Further indication of how the current explosion of interest in wireless in factory and process automation is attracting interest from and creating opportunities for big hitters from the wider world of communications and IT comes with the news that Motorola has taken a stake in Apprion, the open wireless network pioneer headed up by former Wonderware president Mike Bradley.
Motorola, investing through its strategic venture capital arm Motorola Ventures, joined Chevron Technology Ventures, Anvil Investment Associates, Advanced Technology Ventures and Allegis Capital in a second round of funding which has netted Apprion over $23.5 million.
Apprions technology delivers capabilities not dissimilar to, but arguably less proprietary than Honeywells OneWireless or that offered by Emersons Smart Wireless Architecture through its non-exclusive alliance with Cisco. Indeed, it can claim to have pioneered the partnering approach to enabling process automation vendors to achieve a comprehensive ISA100.11a capability through its three-year-old relationship with Invensys Process Systems.
Apprions approach is designed to enable users to deploy and manage multiple wireless applications within a single integrated system. Its IONosphere on-site controller manages data services, workflow, security, monitoring and maintenance and third-party application integration across a plants wireless networks, while its IONizer, claimed to be the process industrys first industrial-grade, multi-RF, wireless network appliance, is designed cost-effectively to integrate and secure wireless-enabled applications such as VoIP and condition monitoring, which have previously operated stand-alone.
The increasing adoption of open communications standards, both wired and wireless, is creating major opportunities for powerful forces from the IT world to become involved in and make money from industrial and process automation without having to get involved in the sector-specific complexities of real-time measurement and control. Vehicles such as Apprion, by building alliances with, but remaining independent of major process automation vendors, provide the means whereby IT and communications majors can spread their influence down to all but the very lowest levels of the automation hierarchy.