at BP’s Wytch Farm, the largest on-shore oil field in the U.K. And Emerson can quote and name users, reporting that “Five minutes after installing it, the wireless network came to life;” “Overall we have . . . improved throughput by 5%;” and wireless devices “typically take around two hours to install compared with up to two days for a conventional wired unit.”

Wheeled out as the tame real-life user was Anders Røyrøy, project manager for R&D projects with StatoilHydro, which has installed a total of 22 wireless transmitters on its Grane platform in the North Sea as part of its long term Mesa Verde project to develop an entirely unmanned process platform by 2015. Perhaps not quite as tame as had been intended, Røyrøy conceded that there had been minor problems with the installation, not least because Emerson had been unable to supply a qualified remote antenna for the gateway for installation in the offshore environment. Nevertheless installation had been faster than expected, with all transmitters live in a matter of minutes. Interestingly, and another feather in the Emerson cap, the wireless networks integrate not with an Emerson, but with an ABB DCS.

Control and safety

Røyrøy’s view is that the real value of wireless devices derives not necessarily from their ability to provide more information, but correct information in difficult locations. He said he  sees no inherent reason why they should not be used in the future for both control and safety-critical applications. Critically, however, he added that “We don’t want to be tied into one vendor. Rather we want to see collaboration between vendors.”

With the advantage it feels it now has, not just over Honeywell, which thus far has chosen not to go down the WirelessHART route, but over other vendors who have been slower to market with WirelessHART offerings, Emerson is now piling on the pressure by introducing a whole raft of additional WirelessHART-enabled field devices. In addition to the original pressure, flow, level and temperature devices, gateways and interfaces introduced at the time of the original Smart Wireless launches, fully WirelessHART-compliant versions of which will be available from spring, 2008, it is now adding a vibration monitoring transmitter for low-cost, continuous monitoring of vibration levels on pumps and other rotating equipment, and a discrete switch for applications, such as level monitoring and spill prevention. Also on the stocks for introduction during 2008 are the corrosion monitor developed in conjunction with Rohrback Cosasco Systems, a valve position monitor, a multi-input temperature device, a wireless device router, the long awaited THUM (HART Upgrade Module) which can be added to existing HART devices to provide access to their “stranded” diagnostics and, with the release of DeltaV v10.3, DeltaV-native wireless I/O, which will make a wireless device network appear to an operator as indistinguishable from conventional I/O.

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