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"Also, as the wireless standards mature and more functionality is pushed out to the field, we're likely to see an even greater distributed architecture with all the primary control done at the field-device level with wireless linking devices resident in the field junction boxes that communicate back to a central control room. This would be a significant change from our current design practices. However, the potential cost savings are tremendous due to reduced home-run cables, cable trays, process interface buildings and other equipment."
Ironically, once integrators and users begin to eliminate point-to-point hardwiring, some users also start question how much twisted-pair fieldbus networking they need, especially if more data processing and intelligence is migrating to the field anyway. "We're just saying it's helpful to distribute controllers closer to the I/O points and other devices that they're hosting," says Karie Daudt, senior product manager for Turck Inc.'s (www.turck.com) networks and interface division. "For example, we have a programmable gateway for EtherNet/IP that is like a mini PLC. It has both smart I/O and distributed PLC capabilities, and so it can run control programs locally for distributed I/O points, and then just pass the resulting process data up to the asset management system. In fact, one of these programmable gateways has been doing PID control for a glass manufacturer, and it can keep that process running locally, even if communications are lost with the initial master PLC."
Jim Montague is Control's executive editor.
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