Intertec is seeing increased customer demand for equipment housings to contain wireless process monitoring equipment in outdoor environments. The company attributes this partly to increased use of industrial wireless sensor network (WSN) technology, but mainly to the growing industry awareness that the glass-reinforced polymer (GRP) composite material it uses for all of its protective enclosures is electromagnetically transparent.
Until recently, process industry take-up of WSN technology has been relatively slow, possibly because competing wireless standards have made systems designers wary of making the wrong choice. However, for mainstream industrial process applications, the field has now narrowed to just two standards – WirelessHART and ISA100.11a. Both standards define secure, self-healing wireless mesh technology operating in the 2.4 GHz ISM band, using IEEE 802.15.4 standard radios.
Intertec has long been aware that one of the many benefits of its GRP composite material is electromagnetic transparency, which produces a wide range of frangible environmental protection cabinets and shelters for radar and instrument landing systems at airports which are designed not to reflect or interfere with radio signals. The housings are also used extensively for cellular and satellite communications applications, as well as satellite navigation systems; the GRP material causes no measurable loss of received or transmitted RF signals, so the equipment antennas can be contained within the enclosure. However, until now, Intertec had not actively promoted the fact that the non-metallic construction of its products is also ideally suited to field-based 2.4 GHz wireless sensor networks.
According to Marint Hess, CEO of Intertec, "More and more process industries are starting to deploy wireless field instrumentation, although at this stage it's only for monitoring and diagnostics – I think that it will still be a long time before wireless is used for process control purposes. Having said that, the technology offers huge benefits for companies with large remote data acquisition needs, completely eliminating the cost and inconvenience of cables. We believe that our GRP composite enclosures provide plant engineers with a future-proof path for WSN technology."