Honeywell has become the first mainstream process automation vendor to introduce a wireless solution that is claimed to be suitable for process control. To date, most vendors, and particularly those whose offerings are based on WirelessHART, have said that their solutions are suitable for monitoring, but that the technology is not yet ready for control applications. Now, however, the latest R120 release of Honeywell's OneWireless mesh network technology includes what it claims is the process industry's first redundant Wireless System Gateway (WSG), which it describes as "a critical prerequisite for wireless process control."
The new gateway manages the flow of data between wireless field instrumentation and a plant's process control network, backing up the main gateway and ensuring that data is always delivered even after a malfunction or failure. Combining the new WSG with the existing redundancy features in OneWireless creates what Honeywell believes is the first industrial wireless system with complete hardware and radio-frequency redundancy from the field instrument to the process control network connection. With additional failure recovery features helping to prevent data loss, Honeywell says that the network can recover from any field hardware failure in less than two seconds. "Many plants today are only using wireless for non-critical applications, but that will undoubtedly change in the future as the trust in and adoption of wireless technology grows," said Honeywell global wireless business director Jeff Becker. "Plants will control critical processes over wireless networks, which must be as reliable as wired networks. OneWireless is ready for these new demands with built-in features that enhance data availability and system reliability."
Within the OneWireless topology, each gateway can support up to 100 transmitters, while a single server can support up to 40 gateways. The R120 release also includes several other enhancements, including adaptive transmit power control which enables XYR 6000 field instruments to use the least power possible to transmit signals to OneWireless multinodes or access points, thereby extending battery life and minimizing radio interference. New OneWireless products are now shipping with the R120 software or firmware, while existing installed devices can be upgraded by an "over the air" software update.
Honeywell has also added a OneWireless version of its valve position sensor to its portfolio. The device is based on the Honeywell Micro Switch CX series hazardous location analogue sensor and monitors the position of valves located in remote or hazardous areas.
...and adds natural gas measurement capability
Honeywell has signed a definitive agreement worth some $400 million to acquire Kassel, Germany-based natural gas measurement and control leader RMG. Founded in 1931, RMG specializes in the design and manufacture of natural gas control, measurement and analysis equipment, including flow metering, regulating products and safety devices for oil and gas companies. Its 2009 sales are estimated to be $290 million.
Honeywell says that RMG will be integrated into Honeywell Process Solutions (HPS), where it will complement the 2007 acquisition of Delft, Netherlands-based Enraf. "Global demand for gas, specifically clean energy sources like natural gas, is growing, and RMG is an established solution provider in the industry," said HPS president Norm Gilsdorf. "RMG's technology complements our industrial platform and will ultimately enable us to provide our existing customers, as well as new customers, with broader solutions that span the entire gas supply chain. This is an excellent fit for our business and will strengthen Honeywell's global presence in the clean energy industry."
Honeywell' sees RMG's gas flowmeters and regulating devices complementing its own pressure and temperature transmitters, LNG level gauges and control solutions, thereby enhancing its position in the areas of natural gas transportation, storage, distribution and industrial consumption.
News of the RMG acquisition followed close on the heels of the release by Honeywell of Terminal Manager, a new distribution-automation system designed to enable the safe and efficient loading and unloading of trucks, rail cars and ships in bulk-liquid terminals by linking terminal operations into its Experion PKS control system.