Control News from Europe April 2008

Read Andrew Bond’s Industrial Automation Insider, a monthly newsletter covering the important industrial automation news and issues as seen from the U.K.

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Since 1968, said Lyden, the ratio of the points of measurement to points of control in process plants had exploded from 1.5 to 1, and a typical 5000 measurement points to 25 to 1 and a typical 150, 000. As a result the basic process control of the 1960s had evolved into to the “business control’ of the present day, with ever more measurement points being added as the cost of I/O falls, making ever more sophisticated applications justifiable.

Core technologies

“Invensys,” he said, “will invest to maintain leadership in our core technologies of DCS, SIS and modelling and will increase investment in InFusion as our unifying platform for enterprise control.” More specifically it will expand its wireless capabilities to provide “the most capable wireless infrastructure,” with the ability to integrate any instrument and any piece of equipment. “We’re positioning ourselves to take advantage of the proliferation of sensors and the applications they drive.”

All of which tends to belie recent suggestions that the move of the IPS headquarters to Dallas foreshadows a withdrawal from the hardware business and an exclusive concentration on software and services. Couple that with the prospect of a new generation of controller hardware for IA and intimations of a reassessment of Triconex’s position in the ongoing debate over integrated SISs, and it’s difficult to avoid the conclusion that, at least in the view of those calling the shots in EMEA, IPS is in the process automation business for the long haul. Whether that view reflects the consensus in Dallas or London may be an entirely different matter…

One carrot dangled in front of journos ahead of the Abu Dhabi event had been the possibility of meeting IPS president Paulett Eberhart and, perhaps, of quizzing her on the true significance of that move to Dallas. In the event, it transpired that she had been in the Gulf a week earlier, so it was left to the EMEA top brass to fend off the questions. That they did successfully, if not necessarily in the way that she might have wished. Broadly the consensus appeared to be that the move had no real significance as far as the longer term strategy of IPS was concerned and certainly did not imply any eventual merger with or acquisition by EDS. So what was the explanation? “Well, she really doesn’t like Boston …”


Imitation validates InFusion concept

Nearly two years on from the original launch in Boston in 2006, the InFusion story seems to be less ambitious, more understandable and a lot more credible, aided in part by the 65 sales made in its first year and the 150 in the current financial year and by the fact, claimed InFusion marketing director Grant Le Sueur, that competitors are beginning to copy the InFusion message.

Wonderware

Interestingly, while you’d have been hard pressed to find any reference to it anywhere else at the Abu Dhabi event, Le Sueur is happy to acknowledge the debt InFusion owes to Wonderware and specifically to such offerings as InTouch, InSQL and Application Server. With InFusion being presented as an “application environment,” the message is of the advantages of a common infrastructure built on a service oriented architecture in line with the requirements of the S95 enterprise integration standard and of the huge savings in engineering resulting from the use of object technology and, in particular, the ability to link graphical and engineering objects.

Le Sueur’s claim that InFusion is an “agnostic layer—we don’t care whose DCS it is” was given added credibility in a keynote presentation from Nile Al Ruchaid of Petro Rabigh, the $10-bn refining and petrochemicals complex due on-stream at Rabigh in Saudi Arabia in the third quarter of this year. InFusion provides the integration layer at Petro Rabigh in what was described as a “world-class MES implementation,” interfacing with Yokogawa’s Exaquantum Plant Information Management System (PIMS). Integrating with SAP it provides Petro Rabigh with “a single window for all applications.”

Developments

InFusion developments promised for early release include a broader range of enterprise integration options, a portfolio of “focussed” solutions based on third-party applications, simplified licensing and greater MES and supervisory capabilities based on Invensys’ recent Cimnet acquisition, now integrated into Wonderware and its Factelligence Industrial Portal.

That word “agnostic” cropped up again in the series of presentations on wireless given by IPS principal wireless consultant Garry Williams. Invensys’ stance is to present itself as an objective consultant on wireless rather than as an evangelist for any one particular technology, application or vendor’s solution. Williams’ vision is of a “WiMax bubble” under which organizations can implement a range of solutions of which 802.15.4 wireless sensor networks are just one example. How far the agnosticism can be sustained as Invensys brings forward its own wireless-enabled field devices is debatable, however, as is the potential impact of an even closer relationship with one of its principal partners, Apprion, whose newly appointed CEO is none other than former Wonderware president Mike Bradley.

Multiple myths

One of Williams’ primary objectives is to dispel the multiple myths which surround wireless and threaten to impede its uptake. Chief of these are concerns over security which, he says, are largely unfounded. Indeed, he argues, properly implemented, wireless networks are among the most secure networks available and, again contrary to popular myth, are neither easily hacked nor readily jammed or seriously slowed by the security measures.

Invensys’ go-to-market strategy is based on a top-down approach, commencing with a full assessment of the customer’s site, followed by the provision of a complete hardware and software solution which creates a common wireless infrastructure to which can be added fully engineered solutions over time. But he does have a word of warning: “Don’t try implementing wireless without getting IT involved.”

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