Control News from Europe May 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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AirSprite is specifically targeting the oil and gas, chemical, power and water and wastewater industries, which have large numbers of HART devices installed, but without their HART functionality accessible. It has the enthusiastic support of Dust Networks whose vice president of marketing, Steve Toteda, believes it will “accelerate the broad adoption of WirelessHART solutions in the industrial market” and “provide industrial field device vendors with the wireless networking expertise they need to dramatically improve time-to-market and meet the growing demand for wireless monitoring and control solutions.”



Citect alumni take hosted application route to MES

While Australian SCADA vendor Citect’s profile has become progressively lower key since its acquisition by Schneider in 2006, a number of its former luminaries have resurfaced elsewhere, most notably at Australian-U.S. business information start-up myDIALS. One of the features of the last few years of Citect’s independence was its repeated attempts to build on the dramatic success of the original CitectSCADA by developing a complementary MES offering, variously and successively know as Plant-to Business, CitectIIM (for Industrial Information Management) and finally—and currently—Ampla. myDIALS brings the concept right up to date by offering a “software as a service” hosted application which extracts metric information from a user’s business applications and operational systems, calculates relevant KPIs and serves them back to individual decision-makers within the client organization in real time via interactive online dashboards.

Key figures at myDIALS are joint founders Peter Long and Darren Trumeter and CEO Wayne Morris. CTO Long was most recently founder and managing director of Australian professional services company OpX solutions, but was previously general manager of the business unit at Citect which developed its MIS/MES solutions. Trumeter, an SAP alumnus, sits on the myDIALS board, but is CEO of Austin, Texas, online e-learning company Sapling Systems. Before that, he was most recently COO of Citect and before that, president of its American operation. Completing the Citect triumvirate is Morris, who INSIDER last encountered when, as CEO of Citect, he visited London to launch CitectIIM five years ago. Morris moved on in 2005 to become senior vice president of worldwide marketing at McDATA while his successor, Richard Webb, stayed less than a year before Citect was sold to Schneider.

Embedded expertise

As well as adopting the fashionable hosted-application model, myDIALS adds value in the form of embedded general and vertical industry-specific expertise and best practices. To that end, it has recently formed a partnership with Boulder, Col.-based consultancy Evolving Collaborations under which it is embedding specific distribution and supply chain expertise into its deliverables. Meanwhile, one of its recent successes has been its adoption by Australian building products manufacturer Ausreo. The company, which supplies concrete reinforcement products to such projects as the Spencer Street Railway Station in Melbourne and the Epping to Chatswood Rail Link in Sydney, anticipates that myDIALS will enable its C-level executives and general managers to view safety, sales, production and inventory data and compare it with corporate and industry targets.

“ … understanding the key business drivers is critical to our success, and having that information available in a clear, crisp display wherever I am in the world is a real step forward,” said CEO Dennis Crestani. “Within days of myDIALS being implemented, we were able to see the complete picture for our safety data and a sample of our production data. We are looking forward to rolling out myDIALS to more of our employees which will then result in the alignment of organizational behaviour with our KPIs.”



Innovators’ market shares belie their influence on I/O

The worldwide market for I/O modules is set to grow at an annual rate of 5.6% to reach nearly $8bn by 2011, according to new data from IMS Research. The market is characterized by a large number of manufacturers from a diverse range of backgrounds and, although the traditional suppliers among the PLC and DCS vendors continue to dominate in terms of revenue, ‘third-party’ suppliers are becoming stronger as the remote I/O sector of the market continues to grow. Indeed ‘third-party’ suppliers are having a greater impact in terms of new product and technology than their current market share would suggest, says IMS.


I/O products with higher physical protection, for example to IP67, the bit-modular (slice) I/O module concept, wireless technology and I/O link technology have all been introduced first by third-parties who have consequently driven the introduction of new features and additional functionality across the market as a whole. Most third-parties have used their expertise as terminal block manufacturers or smaller specialist I/O suppliers to develop their products further and, hence, gain advantage when selling I/O modules as components to customers. In addition, they have benefited from the continuing development of open fieldbus networks and distributed solutions. That is in direct contrast to the established vendors, who have been more inclined to encourage customers to purchase integrated solutions from a single source that takes responsibility for ensuring compatibility between the components in the automation system and for resolving any problems that arise. This strategy, says IMS, seems to be their most effective means of protecting their market share. Increased competition between third-party and traditional suppliers has, it concludes, not only driven the introduction of new features and functionality, but has also driven down prices. However, both types of supplier will, it suggests, continue to coexist in the market for the foreseeable future.

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