Emerson/Cisco Do Wireless Together

Sept. 27, 2007
Emerson and Cisco partner up to enable wirelss and mobile applications in rugged industrial environments

Wireless was the star of the Emerson Process Management’s Global User Exchange, its annual gathering of the clan, held last month at the Gaylord Texan Resort and Conference Center in Grapevine, Texas, near Dallas. Emerson used the meeting, which broke past attendance records with 2,400 visitors, to announce several wireless initiatives and its partnership with networking and communications technology giant, Cisco Systems. The two companies will work together to deliver open-standards-based solutions for network-level wireless applications.

“Networks and mobility are dramatically transforming our customers’ businesses and in-plant processes,” said Maciej Kranz, vice president of marketing for Cisco’s wireless business unit. “By delivering a combined wireless architecture from Emerson and Cisco, we are enabling our process manufacturing customers to deploy flexible, scalable and safe wireless solutions and mobility applications in rugged plant environments.”

Emerson launched its Smart Wireless system at the field-network level last year. The company says these self-organizing, wireless field networks were designed to be easily installed and deliver value without investing in a plant-wide wireless infrastructure. Smart Wireless uses IEEE 802.15.4 with added channel-hopping and the Time-Synchronized Mesh Protocol (TSMP).

Though users have been taking advantage of its wireless field products since the company started shipping them in December 2006, Emerson reports the market is now ready to deploy higher-performance wireless plant networks and the applications that run on them.

“A year ago, we launched In-Plant Smart Wireless Solutions and introduced our vision of the open, wireless, digital plant,” said John Berra, president of Emerson Process Management. “We’re now delivering on the wireless roadmap.”

Four process manufacturers testified to the benefits of Emerson’s Smart Wireless solutions. These were PPG, Lake Charles, La., Wheeling Pittsburg Steel in Wheeling, W.V., specialty chemicals manufacturer Croda, headquartered in East Yorkshire, U.K., and Milford Power, Milford, Mass.

Both Sides of the Street

Cisco apparently wants to be the network equipment vendor of choice across both wired and wireless operations in process manufacturing. The Emerson partnership follows the announcement earlier this year of its partnership with Rockwell Automation.

According to Maciej Kranz, vice president of Cisco’s wireless business group, the agreement that Cisco made with Rockwell last April was really “only for wired networking.”

So, for now at least, Cisco is going to be working with both Emerson and Rockwell Automation. This could present problems when deep discussions of a technical and strategic nature are taking place in the two companies, because, as Maciej pointed out during discussions at Emerson Exchange, wired and wireless networking are in the last stages of convergence. How those conflicts, should they arise, will work out, remains to be seen.

Emerson is also playing both ends of the game. Now that WirelessHART is a published standard, Emerson can insulate itself from the very real possibility of SP100 coming apart by going forward with WirelessHART for plant instruments and Cisco Open Network for the rest of the applications.
New Smart Wireless Products

Emerson also announced four primary Smart Wireless products: the CSI 9420 Machinery Health Transmitter, a wireless vibration transmitter; the RCS Microcor wireless transmitter from Emerson and Rohrback Cosasco Systems that enables high-speed communication of corrosion rate data; the ROC800-Series remote operations controller and its ROC800 smart, remote wireless interface card that enables ROC800 support of wireless field networks; and the Rosemount 702 discrete wireless transmitter.