Wireless sensors resolve industrial, economic, societal challenges, says Honeywell

Beth Wozniak, president of Honeywell Sensing and Control, says sensors and networking technologies are creating pervasive sensing, producing a world of interconnected sensors, along with many benefits. She made the comments June 10 at Sensors Expo.
By Mark T. Hoske June 10, 2009
Beth Wozniak, president of Honeywell Sensing and Control , explains how wireless sensors can change the world, at Sensors Expo .

Rosemont, IL – Honeywell says wireless sensor networks will help solve world challenges, in a keynote address today, June 10, at the 23rd annual Sensors Expo & Conference . Beth Wozniak, president of Honeywell Sensing and Control, says sensors and networking technologies are leading to pervasive sensing, producing a “world of interconnected sensors,” along with a huge number of industrial, environmental, economic, and societal benefits.

Changing the world with wireless sensing

Wireless sensors will continue to change the world as the Internet continues to connect individual computers and users, as it has over the past two decades. “With these emerging smart sensor technologies, we will be able to help meet many of the most important technical, economic and social challenges our society faces today—including energy conservation, health care, transportation safety, and natural disaster response.”

Wireless sensor networks can be self organizing, self healing, and self sustaining, Wozniak said. Advancements in wireless technologies and standards—such as ISA100, MEMS, miniaturization, batteries, energy harvesting, and data analysis—will contribute.

Better measurements of key data points analyzed and delivered more quickly can lead to better decisions that can solve such global problems, Wozniak added. Issues still requiring resolution for wider adoption of wireless sensors include standards, security, privacy, scalability, and figuring out who will pay for these significant anticipated economic and societal benefits.

Just back from a meeting of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), in Lisbon Portugual, Wozniak said she was among 40 representatives from 30 OECD member countries looking at how sensors can help resolve global challenges in healthcare, transportation, environment and energy. The U.S. contributes about 25% of the OECD’s 300 million euro budget, she said.

How can technology help?

Honeywell wireless examples include

Honeywell OneWireless Gauge Reader wirelessly monitors manual gauge readings from existing dial gauges, allowing operators to analyze critical equipment health and process information and make decisions to improve plant operations. Honeywell jointly developed the product with Cypress Envirosystems. It will integrate with Honeywell’s OneWireless mesh network designed to simultaneously work with thousands of field devices and multiple industrial protocols.
Honeywell XYR 5000 Wireless Transmitters

Honeywell XYR 5000 Wireless Transmitters automate monitoring of variables in areas where traditional hard-wired transmitters are too costly, difficult or time-consuming to implement.
Honeywell 5800PIR-OD Wireless Outdoor Motion Detector serves in outdoor sensing applications in difficult to wire locations.

Wozniak provided examples about how pervasive wireless sensor networks will help.

– Healthcare: Accurate wireless monitoring of patients or the elderly outside a hospital or other formal healthcare setting could help reduce costs and increase medication effectiveness (60% of patients don’t take medications as prescribed). If patients are monitored through sensors,

– Environment: In something called "precision agriculture," German studies show that sensing moisture in soil and fertilizer absorption (combined with video surveillance) can significantly increase crop yield and optimize water use.

Separately, trends and patterns in the Great Barrier Reef may get Australian government sponsorship for sensor-based monitoring to halt spread of invasive species. In transportation, European studies are looking at allowing other traffic into bus lanes when there are no buses, significantly increasing traffic flow. Consider other benefits if all cars become wireless sensor platforms, with GPS, road monitoring, weather sensors, and proximity sensors for traffic, Wozniak added.

– Industrial market applications include high value vertical industries and equipment health monitoring for oil and gas, process control, petrochemical and other applications.

Wireless sensors pathway

PC-enable Internet started with local area networks, then multi-network development, and is leading to an Internet of things, where devices communicate globally.

