Wireless IO advantages: More data, less work

New I/O products provide more measurement and control for processes, optimization, and asset condition monitoring with less effort, wirelessly.

10/07/2011


FreeWave Technologies FGR2-IO-IOE and IO Expansion are shown in an enclosure serving six wells. Courtesy: FreeWave TechnologiesMore measurements and better control for processes, optimization, and asset condition monitoring are achieved with less effort with help from new I/O products.

In process dependent industries, such as oil and gas, manufacturing, chemical, food and beverage, and water and wastewater, it is increasingly rare to see processes that rely on human decisions and manual interaction. This is because relying on human judgment and reactions introduces variability in reliability, timeliness, and quality. From a customer’s perspective, variability in these areas reduces the perceived quality of a service or product. From the organization’s perspective, variability creates significant challenges in growing revenue, capping expenses, and maintaining consistent quality of service.

Here’s how wireless IO might be expanded in a SCADA application. Courtesy: FreeWave Technologies

The earliest I/O installations succeeded in taking measurements and controlling process elements to automate key process decisions, with some pains. In water and wastewater, I/O connections were used to report information on tank levels to ensure full tanks and adequate pressure or supply for transmission and distribution. In oil and gas, I/O modules were introduced to monitor plunger arrival to increase gas production of old wells. Despite the benefits, there were numerous challenges. The earliest projects required technicians and engineers to learn new technologies and use out-of-the-box problem-solving skills.

Some IO modules can be expanded as needed; 15 are shown here. Courtesy: FreeWave TechnologiesBiggest differentiator: Wireless

The newest I/O products offer major functional improvements. Arguably, the biggest differentiator is wireless I/O. Wireless I/O removes the enormous challenge of running cable from the point of measurement or control to the process controller. Wireless I/O delivers the most cost-effective method to monitor and optimize a process that spans between 100 ft and 100 miles. Cost savings are realized immediately by eliminating cables and conduits, trenching and construction crews, and permits. Cost savings also are realized over time with quick troubleshooting, over-the-air configuration changes and upgrades, and by eliminating cable management activities. Wireless I/O also can integrate directly into a larger wireless SCADA network to connect the corporate office with the field controllers, process measurements, and control points. Furthermore, process security is enhanced with proprietary frequency-hopping spread spectrum (FHSS) wireless technologies.

Expandability is another differentiator in new I/O products. Some wired and wireless I/O providers offer expansion modules with an extremely high-density I/O, allowing users to install a small set of I/O in a critical location of the process up front, knowing that more can be added at any point in the future. Expansion modules are connected directly without additional mounting hardware, allowing up to 200 I/O points at one location easily. Adopting an expandable platform is often justified by additional monitoring mandated by the government, new process technologies that require more points for monitoring and control for higher process output, and peace of mind knowing that more points are easy to add.

The newest I/O products provide more data with less work. In addition to wireless and expandability, features such as universal channel configurability, measurement accuracy, device reliability, backwards compatibility, and ease of use also enhance the usability of new I/O devices. The latest I/O devices should deliver one simple product to install and use for all your process optimization and condition monitoring applications.

- Andrejs Rozitis is product manager, FreeWave Technologies Inc. Edited by Mark T. Hoske, CFE Media, Control Engineering, www.controleng.com

www.freewave.com

Related reading

IO expansion for wireless data radios - Freewave's IO Expansion modules have access times up to 192 IO points and have non-isolated inputs to reduce the number of external components.

Also see a collection of Control Engineering articles on wireless.