Control News from Europe June 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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Sensing will drive process wireless market past $1 billion

Still not sure why process automation vendors are quite so excited about wireless? ARC gives part of the answer with its prediction in its newly published “Wireless in Process Manufacturing Worldwide Outlook” that the market for wireless devices and equipment in the process industries will grow at 32% a year over the next few years, breaking through the $1-billion barrier and reaching more than $1.1billion by 2012.

The continuous process industries have lagged behind discrete manufacturing in deploying wireless both because of the problems posed by its larger, outdoor sites and because of the specialist issues raised by hazardous environments. Now, however, says ARC, the picture is changing with the imminent arrival of standardized wireless sensing products and hardened wireless Local Area Networks (LANs).

Explosion in sensing

The report anticipates an explosion in wireless process sensing, currently a tiny proportion of the total market, but set to become the largest segment within five years as the result of a “deluge” of new sensing products compliant with either or both of the WirelessHART or ISA100 standards, both of which are based on ZigBee. The report repeats ARC senior analyst Harry Forbes’ previous assertion that the dramatically lower installation cost of wireless process sensing “will cause the normal change-averse process industries to use it wherever they can, leading to more rapid adoption.”

Less spectacular, but significant nonetheless is the rapid growth that ARC predicts in Wireless LAN usage, driven by the availability of new access point products that can be safely installed in hazardous areas and by the longer range and clearer signals of future IEEE 802.11n wireless. Forbes also sees significant potential for wireless in coordinating the huge numbers of different tasks, contractors, suppliers and materials involved in major equipment turnarounds for which ever-shorter outage periods are acceptable. “Manufacturers in the process industries know that they need better visibility into operations that occur inside their own fence,” said Forbes. “ARC’s end- user research indicates that manufacturers believe better visibility has huge potential value in the form of more consistent use of best practices, higher plant utilization and improved operational safety.”

More wireless news

  • Get used to Emerson trying to build on its WirelessHART lead by releasing a continuous stream of new devices, each of which will almost certainly claim to be the first of their kind. Most recent addition in this category is the Rosemount Analytical Model 6081-P wireless pH/ORP transmitter, which claims to reduce installation costs by up to 90% compared with traditional wired devices. Diagnostic messages available via HART include calibration error, high and low temperature warnings, glass failure, reference failure, ROM failure, sensor failure, CPU failure and glass and reference warnings. The 6081-P can be purchased alone or as part of Emerson’s Wireless SmartPack Starter Kit.
  • Honeywell is promoting wireless as a cost-effective means of extending or replacing existing wired systems in process plant with the introduction its XYR 3000 wireless multiplexers. Part of the “OneWireless” portfolio, they support a wide range of legacy communication protocols, including Modbus and OPC, providing the means to connect existing wired instrumentation into wireless networks. Offering bi-directional communication for monitoring and control, they are being offered for applications in such areas as safety showers, tank-level monitoring, remote pump control, video monitoring, gas detection system connection and the addition of off-the-shelf sensors. Honeywell claims that the multiplexers can be deployed in less than 30 minutes, providing the means to avoid the costs both of conventional wiring on greenfield sites or of digging up and replacing damaged wiring in older facilities.
  • Former Wonderware president Mike Bradley continues to build up his team at wireless technology pioneer Apprion by the simple expedient of raiding his previous company for talent. Bradley’s own appointment earlier this year had already raised speculation that Wonderware’s parent, Invensys, might be interested in a much closer relationship with Apprion than its current use of the latter’s technology. That speculation can only increase following the appointment of Mike Sullivan, formerly vice president of sales at Wonderware distributor Wonderware West, as vice president of global sales; of Rick Crider, former Wonderware vice president of strategic alliances as director of sales channel development; and as director of system integrator market development, Tony Bustamante, who held a similar position at Wonderware.

PI resorts to a lawyer to validate its node count

It’s almost exactly a year since INSIDER last approached Profibus UK chairman Bob Squirrell in search of a reasonably reliable estimate of the number of ProfiNet nodes installed in the field. That follow-up to an earlier unsuccessful enquiry had been prompted by the claim that Ethernet IP and Modbus TCP had between them a 51% market share and thus, by implication, more nodes than ProfiNet. After a short hiatus, Squirrell extracted a response from Carl Henning at the Profibus Trade Organization (PTO) in the U.S. who, having asked his own series of rhetorical questions along the lines of “What is a node?” assured us that “We’ll have an answer to define and accurately count ProfiNet nodes probably early next year. And we’ll state our methodology (and what exactly we’re counting) then.”

That promise seems to have been fulfilled with data released by Profibus International (PI) towards the end of last month, and it’s clear that PI has gone to some lengths to define what it means by a ProfiNet node― “an automation end device with a ProfiNet interface”―and what it doesn’t ―“Devices such as switches, hubs and routers; i.e., structural components of the Ethernet infrastructure, are not counted.” Moreover, one suspects in an attempt to forestall any criticism from such quarters as the Fieldbus Foundation, it has made a significant effort to establish the objective credentials of the counter by appointing a notary to determine the number of installed nodes. It’s also worth noting that, whereas other figures have previously been quoted on the basis of nodes “installed and shipping,” devices ordered or even, in the case of earlier Profibus data, of ASICS sold, this latest data mentions only installed nodes.

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