Potential value is huge for supply chains of restaurant chains, manufacturing facilities, hospitals, and other locations as sensors feed an IP address with data, transforming it to information, so an action can create value. “We can solve problems on a grand scale with smart networks that don’t have to go back to a central node for a decision,” Wozniak said. An example is embedded seismic sensors that decide an event requires immediate notification of warning systems, concurrent with relaying information to seismologists.

Proliferation of smart phones and related applications will help, as will increasing intelligence and communications built into many of the 350 electrical devices per home. Also, per-use knowledge of energy consumption could save considerable energy. “Bringing the physical and cyber worlds together makes it very interesting,” Wozniak said. How interesting? Estimates of the wireless sensing market are $5-10 billion, including aerospace, transportation, industrial, healthcare, and other areas, she said.

Quantify benefits to speed adoption

Demonstration of economic benefits can speed adaptation, according to Wozniak. Honeywell Sensing and Control is looking at smarter and smaller sensors with embedded ASICs, CPUs, and algorithms. For instance, what traditionally was just an airflow sensor can now measure, condition a signal, decide, and actuate a decision, all in one device, she said.

Contactless smart position sensors can replace many contact position sensors in applications including water quantity irrigation, aviation, and bottling company valve replacement.

Wireless sensor networks such as the Honeywell OneWireless network are already in place, are secure and have 80% lower installation costs versus wired solutions, she said. “These produce simpler and cleaner deployments, with more sensing points, especially in places that cannot be wired,” she explained. Trending and asset health monitoring potential is huge; only 10% of largest oil company assets are being monitored, Wozniak added. “We’re [also] helping ISA100 [family of wireless standards ] become reality for multiple applications,”

"We’re making progress with more efficient use of power, energy harvesting, battery life management, and ability to connect to existing IT and other assets. Wireless networks must work with what users already have and work across multiple applications and communicate in multiple protocols,” Wozniak said.

Successful examples, more potential

Beyond elimination of clipboards and more accurate, consistent measurements, sensor networks are showing results. The Honeywell OneWireless Multi-Function Network , for example, is helping with:

-Offshore energy production: a 900 foot oil tanker, with over 500 manual measurements points was converted to wireless monitoring to ensure equipment uptime. The system read data five times daily, as opposed to not at all or every three months, ensuring higher reliability.

-Steel making: Temperature cables were getting damaged, and not enough sensors were in place for efficient control. More readings, wirelessly is expected to extend production life of the facility, and resulted in a 15% productivity gain.

-Oil & gas tank farm inventory management increased asset awareness and decreased environmental risks.

-Pipeline pressure monitoring: 37% cost savings over wired solutions resulted, with a 50% reduction in maintenance.

-Oil refining: 70% downtime is due to rotating equipment and 90% of that is not caught by preventive maintenance; two-thirds of failures occur in equipment not perceived as faulty. A site can reduce maintenance costs by 25% with a Honeywell OneWireless system, Wozniak said.
-Life saving: Instant personnel location and smoke and heat detection systems can track people location and fire progress, augmenting safety during incidents, giving firefighters information before they go into a hazardous area.

Energy saving: Motor controls , excluding HVAC, says U.S. Department of Energy, accounts for 60% of industrial energy use. Higher efficiencies could reduce energy use by 18%, the CO2 equivalent of 5.5 million fewer cars on the road.

Beth Wozniak, Honeywell Sensing and Control president

The wireless technology is available and maturing, sensor types are evolving, and both networks and related policy issues continue to mature. That means the possibilities for wireless sensing to address real-world challenges are tremendous, Wozniak said: “Information is only as good as our ability to analyze and take action on it. Wireless sensing can help.”

Honeywell Sensing and Control is a business unit within Honeywell Automation & Control Solutions, providing a broad range of high quality sensor and switch products for manufacturers in industries, including aerospace, medical, industrial and test & measurement applications. It has more than 50,000 products ranging from snap action, limit, toggle and pressure switches to position, speed and airflow sensors.

– Mark T. Hoske, editor in chief, Control Engineering , www.controleng.com

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