Wireless adoption trends in factory automation

Wireless devices are perceived as the next big technological wave in factory automation. However, the current adoption trends are moderate at best, despite requirements for real time data, mobile workforce, remote access and flexibility in operation. This is mainly because wireless devices are not found to be robust enough by end users, according to Khadambari Shanbagaraman, a research analyst ...

02/01/2009


Wireless devices are perceived as the next big technological wave in factory automation. However, the current adoption trends are moderate at best, despite requirements for real time data, mobile workforce, remote access and flexibility in operation. This is mainly because wireless devices are not found to be robust enough by end users, according to Khadambari Shanbagaraman, a research analyst for Frost & Sullivan Industrial Automation & Process Control Group. Concerns include reliability, security and interoperability, and others.

End-users perceive that for a plant to operate round-the-clock, the current wireless technology does not provide the necessary robustness. This is due to many possible technical issues, such as signal mismatch, electromagnetic induction, data loss in transmission, and other interference problems, that are quite common in a factory automation environment, says Shanbagaraman.

In addition, data transmitted wirelessly can easily be hacked. Thus, it must be properly encrypted and decrypted for secured transmission. End user conservatism, which is evident in industries such as food and beverages and plastics, is also restraining investments into wireless devices, as end users are less willing to implement new technology without being assured of its potential benefits. Many end users indicate that they might jeopardize their current operations if they shift to this new technology. Other concerns hampering wireless device adoption include high initial investment cost, low battery life, interoperability, and non-uniform wireless standards.

Shanbagaraman suggests that wireless device vendors must take the first step in addressing these technical issues. Educating end-users about wireless products and their benefits will help in changing their conservative mindset. This will, in turn, help suppliers learn about end-user requirements, and help them offer wireless solutions best suited to those needs. Offering end users products for testing and trial would be another important step towards increasing wireless adoption.

www.frost.com





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