Formerly, vice president of marketing at Honeywell Process Solutions, Harry Sim got what I called then a "sweetheart deal" to become CEO of Cypress Systems, a subsidiary of Cypress Semiconductor-- one of the leading semiconductor manufacturers in the world. Cypress has a whole potload of intellectual property, and Harry decided to look around and see what he could do with it. Like any good marketer, Harry began to tour plants and walk around looking for applications that weren't being well served. How many dial gauges, from standard 2-1/2" pressure gauges to magnehelics, to other dial indicators are there anyway? According to Joe Feeley, editor of our sister publication, Control Design, "I dunno, probably a bajillion and ten." That's a pretty good estimate. Now think. How are all of those gauges looked at? By some people with clipboards and bad handwriting. And what do all of those pieces of paper do? Nothing. They get filed, in the vain hope somebody might use them for something other than firestarters. So, let's think forward a little bit, like Harry Sim did. Where are all those people going to come from, given the coming shortage of manufacturing workers? And how efficient is it to have trained people walking from gauge cluster to gauge cluster all day? Suppose you have a set of gas bottles, and the process you are doing depends on not running out of gas? You read the gauge, and guess when it is going to drop to zero, and enough beforehand so that your "gaugeomancy" won't get you in trouble, you replace the bottle even though it isn't empty, wasting the gas in the bottle, or venting it somewhere you probably shouldn't. So, if there was a way to automate the reading of all those gauges, that would be cool, yes? Well, no. Because many of those gauges are in validated systems and cannot be replaced by conventional transmitters...so... Enter Harry Sim's cool new thing. He calls it a "Wireless Gauge Reader." What he's done is marry a CCD camera, a hood, and a digital display with a hybrid mesh network radio system. So, now you can automate that person-with-a-clipboard. "We take a picture of the gauge face, digitize it, do optical recognition on it, and we send either the digital data, or the rasterized image, or both, wirelessly to the host computer," Harry explained. What mesh? "It's proprietary, Walt," Harry said, "and we're standards agnostic, but I listened to you when I was at Honeywell, and when ISA and HART and whoever get all aligned, we'll be able to supply whatever standard people want. In the meantime, we have BACnet, OPC and we're working on some other data exchange formats." I don't have pictures of Harry's neat new thing to show you yet, and there aren't any on the Cypress website yet. I'm going to have some soon, and I'm going to go visit some actual installations with Harry the end of next month. Since this is the coolest new thing I've seen in the past couple of years-- probably since the Emerson "thumb" WirelessHART adaptor, I am anxious to see how well it is picked up in the market. Harry says he already has a pack of satisfied customers, including Micrel, Novellus, Stanford University, a very large Bay Area biopharma company who shall remain nameless, and of course, Cypress Semiconductor.