More about Invensys and Wireless: from the horses' mouths

Paul Miller, Hesh Kagan and Brian Courchesne from Invensys dropped in this afternoon to talk about the walk that's behind the press release I posted earlier today. Basically, as my colleague and predecessor in this chair, Paul Studebaker chief editor of our sister publication Plant Services, acutely pointed out, what Invensys has done is to make a shopping list of the seven critical pain points that all end users are complaining about, took a look at what Invensys can do for them, both from a products point of view and from a provider of services point of view, and then applied the wireless enabler to them. Pretty smart. Hesh Kagan pointed out that wireless is an enabler, not an industrial process technology in and of itself. The big takeaways from Invensys' presentation were:
  • Invensys is doing its best to be Basic Process Control System Agnostic, and in keeping with its InFusion architecture, has provided ways to connect sensors to the enterprise regardless of what BPCS you have. "We're building on our consulting practice model," Courchesne noted.
  • Wireless is an enabler. Even though the cost of maintenance of wireless sensors (at least according to Gartner Group) is some multiple higher than that of wired networks, the twin advantages of low cost of installation and improvement in asset management ability far outweigh the so-far unclear additional cost of maintaining the network. "The math is clear," Kagan said, "that some number of casual measurements gives you a better picture of the process than one extremely accurate measurement." He went on to point out that already prices for wireless sensors are coming way down. "Our Robertshaw Industrial Products division has a wireless temperature, pressure and vibration sensor package that they sell in the dairy industry, in the fuel tank monitoring industry, and it sells for a whole lot less than a typical industrial transmitter would," Kagan said. "I estimate that it will only be a shot time, maybe four or five years, before we start seeing those devices migrating into industrial process plants."
  • Condition monitoring is the big wireless market, at least at first, because wireless sensors will be inexpensive enough to be practical for CM applications...and CM doesn't have anything at all to do with the BPCS.
It will be very interesting to see whether this "we're here to help you" approach plays with the end users. One thing is certain. This is one outsourcing effort that is pretty clean. The end users do not have core competency in wireless networking, wireless sensors, and networking, so this kind of outsourcing won't be ending any careers, or causing dislocation.