Emerson Declares Wireless...is it war?

Early morning surprise announcements...Emerson invited a small group of media and industry leaders...but certainly not any of their competitors, to hear an announcement by Jane Lansing, director of marketing and John Berra, CEO of Emerson Process Management.

Why Wireless?

"Many projects for ROI get shot down," John Berra says, "because the installation costs, especially the cost of wireless, are too much." So companies resort to "clipboard data acquisition" either manually sending a data taker (human) around to get data that isn't connected to the control system, either with a real clipboard or with the electronic equivalent, a handheld. This is how we get data from the blind spots in the plant, where it wasn't originally intended to be able to get data, back when the plant was designed. Take a look at how many HART devices you own. All of that information is locked inside, and you can't get it out easily. We need, Berra went on, to have the ability to integrate old with new, "without tons of new engineering."

Where Wireless?

--remote global locations --near-plant locations like tank farms --in-plant locations

Distributed Inventory

Lots of plants have vendor managed inventory...parts in stock at the vendor, or in a bonded stockroom on the plant site. This information can be most easily added to the control and asset management systems by radio. Lots of plants still have stand-alone chart recorders, where data is stockpiled and then is warehoused...and you can't get it out easily. The best kind of chart recorder replacement is a wireless datalogger.

Remote Assets

Berra showed some pictures of the most remote-looking well heads and pumping stations..."very remote assets," he noted, "but there is important information that can be captured there...and wireless is the easiest way to get it back to the enterprise." There are 20 million HART enabled devices in the plant, all with "stranded diagnostics" as Berra put it. We need, he said, to move past the barriers with workarounds, and seamlessly integrate all this data from legacy systems. Monitoring these assets for better economics and business performance is critical, and wireless is the critical link, Berra claimed.

Wireless is NOT new!

Yet, as John Berra noted, there is less than a 1% adoption in the process industries. The issues: Security Power availability and consumption Standards Robustness Environment Security really means "safety" and "won't blow up the plant." Power is often not where it is needed, and battery life is critical. Standards cannot be multiple. "Our industry," Berra said, "cannot support multiple towers in the plant." Robustness means you can't "drop a call." Environment...echoing Graham Moss in our recent podcast, Berra called process plants "canyons of metal." EMERSON, Berra said, HAS SOLVED ALL THESE PROBLEMS. Emerson Others Encryption x authentication x verification x anti-jamming x x key management x "Power is Gold," Berra said. We need robust low power systems, we need to use power sparingly, and we need to be able to replenish the energy we use. According to Berra, we should expect to see interesting developments from Emerson (and, although Berra didn't say it, from others) on energy harvesting technologies, from lots of small energy producers in the plant, like vibration, heat, etc. Berra proclaimed, "You should demand that the power life of devices be greater than ten years."

Now about those standards...

"There are two ongoing standardization efforts that Emerson supports for wireless. One is the HART Wireless standardization effort, and the other is ISA's SP100 effort." Here's the bottom line, according to Berra. "What's the cost of information?" How can you bring that cost down? In Emerson's prototype testing so far, Berra said, "We've seen a 90% installation cost reduction." So, to the meat. Emerson proposes to supply a completely integrated approach, using different technologies as appropriate, but with common protocols and the ability to communicate seamlessly with the host control system. Wireless systems exist, but, "they've never been smart," Berra noted. Emerson is going to bet on self-organizing networks...the famous mesh networking protocols that have brought you the telephone, the Internet and the cellphone. They expect to deal with the "canyons of steel" by providing wired gateways for the local wireless nodes that will be created, instrument-to-instrument. "We have already proven, with our prototype partners, that we can provide greater than 99.9% data reliability and robustness. We have this data, and it works," Berra proclaimed. With the huge installed base of HART enabled instrumentation, it is necessary to deal with how to incorporate the legacy HART systems into wireless HART upgrades, and seamlessly integrate that data into the host control and asset management systems, with no special software. Berra announced, "We have thought through a complete wireless data architecture."

When does the end user see product?

In summer 2006, Emerson will release a wireless technology suite. First instruments available will be dP level and dP flow, pressure and temperature transmitters. Quickly following will be integration softwre and gateways. Later, upgrades and new installs will be released for flow (including coriolis), analytical instruments, digital vavle controllers, adn a wireless HART module for upgrades. Berra made a big deal of the fact that Emerson would be delighted to offer system integration services to end users to be able to put these systems in, too. There will be a new section on PlantWeb University for wireless technology shortly. Who's been the guinea pigs? Five major oil companies, two industrial gas companies, etc.

Now for the questions

After the meeting, the excluded competitors came along with their questions. 1. What standard is Emerson using for this initiative? Every end user and competitor is worried that Emerson intends to hijack HART Wireless and SP100 2. Is there an upgrade path for early adopters for Emerson's new, and necessarily proprietary systems to move to the open, standardized systems that HART Wireless and SP100 will provide for? Is the upgrade path real, and not "pull it out and replace it...or continue to use the proprietary systems?" 3. Will Emerson try to force their interpretation of HART Wireless and SP100 down the committees' throats? 4. Is Emerson producing all the wireless products in house, or are you partnering for technology transfer?

Go here for The Podcast.



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