Wireless technology: Device bridges the gap between RFID, sensor networks


Keeping up with the flood of wireless industrial instrumentation and networking equipment can be difficult. Hardly a day goes by without a new product of some sort. Occasionally, a technology emerges that offers an intriguing new wrinkle and closes a gap between different levels of coverage.

Machine Talker Inc . supplies a line of devices with the same name to bridge the space between conventional RFID tags and wireless instrumentation mesh networks. The best way to think of them is as an intelligent RFID system. Imagine a device with the following features on one board:

  • Radio transceiver

  • Temperature sensor

  • Light detector

  • Accelerometer

  • GPS

  • Microphone

  • UART for serial I/O

  • A/D converter

The original applications for these centered on freight and shipping uses. The device is capable of monitoring its location and conditions, with capability to store this information or share it with nearby devices or gateway. Multiple Machine Talkers in adjacent containers on a ship communicate with each other and share information via a self-forming mesh network. If one experiences a high temperature or impact, the appropriate sensor will detect and record it.

When something offers all these capabilities and is not very expensive, creative people will find new uses for it. Sense-Comm Technology is now using Machine Talkers as transmitters to network instrumentation for petroleum tank farm monitoring. The first sensors include radar level detectors, power factor meters, current probes, flow, pressure, and motion detectors.

Because the unit has an A/D converter, it can serve as a proxy for any type of instrument and link it to a mesh network with other Machine Talkers. With appropriate programming, a Machine Talker can be instructed to perform many functions. For example, it can monitor a process variable, but only send out a report under specific circumstances. As long as things are happening as they should, it remains quiet and does not transmit.

"Using a Java-based API, Machine Talkers can be programmed to monitor events, maintain records, and service all types of sensors," says Roland F. Bryan, president and CEO. "In one application, they monitor and report on goods in transit and the shipping containers themselves; in another, they permit external connection of industrial sensing devices. In both applications, the same Talker product is used, differing only in their respective software."

This technology offers a very interesting package with a lot of potential for creative engineers. Machine Talkers will likely turn up in a wide variety of applications.

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.