New sensor networks will measure business variables, not the process.

Emerson Process Management reckons a move to “pervasive sensing” will more than double the existing $16 billion measurement market by helping production facilities enhance site safety, reliability, energy efficiency, and more.

October 4, 2013

Emerson Process Management has introduced an expanded product portfolio to address what it sees as an untapped market for intelligent sensors in process manufacturing and production operations. This expanded market, which it has dubbed “pervasive sensing,” extends the company’s focus beyond traditional process control and safety systems to address customers’ need for improved visibility to conditions outside of process control. Emerson estimates that over the next 10 years this additional served market will more than double the $16 billion traditional measurement market. 

The company contends that deploying this pervasive sensing can help enhance site safety, security, equipment reliability, and energy efficiency in industries such as oil and gas production, refining, chemical, power, and mining, where installing additional sensors to monitor non-process parameters has traditionally been physically difficult, expensive, or technically challenging. This is counter to the historical approach where the risks associated with equipment degradation or failure  were dealt with by periodic manual inspections and reactive maintenance, or energy losses were simply unidentified and allowed to continue unabated.

With the advent of wireless technologies and advances in sensor technology and installation techniques, Emerson has overcome the cost/value barrier by providing lower cost of deployment, reliable non-intrusive installation, and low lifecycle costs, combined with a high degree of ease-of-use in sensor applications. New software applications and embedded sensor intelligence is also becoming available to interpret the data from these sensors and convert it into actionable information, enabling prompt response to potential problems and better insight for improved decision-making.

“Our customers are like anyone else—they want actionable information that can make their lives safer, more predictable, and save them cost, risk, and time,” said Peter Zornio, chief strategic officer at Emerson Process Management. “This goes beyond the control room and optimizing process performance. They want clarity and certainty of conditions for business-critical decision-making across all aspects of their operations. To achieve this, a more comprehensive network of sensors is needed. Pervasive sensing provides the foundation for their insight.”

Zornio adds, “A great analogy we are all familiar with is the ongoing evolution of automobile sensors. They have evolved from managing engine performance and simple ‘check engine’ alerts to providing actionable information about all aspects of car performance, such as precise tire pressure and fuel economy, to help maintain safety, economy, and provide failure prevention diagnostics.”

Emerson says it is already seeing customers move aggressively to take advantage of pervasive sensing. It cites an Eastern European oil processing plant that is currently deploying a full wireless infrastructure to allow the addition of 12,000 instruments following a pervasive sensing scheme. This represents 60% beyond the base of traditional process measurements in an effort to improve detection of energy losses, equipment corrosion, and safety releases.  

“The pervasive sensing opportunity grew out of Emerson listening to our customers and better understanding their needs,” said Steve Sonnenberg, president, Emerson Process Management. “While the industry has widespread adoption of process-related automation, the opportunities for utilizing technologies that make a profound, measureable business impact outside of the process have been elusive. Not anymore. The combination of pervasive sensing with software and algorithms for interpretation and decision-making is empowering customers with actionable insights in places they never dreamed.”

Examples of Emerson Process Management products that address the pervasive sensing market include ultrasonic and point sensors in the recently acquired NetSafety and Groveley product lines, corrosion and erosion detection technology from the Roxar acquisition, vibration sensing of rotating equipment from CSI, and the Rosemount wireless steam trap monitor and wireless bolt-on surface temperature probe.

Emerson Process Management