Wireless in 2007: scalable, secure, facility-wide, 30k nodes

By Control Engineering Staff June 16, 2006

Phoenix, AZ— Honeywell unveiled an industrial wireless roadmap for customers at its annual Users Group Symposium on June 12. Starting with wireless technologies in 2002, the map leads to a 2007 next-generation technology: one, scalable, secure wireless mesh, a “cloud to enable end-users fine-tune plant operations and improve plant employee productivity. Industrial automation and wireless experts outlined Honeywell initiatives, including secure network technology that extends applications to improve compliance, safety and security, reliability, and optimization, incorporating all wireless needs, remote sensing among them. Users packed two wireless roadmap sessions, more than 300 persons each by one estimate.

Honeywell will ensure that its wireless technology ties into the work of the evolving industrial wireless standard bodies, such as the Instrumentation, Systems and Automation (ISA) Society SP100 and Wireless HART committees. With increased economic pressures, the continuing advancement of cost-effective wireless technology and with standardization on the horizon, it’s clear that we are at the tipping point for wireless to have a real impact in the plant,”says Jack Bolick, president of Honeywell Process Solutions.

Estimated battery life in wireless applications
Ambient temperature Measurement rate (seconds)
1 5 10 30
0 4.9 yrs 10 yrs 10 yrs 10 yrs
25 4.5 10 10 10
50 4.0 10 10 10
72 3.3 8.1 9.3 10
Assumptions : Measurement rate and transmit rate are the same; Tadiran TL-2300 battery with an assumed switching regulator efficiency of 90%; and worst case loading for sensor.

Source: Control Engineering with information from Honeywell

Higher temperatures and more frequent measurements limit battery life in wireless application that broadcasts 1 analog measurement, according to Honeywell estimates.

Recent customer feedback shows that plant personnel seek secure, reliable, scalable, power managed and multi-functionality strategic wireless “cloud” for use in their facilities. Currently, many traditional wireless networks support only single devices. For example, plants require one network to support hand-held devices and a separate one to support process sensors. Additionally, these networks have different security configurations and compete in the same bandwidth, leaving plants more vulnerable to network failures.

The new network system from Honeywell, incorporating technologies from at least four vendors, will support various industrial protocols. Up to 30,000 devices, such as tablet PCs and sensors, will co-exist with other wireless devices like PDAs, pagers, walkie-talkies, and cell phones. Other key network features include the same built-in cyber security technology used for the Experion Process Knowledge System (PKS) and a redundancy feature that automatically routes critical information if a device fails.

“Wireless applications and sensors expand customers’ abilities to gather and interpret data to improve plant performance. At the end of the day it comes down to results. They want a wireless solution that not only provides advanced sensing but one that will help them make decisions that positively impact their overall business objectives– whether that is increased profit, productivity or safety,” Bolick says.

Next-generation Honeywell wireless systems, based onHoneywell’s 802.11-based mesh, with translators to other networks as needed, are expected to include:

  • Go-anywhere sensors with self-contained power sourcing;

  • High-speed monitoring that can provide up to 1-second updates; and

  • Longer battery life up to 10 years in majority of applications (see table).

Benefits of tomorrow’s wireless technology stretch far beyond saving installation and wiring costs, Bolick said. “These new advancements will help plant operators gather field data more easily, increase asset life through continuous monitoring, and improve the safety of their most important assets their people.”

The 2007 next-generation Honeywell wireless technology is expected to incorporate all devices in one mesh.

Thousands of sensors and hundreds of handhelds are expected to work in one subnetwork within an overall Honeywell architecture, at 54 Mbps, with 9 Mbps effective throughput, on 2.4 GHz.

Honeywell noted 11 requirements that regularly came up when talking about wireless needs with users: security, reliable communications, good power management, open, multi-speed monitoring, multi-function, scalable, global usage, quality of service, multi-protocol, and control ready.

Technologist involved say all 11 areas will be addressed; the top four, are:

  1. Security, with ways to address passive listeners, active attackers that would send bad messages, message integrity with replay detection, rouge messages with source authentication, resistance to infrastructure flooding and denial of service, and convenient key management.

  2. Reliable communications using frequency hopping spread spectrum technology that tolerates wireless interference with multi-pathing, built-in redundancy, mesh design, flexible channel allocation, a high-selectivity receiver, and protocol tolerant to missing packets with an automatic repeat request.

  3. Good power management, with efforts to be as self-contained as possible. With measurement rates at 5 sec or greater, batteries should last 10 years (see table). Fuel cells should be available after the first battery change, so that the first time the batteries need changing could be the last time.

  4. Openness will be address via the PKS Advantage program; anyone can join. Four wireless providers have signed on to build open sensor kits: Aerocomm, Cirronet, LS Research, and Omnex.

Honeywell current wireless offerings include XYR 5000 wireless transmitters (installed at more than 200 sites globally) and mobile hand-held devices (IntelaTrac PKS and the mobile Experion Station). Application cited include:

  • Capital saving of 37% by using a wireless transmitter for pressure sensor data, compared to running conduit under the Colorado River in Argentina.

  • In a refining application, a $1 million investment in wireless returned $2 million in benefits in a year, so return on investment was six months.

  • Ted Lamp, at Texas Petrochemicals, Houston, installed a wireless system for $25,000, as opposed to $100,000 for a wired solution for volatile organic chemical monitoring.

  • In an extreme case, an assumed data value in a customer’s calculation was replaced by live data updated in real-time by a wireless connections: payback was one day.

A wireless installation can easily be justified, suggests Harry Sim, vice president marketing and business development, process solutions: “For a payback of six months or less, why would anyone wait?”

Honeywell current wireless offerings include XYR 5000 wireless transmitters and mobile hand-held devices: IntelaTrac PKS and the mobile Experion Station.

More than 200 customers are working with Honeywell wireless products since 2002, Nestle, Smithfield Foods, and St. Bobain among them. Across all Honeywell business areas more than 35 million wireless sensors are installed globally; related patents number more than 3,400; more than 50 design implementation engineers work in the area.

Search on wireless atop www.controleng.com to see related coverage in articles, news, and products.

Mark T. Hoske , Control Engineering editor in chief