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Study: Wireless Automation Wireless Automation yet Has to Live up to Its True Potential

| Editor: Dominik Stephan

Wireless control networks are expected to revolutionise the whole process automation industry, insiders believe. But, despite single big installations the implementation seems to progress only slowly. A new study by ARC casts a spotlight on an exciting technology and explains why standards and legislation can be both driving force and ball and chain.

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4-20 mA, fieldbus, or wireless technology — the choice of a technology must take into account the application and its particular requirements. (Picture: Phoenix Contact)
4-20 mA, fieldbus, or wireless technology — the choice of a technology must take into account the application and its particular requirements. (Picture: Phoenix Contact)

The prospect of adding wireless devices to the process automation architecture is a compelling one from the perspective of tangible business benefits and incremental operational improvements. Availability of robust industrial wireless network protocols, such as WirelessHART and ISA100.11a, for use with IEEE standard technology makes the prospect even more attractive relative to past proprietary, often standalone wireless implementations. This potential is somewhat offset, however, by competition between these standards that leads customers to fear that wireless is emerging as the next platform for the automation fieldbus wars.

“The Market for Wireless Devices is one of the Closest-Watched Segments in Automation”

“The potential market for wireless devices is one of the closest-watched segments in process automation. Still served largely by proprietary solutions, the advent of robust industrial wireless standards has captured the attention of end users, OEMs, and system integrators alike. Increased availability of products and solutions that support industrial wireless standards will help spur double-digit market growth due to the tangible business benefits that can be achieved through use of wireless instrumentation,“ says ARC Vice President Chantal Polsonetti, the principal author of ARC’s “Wireless Devices in Process Manufacturing”.

From Standalone Proprietary to Standard and Integrated

As the WirelessHART and ISA100.11a standards gain footholds at the sensor level, the majority of the process wireless market will gravitate away from legacy proprietary solutions that continued to account for a large share of the 2011 market. Concurrent with this shift, a migration away from standalone point-to-point installations will occur in favor of mesh-based, inherently redundant device level solutions that interface to a Wi-Fi-based plant or facility backbone.

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