Industry leaders ponder: what do wireless customers want?

By Control Engineering Staff November 22, 2006

Each year the Measurement, Control & Automation Association (MCAA) hosts a networking event in conjunction with the ISA Expo. The event this year, on Oct. 18 in Houston, drew a record crowd of nearly 200 executives to hear Honeywell Industrial Measurement & Control’s general manager, Revathi Advaithi, and business director, Dave Kaufman, discuss results of “Voice of the Customer” input to help instrumentation manufacturers address customers’ needs for wireless technology.

Honeywell purports to have compiled customer input from their vast array of wireless installations in place over the past four years. According to Honeywell, the key results are:

Security and safety are critical;

Network communications must be robust and reliable;

Predictable power management in all environments for maximum uptime;

One multi-functional and multi-speed wireless infrastructure investment to minimize installation, training, and security costs;

Architecture must be scalable, control-ready, and connect to existing systems to protect investment; and,

One global open industry standard for trusted, open, and cost-effective choices.

Kaufman reviewed seven typical customer goals for wireless device networks which include:

Cost—capital expense, operational expense, installation/maintenance and power management;

Compatibility and scalability—interoperability/shared infrastructure, worldwide usability, capacity, and scalability;

Performance—reliable communication, adequate reporting rates, closed-loop requirements;

Quality of service attributes—timeliness (latency)/successful throughput, delivery ordering, and recovery action;

All or none security—non-messaging aspects of network security, messaging security and pedigree;

Wireless worker—local access to field devices; and,

Coordination with other bodies/system management—conservation of effort and time synchronization.

Honeywell was a charter member of ISA’s SP-100 and has offered its mesh networking technology to the committee as it builds a standard protocol. Currently the committee is also considering other competing protocols. Kaufman also invited attendees to join them in the PKS Solution program.

MCAA helps the management teams of process and factory automation providers operate successful businesses by offering resources acquired from shared management benchmarks and strategies.

Edited by Peter Welander,process industries editor, Control Engineering