Wireless At a Standstill
Although wireless belongs in the innovation category, user interest in this technology is nothing new. In this instance, it is the manufacturers who have greater responsibility for the slow pace of market introduction due to their failure to agree on a common standard. Dr. Norbert Kuschnerus cited the view expressed by one of the market players: “Whoever defines the standard defines the market." His response was unequivocal: “Others wind up paying the bill when this attitude prevails. It would be most welcome if international standardization were to play the role that was originally envisioned.” The report issued by the Heathrow Group, which is working on convergence of the three standards (Wireless Hart, ISA 100.12 and WIA-PA), makes sober reading in the context of sensor network standardization. Up to this point, the manufacturers have sat around a table, outlined the technological differences in a policy paper and agreed that a fourth standard is not something anyone wants. However unless all of the companies agree to develop a common standard, the users will have to live with three different choices. As long as this situation persists, wireless technology will remain a niche application in the process industry. Sean Keeping from ABB and Martin Schwibach from BASF made it very clear that technical implementation is not a problem. The technology could be rolled out in the 2013 - 2015 timeframe if all manufacturers would commit to a common standard. The Heathrow Group had made a good start in that direction. It took less than a year to reach a consensus on battery standardization. The agreed solution has been documented in VDI guideline FA 5.21, and the plan is to incorporate it into the international standard in the near future.
Control Systems Help reduce Energy Consumption
Progress on energy efficiency has been more encouraging. Namur identified energy conservation as a cross-functional issue back in 2009 and set up a dedicated working group. The WG created NA 140 which defines a systematic approach to execution of energy efficiency projects with the aid of automation technology. Some of the most familiar process engineering enhancements which increase energy efficiency are heat integration, intensified equipment and a state-of-the-art set of high-efficiency power generation systems. Examples range from simple things like variable speed drives to system-wide optimization based on model predictive control and real time optimization of the electricity and steam distribution network across the entire site.
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