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Invisible wireless

Dec. 28, 2022
Ease-of-use is up, but site surveys and other behind-the-scenes tasks are still essential

When anything gets really big, it should be easier to see, not more difficult. At the very least, it shouldn’t just vanish, right? Not so fast. Just as it’s difficult to take in the physical features like the Grand Canyon or curvature of the Earth, and the same is true of many human endeavors and technologies. Everything from transistors to semiconductors to Ethernet used to be small enough to examine and understand on their own, but grew so widespread that they faded into the world’s invisible background. So, just like watermain breaks, they’re only noticed when they fail.

Wireless and its available networking formats are increasingly taking the same everywhere-and-nowhere path and resembling these earlier profiles. However, wireless and its users still aren’t on easy street, and a few snags remain that are perilous to ignore.

Simpler emergency shutdowns

How TC Energy in Calgary, Alberta, implemented a mesh network based on the Wireless HART communications protocol to assist with the installation of a second emergency shutdown (ESD) required at each of its 230 compressor stations. Read more.

Find a good fit for purpose

“Hardwiring is still better and more reliable than wireless in many situations, but it’s limited by its flexibility and the cost of making changes. Wireless can handle more changes and let users add devices on-the-fly at less cost." Siemens' Laurent Chalifoux shows how wireless can deliver built-in capabilities and parameters. Read more.

WirelessHART in plain sight

“Other wireless protocols are making ingresses, but many users are realizing how well-designed WirelessHART is for the process industries." Emerson's Shane Hale details how WirelessHART delivers data without forcing users to complete detailed integration tasks. Read more.

Self-serve cellular challenges Wi-Fi

“Cellular is already used in mission-critical applications because it’s highly predictable and can process tens to hundreds of megabytes per second (Mbps). Wireless has the same data rates, but its unpredictable and nondeterministic.” Daniel Quant of MultiTech demonstrates how private cellular may be a better deal than Wi-Fi as connections multiply. Read more.

What’s left on the wireless to-do list?

Setting up and maintaining wireless is getting easier, but some essential tasks remain. Here's a short list. 

Evergy saves with wireless vibration monitoring

How a Missouri electric utility deployed 5,000 wireless sensors and vibration monitoring software to track vibrations at its fossil-generation plants. Read more.

About the Author

Jim Montague | Executive Editor

Jim Montague is executive editor of Control. 

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