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Cloud instrumentation in a process plant?

Will devices communicating via the cloud replace other wireless technologies or wired devices?

March 18, 2011

Dear Control Engineering: I was looking at the article Cloud Instrumentation: Data without infrastructure. Is there any chance that someone would use that for instrumentation in a real process plant?


It’s hard to say how some of these technologies may come to be used some day. As Ghercioiu points out, when PCs were new, few thought that anybody would use them for controlling a plant. However, I’ll go out on a limb here and say that cloud instrumentation probably has less to offer in the kind of high device density environment of a typical chemical manufacturing plant. When tag counts are in the thousands or tens of thousands and all jammed into a relatively small space, that type of communication via the Internet is probably not the most practical.


To substantiate that point, you could ask yourself why instrumentation companies have gone to the lengths to develop protocols like WirelessHART and ISA100.11a rather than just adding WiFi radio modules. When working with that kind of data transmission with that many devices in so small a space, wireless Ethernet is not the first choice.


Cloud instrumentation is probably better where devices are more spread out and more traditional types of networking are not practical or too expensive. Of course who knows how technologies may change going forward. The possibility of being able to use existing infrastructure for little or no cost is a pretty convincing argument.


We’ll continue to examine all sorts of wireless technologies and their applications. To keep current, visit our wireless channel.


Peter Welander, pwelander(at)