Self-networking instruments: New smart wireless instrumentation creates plug-and-play networks



Using wireless technology, Emerson hopes to create many new applications for their smart sensors and PlantWeb archictcture.

Emerson Process Management has raised the curtain on its new in-plant Smart Wireless product line in an effort to capture a big slice of the growing wireless instrumentation market. Unveiled at Emerson's Global Users Exchange in Nashville, the product is being heralded by the Emerson brass as a wireless platform for everyone, featuring exceptional reliability, low costs, easy setup, and, best of all, Emerson instrumentation at its heart.

A logical marriage of PlantWeb digital plant architecture, HART communication, and all that Emerson instrumentation, the new wireless platform intends to provide a seamless path from individual device to control system that takes advantage of all the capabilities smart instrumentation can offer. The system designers reportedly called upon customers and their host of field representatives to incorporate user input as much as possible to create exactly what the market wants. The new designs received strenuous field trials at BP's Cherry Point Refinery to ensure that they can perform as critical end users expect.

Early reports are very positive, according to David Lafferty, senior technology consultant with BP. "Our field trials were part of a partnership between BP and Emerson," he explained. "The trials were very successful and a win-win for both companies. We found that this wireless technology enabled us to do things we simply could not do before, either because of cost or physical wiring obstacles. Through the trials, we found that Emerson's wireless approach is flexible, easy to use, reliable, and makes a step change reduction in installed costs."

During a question-and-answer session, when asked if this new platform would change BP's thinking as they plan a $3 billion refit of their Whiting refinery, Lafferty thought briefly and simply answered, "Yes." He then went on to elaborate that the lessons learned at Cherry Point would undoubtedly be incorporated during renovations, new building projects, and even offshore platforms.

After a questioner asked what made this equipment different than other wireless platforms, John Berra, president of Emerson Process Management, stated his position emphatically. "The difference is, it's Emerson! It's instrumentation that has stood the test of time, with leading sellers in the wired world," he reminded the attendees. "We won't risk our customers' sense of loyalty just to have a wireless product."

In-plant Smart Wireless field networks use time synchronized mesh protocol (TSMP) self organizing network technology. This means that each device in the network can communicate with the gateway or the other devices. That way when an individual device does not have clear contact with the gateway, the others can serve to carry the signal as required. The architecture is designed around HART instrumentation and uses process variable and diagnostic information. During a demonstration at the conference, Emerson added a new device to an operating network simply by inserting the battery. There was no additional programming or modification, and in moments the new device was communicating with its colleagues in the network.

In an informal discussion over lunch, a small group of Emerson salespeople were excited about the new offerings, but still circumspect about customers' acceptance of wireless instrumentation from any source. Many users will still need to be convinced that a wireless option will work for them, which could be an uphill battle.

Emerson's Smart Wireless equipment requires no site surveys or special tools. It supports SP100 control and monitoring application classes 1-5 and the network is scalable from 5 to more than 100,000 devices. High efficiency allows for battery life of 5 to 15 years with options for other power scavenging methods, depending on application.

Although the offering of wireless equipped instrumentation is still somewhat limited, new devices are being added along with a transmitter designed to retrofit to any existing HART instruments from any manufacturer. In November, Emerson's on-line PlantWeb University will add more than 25 short courses that present a practical introduction to the technology and applications. For a complete set of technical documents, online tools, and information about the latest additions, click here .

Control Engineering Daily News Desk
Peter Welander , process industries editor

No comments
The Engineers' Choice Awards highlight some of the best new control, instrumentation and automation products as chosen by...
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners.
The Engineering Leaders Under 40 program identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
Learn how to increase device reliability in harsh environments and decrease unplanned system downtime.
This eGuide contains a series of articles and videos that considers theoretical and practical; immediate needs and a look into the future.
Learn how to create value with re-use; gain productivity with lean automation and connectivity, and optimize panel design and construction.
Go deep: Automation tackles offshore oil challenges; Ethernet advice; Wireless robotics; Product exclusives; Digital edition exclusives
Lost in the gray scale? How to get effective HMIs; Best practices: Integrate old and new wireless systems; Smart software, networks; Service provider certifications
Fixing PID: Part 2: Tweaking controller strategy; Machine safety networks; Salary survey and career advice; Smart I/O architecture; Product exclusives
The Ask Control Engineering blog covers all aspects of automation, including motors, drives, sensors, motion control, machine control, and embedded systems.
Look at the basics of industrial wireless technologies, wireless concepts, wireless standards, and wireless best practices with Daniel E. Capano of Diversified Technical Services Inc.
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
This is a blog from the trenches – written by engineers who are implementing and upgrading control systems every day across every industry.
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.

Find and connect with the most suitable service provider for your unique application. Start searching the Global System Integrator Database Now!

Case Study Database

Case Study Database

Get more exposure for your case study by uploading it to the Control Engineering case study database, where end-users can identify relevant solutions and explore what the experts are doing to effectively implement a variety of technology and productivity related projects.

These case studies provide examples of how knowledgeable solution providers have used technology, processes and people to create effective and successful implementations in real-world situations. Case studies can be completed by filling out a simple online form where you can outline the project title, abstract, and full story in 1500 words or less; upload photos, videos and a logo.

Click here to visit the Case Study Database and upload your case study.