Wireless Applications

At ISA Expo . . .

December 1, 2006 By: Barbara G. Goode, Sensors Sensors


At this year's ISA Expo—as at Sensors Expo in June—much of the buzz centered on wireless networking.

"ABB sees wireless as one of the core technologies that will help our customers improve their operation and lower their costs," said a spokesman from that company. At a press conference hosted by the HART Communication Foundation (HCF), ABB joined other industry giants to promote the development of Wireless HART. According to HCF, the new standard will allow a wireless device to be integrated into the same host system as its wired counterparts. And, says Dust Networks, it will be amazingly easy to wirelessly enable a legacy device.

By the way, Emerson, which originated the HART platform, will incorporate Dust's Time Synchronized Mesh Protocol technology in new in-plant wireless field networks (and Dust is positioning to be the product of choice for other Wireless HART adoptees). HCF plans to produce a spec in Q1 2007 and to ratify in Q2.

All the movers and shakers with whom I discussed it say that Wireless HART will complement the ISA's forthcoming SP100 standard—and that is a very good thing.

The SP100 committee plans to release its standard in Q2 2008, with products based on it becoming available by Q4 2008. Meanwhile, the spec will be written beginning in Q1 2007 and submitted to the ISA Q3 2007 through Q2 2008. I've been impressed by the momentum of this group, whose membership now numbers around 300 individuals and whose subcommittees share chairmanship between end user and vendor representatives.

What About ZigBee?

While many say that ZigBee has not kept pace with the needs of industry (ZigBee does seem focused on building automation of late), it is the only sensor-focused wireless standard to be ratified, and the ZigBee Alliance had a booth to promote the new version of its standard, due out in Q1 2007.

A news release from Cirronet discussed an application built on "industrial ZigBee": an end-to-end condition-based operations platform that is a product of RF Monolithics' recent purchase of both Cirronet and Aleier Inc. It involves wireless networks connected to Aleier's enterprise asset management application. Aleier says its software is the only one to pipe in sensor data in real time, and that other such sensor-aware software—from Oracle and other vendors—accepts only logged data.

At Your Service

Sensicast announced its SensiNET Services: Hosted applications that allow monitoring over the Internet and relieve customers from having to host the software themselves. Sensicast promises plug-and-play deployment and interoperation with popular industrial and commercial automation software, including that from National Instruments.

NI made its first splash in the wireless pool when it announced free driver software that lets engineers fully integrate their ZigBee, IEEE 802.15.4, and proprietary wireless sensors with LabVIEW: www.ni.com/wsn.

There's more to report about ISA Expo than there is space to write about it here. Want to know about energy harvesting displays? How about biochemical sensors for homeland security and industrial applications, or EtherNet/IP, and more? Then check out the reports I wrote for Sensors Daily, our "5-minute read" newsletter. It starts with Part 1 (of 4) at www.sensorsmag.com/1206/GS.


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