ISA Expo 2006: Wireless technologies, need for engineers mark show, conference

By Control Engineering Staff October 24, 2006

Houston, TX —Following its theme of “Automation Without Limits,” ISA Expo 2006 hit a wide range of topics at its annual event held here last week, discussing everything from secure wireless Ethernet to the need for more engineers. New products and new technologies dotted the show floor as attendees braved torrential rains to participate in a technical conference called by several “the best ever.”

The exhibit floor was host to the introduction and display of such products as Krohne ‘s Optiswirl vortex flowmeter, which features integrated pressure and temperature compensation. Model 4070C measures operating, normal volumetric, and mass flow of conductive and non-conductive liquids, gases, and vapors even in fluctuating pressures and temperatures, and it uses the company’s intelligent signal processing technology. Among wireless products shown was Ikey ‘s DW-860 wireless industrial keyboard, an input device for mobile PC applications. The small footprint offering incorporates 2.4 GHz WirelessUSB technology, allowing for up to a 30-ft signal range, and is not susceptible to line-of-sight issues.

National Instruments supported the wireless array of products by conducting a wireless sensor network tour twice each exhibit day, taking interested attendees on a guided visit to six partner companies that featured wireless offerings. The personalized reviews included stops at Accsense , Accutech , Crossbow , Oceana Sensors , Phoenix Contact , and SensiCast . The tours coincided with National Instruments’ announcement of the release of additional LabView drivers for wireless sensor networks, allowing integration of ZigBee, IEEE 802.15.4, or proprietary wireless sensors into the NI LabView graphical development environment. The new free driver software works with sensors from Accsense, Accutech, and Crossbow technology. Click here to download the drivers .

At the conference, keynote speakers filled the room with attendees each day, discussing the effects of Hurricane Katrina, the need for process industry safety, and the security and safe operation of wireless devices in hazardous environments. Drawing perhaps the largest and most vocal audience was “Dick’s Last Retort,” a recurring ISA Expo presentation hosted by consultant Dick Morley . Panelists included Avi Nelson, Boston political analyst and commentator; Dr. Joel N. Orr, engineering automation and computer technologies expert with Cyon Research Corp.; and Shari Worthington, president of Telesian Technology Inc.

Morley and his panelists addressed a number issues, including global warming, stem cell research, and engineering education and engaged in lively dialogue with session attendees. The group expressed concern, in particular, about the perceived shortage of engineers today and the need to promote engineering education among young people. It challenged the doctrine of political correctness, at one point going so far as to say that being politically correct is destroying our education system by removing competition from the classroom and thereby stifling innovation. Calling engineers their own worst advocates, the panel charged the audience to speak out for its profession and encourage youth to enter engineering fields. “If we don’t do it,” said Worthington, “no one will.”

Morley said engineers need to learn to communicate more effectively, adding that it is less important to be on time and on budget than it is to get the job done. Morley concluded by promising another lively session again next year. The show and conference return to Houston in 2007, Oct. 2-4.

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Control Engineering Daily News Desk
Jeanine Katzel , senior editor