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Because initial exploration and use of wireless seems to spark unexpected ways to deploy it, this new appreciation of wireless' potential also is inspiring many suppliers to develop and launch novel products to help users make the most of wireless' capabilities in their applications.
Tom Skwara, director of technology at Electrochem Solutions (www.electrochemsolutions.com), a subsidiary of Greatbatch, reports his firm began by specializing in lithium thionyl chloride batteries, more recently got involved in producing wireless sensing, and now helps individual users implement customized wireless solutions.
Electrochem recently helped Rooney Petroleum Services (RPS, www.rpservices.biz) in Riverton, Wyo., to better monitor its gas wellheads by installing its PressureSensorOne (PS1) wireless pressure sensors on RPS' gas wellheads. The PS1s transmit wirelessly to Electrochem's BaseStationOne-U gateway, which is located in the RPS mobile command center.
"PS1 is ideally designed for hazardous oil and gas environments, and each sensor provides multiple readings of various elements. Reporting is configured for up to 20 sensors in the field simultaneously at speeds up to 10 readings per second," says Skwara. He adds that Electrochem's solution helped reduce RPS' operating costs by reducing manual labor by $80,000 to $250,000 each year, and that quality of service has improved by enabling more frequent measurements for users.
Similarly, Opto 22 (www.Opto22.com) has added wireless Ethernet capabilities to its Snap PAC programmable automation controllers and I/O components. "By adding an internal radio and antenna for a wireless local area network (WLAN) to our Snap PAC, we're basically offering wired and wireless at the same time and in the same way that they're available in any laptop PC," says Benson Hougland, Opto 22's marketing VP. "This makes it easy for a user to, for example, set up a quick pilot project in one day to monitor an electrical room for the energy their facility is using, and send that data wherever they want without having to drop in lines."
However, to make sure these and other wireless applications can run securely, Opto 22's "Overcoming Concerns about Wireless PACs and I/O in Industrial Automation" white paper cautions, "Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA), including the Temporal Key Integrity Protocol (TKIP), replaced the older WEP algorithm in 2003. The more recent WPA2, introduced in 2004, uses the even more secure Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) 802.11i algorithm. WPA2's AES algorithm is compliant with the National Institute of Standards and Technology's (NIST) FIPS 140-2, required by some government agencies and corporations. These standards can protect a robust communication system. For secure communications, WPA2-compliant products should be used for industrial wireless implementations today."
Besides security, wireless devices need power, so Advanced Cerametrics Inc. (ACI, www.advancedcerametrics.com) recently introduced its Harvestor-III power modules that can capture mechanical vibration energy to provide perpetual electric power for microcircuit applications.
Finally, though vibration monitoring is more data intensive than other measurements traveling via wireless, KCF Technologies Inc. (www.kcftech.com) reports that its online vibration monitoring system uses a web-enabled wireless receiver and wireless sensors, which also can be powered by a power-harvesting unit. In fact, three of KCF's wireless vibration sensors were recently installed on each of two 1,200-ton chillers, and they transmit data on an assigned 5-minute to 12-hour schedule. This real-time data allowed KCF's software to perform continuous monitoring, and detect energy transients such as stall and surge. KCF estimates its wireless installation is about 48% less expensive than hardwiring. So what are you waiting for? Start walking the wire...less.
Jim Montague is Control's Executive Editor.