Wireless: Invensys, Wonderware look at OEM, end-user adoption

While customers of human-machine interface (HMI) software and process controls differ in their wireless understanding and abilities, users understand that wireless industrial applications will continue to expand, say two Invensys experts.

07/14/2009


While customers of human-machine interface (HMI) software and process controls differ in their wireless understanding and abilities, users understand that wireless industrial applications will continue to expand, according to two experts within Invensys. Thomas Morrissey, Wonderware technical hardware manager mobile solutions, and Hesh Kagan, managing consultant for enterprise architecture and integration, for Invensys Process Systems shared wireless perspectives recently with Control Engineering . Answers could help end-users, system integrators, and original equipment manufacturers find their way wirelessly.

What wireless standards do you support?

Kagan : Invensys wireless approach is based on solutions customers are looking for, using existing and developing standards, and off-the-shelf technologies. This includes IEEE 802.11x, used throughout the enterprise worldwide, as well as Fieldbus Foundation, ISA100, WirelessHART, ZigBee and others. At present, our field instrumentation doesn't include a native wireless protocol. We're designing to be agnostic to field bus protocols. Still, there are many ways to connect wirelessly, with adapters to wireless I/O and gateways to the control system. It's not changing the way we do business; we're committed to ISA100. ISA100 WG6 is working on interoperability and convergence of ISA100 and WirelessHART technology within a dual boot multi-stack approach.

Morrissey : Our customers are up to speed with 802.11 b and g (some radios have dual compatibility) and are starting to look at n. They are asking for more speed and data packet size to get across wireless local area network (WLAN) to their backend systems.

Do you think customers are concerned about one standard or another?

Kagan : The operations people I deal with are not asking for standards, just solutions, field or enterprise. At present, they're not asking for standards as a predetermination for using wireless. On the enterprise side, they just want something secure and robust. Expectations are realistic, with some strong interest on how to deal with access, security, and intrusion prevention.

Morrissey : They know their standards, what's coming out, and they do deal with infrastructure, including mesh networking.

What does wireless mean when working with actual devices?

Kagan : I consistently hear the desire to deal with one device that has multi-functional capability, mobile communications to various servers, with multiple functions. Operators and field engineers don't want to have to carry multiple handheld devices to do the many functions required in the field. What end users want is an integrated display, voice and data hand held computer that supports many different wireless communications - such as WiFi, barcodes and RFID - and connect the software behind the scenes, so users can access all their required functions without having to open and close applications.

Is security high on the list of wireless concerns?

Kagan : There's a lot of excellent technology available in wireless security. Intrusion detection and authentication are highly developed applications. Network management applications are available and well integrated into the same software used in wired networks. Like any networking technology wireless, networks need to be properly engineered to be robust and secure. Some folks out there that are experimenting with wireless may expose themselves to vulnerabilities they don't realize. If done correctly, it can be very robust.

Morrissey : Wireless outside can have signal bleed into other facilities. Intrusion prevention is widely adopted, with the latest security features. Many use WEP for security protection. Many customers use wireless field services very successfully, including high-value assets, such as refineries.

Anything else?

Kagan : We're at the knee of the adoption curve, so to speak. A year and a half ago or more, folks were adamant that they would never use wireless. Today, it's a given that wireless is where we're going, but customers do want to see proven returns on their investments.

See also in Control Engineering , System Integration: Wireless Standards .

- Mark T. Hoske, editor in chief, Control Engineering





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