The real world of wireless: Clearing the FUD

Fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) is a marketing or political strategy that is often used to delay the adoption of a technology.

FUD appears heavily in the press around industrial wireless sensor networks (WSN).

Industrial WSNs are no longer new to industry and are a robust and enabling technology that has gained the trust of users globally.

Wireless sensor networks are becoming mainstream on many large capital projects.

Being totally scalable, Emerson’s Smart Wireless solutions have plant wide projects of over 1,000 wireless transmit ters down to small scalable in-plant process applications of five transmitters.

Many managers and engineers have yet to realise the untapped opportunities to reach new levels of process and business performance.

Industry standard

Contrary to some recent press suggesting that customers are not choosing WirelessHART, this standard has by far the broadest global support, from both vendors and end users.

Five of the seven leading automation suppliers are committed to WirelessHART (source ARC) with prod ucts already released and in operation.

Sixteen companies in total have chosen WirelessHART as the industry standard and are developing WirelessHART products (Source HART Communication Foundation).

In comparison, only two vendors are supporting alternative standards with limited solutions.

Unique needs

The HART Communication Foundation developed WirelessHART technology to meet the unique require ments of wireless networks operating in process plants.

As an example of its wide acceptance for process applications, Emerson’s Smart Wireless solutions, which use IEC 62591 (WirelessHART) technology, are being utilised in over 1,400 customer process plants globally, and have more than 175 million operating hours.

Applications

Some vendors (who don’t yet have, or are slowly developing wireless products) continue to spread FUD around the reliable use of wireless in process applications.

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A real-world application is with one of Australia’s largest independent fuel suppliers who increased its plant safety with wireless overfill protection and minimised capital costs in the process.

(This application featured in the December 2009 issue of PACE magazine and may be found on the www.pace today.com.au website. Search for ‘Wireless Overfill Protection Secures Petroleum Tank Farm’. One of Australia’s largest independent fuel suppliers, Neumann Petroleum, was able to increase its plant safety with overfill protection and minimise capital costs in the process. After rationalising the wiring costs and the associated site shut-down losses with the projected business gains, the team decided that they could install both a radar tank level system and a separate overfill alarm and safety network for around the same price as the wiring costs alone, using wireless technology for the alarm and safety components.)

Diagnostic data

Modern wireless sensors bring a wealth of diagnostic data, like the basic health of the device such as good, bad or uncertain. Users can thus be assured of reliability, and be alerted of an error in their measurement device or the network.

With global competitiveness, industry today has to be the lowest cost producer whilst operating high reliability and safe operations. Smart Wireless solu tions offer process operations new opportunities for improvement.

WirelessHART complements, but does not replace wired HART tech nology, and provides additional capa bility that can benefit both existing wired applications and new monitoring and control applications.

Gain benefits

A Smart Wireless strategy and architecture that can align with corporate business needs and businesses can begin gaining benefits today.

Smart Wireless does this by extending your information reach for better process control and asset management, and enabling your human assets to work more safely and productively.

The benefits of wireless come from multiple applications, with just some outlined below.

Wireless Field Network

Applications for plant and process information

The more you know about the process, assets, and operations of your plant, the safer and more profitable it can be.

More (and better) measurements allows for reduced operational costs and improved quality, throughput, and availability.

In addition, new environmental and safety requirements have been established after many of today’s facilities were built, and plants have struggled to get access to measurement and diagnostic information that could ease compliance.

Often the cost or difficulty of adding new wired measurements outweighed the perceived benefits.

Wireless technology removes those barriers and gives unprecedented access to data that was previously out of economic or technical reach.

Monitor consumption

In another real-world application, an Australian company used Rosemount wireless flow transmitters and Rosemount wireless temperature trans mitters to monitor energy consumption and resource usage to reduce energy costs and environmental impact.

Due to ease of use and cost savings that wireless provided, management has now replicated wireless throughout all their sites in Asia Pacific.

In addition, millions of wired smart HART-based devices already in the field today have some level of diagnostics capability.

These devices can be upgraded with a Smart Wireless THUM Adapter to transmit diagnostics information (or other multivariable measurements) wirelessly back to the control room or workshop, where personnel can take corrective action.

Process control signals can continue to be communicated over the wired connection.

Wireless Plant Network

Applications for workforce productivity

An aging workforce and loss of experienced operators are among the most pressing business challenges for process manufacturers.

Wireless technology empowers next- generation plant workers.

The new wave of wireless tools dramatically improve productivity of these people by providing instant access to information, in the field, that they otherwise would only have back to the control room.

By providing remote access to control and asset-management systems, a ruggedised wireless PC can greatly enhance the efficiency of workers as they will be able to immediately access critical process information, historical data, graphics, and other key functions to what is happening to the process and take quick corrective action.

Instrument diagnostics

Maintenance workers can also benefit with access to maintenance work orders, advanced instrument diagnostics, instructions, and other information on the spot.

A multitude of other applications like people and asset tracking, video and mobile communication can all share the same network.

The question to ask is can your operations afford not to adopt this robust and enabling technology and how long will you wait?

[Scott Wilson is Sales & Marketing Manager – Wireless, Emerson Process Management.]