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Location Awareness Offering Builds on WirelessHART Infrastructure

 Location, location, location. That time-tested advice about the three most important things in real estate is even more applicable when it comes to ensuring the safety of personnel who often must work in potentially hazardous environments.

Indeed, the question "Where are you?" has always been important to technicians, operators and managers in the process industries, but now they have a much faster and more precise tool for answering it and responding accordingly. Launched as part of Emerson's Plantweb digital ecoystem, the company’s new Location Awareness offering employs simple hardware components, management software and leverages WirelessHART secure, wireless infrastructure that is already is present in many facilities.

"Location Awareness spans the whole Plantweb digital ecosystem, including analytics, data connectivity and services," said Amanda Alexander, global product manager, Emerson Automation Solutions. "There are other locating services, but they all have significant barriers to adoption, including lengthy installation times and high costs. This is important because having a simple, efficient and affordable solution like Location Awareness can help reduce common, personnel-recordable accidents by more than 70%. If you have precise location information for personnel and responders, then assistance can get to them as soon as possible."

Awareness takes a team

Alexander presented the Location Awareness portion of the "Expanding Plantweb to Enable Digital Transformation" press conference held today at the Emerson Global Users Exchange 2018 in San Antonio. She reported that Location Awareness will be available to users in July 2019, and consists of several layers of contributing technologies. They team up to support each other, and make use of WirelessHART mesh networking to provide reliability locating. They include:

  • Personnel tags on lanyards, belt clips or other accessories. They're rated for Zone 0 areas; can run for two months on one battery charge; and take two hours to recharge;
  • Location anchors that detect data from the personnel tags, and communicate it via WirelessHART to access points, gateways and user interfaces. They have 10-year batteries, can be installed anywhere needed in process applications and facilities, and can reduce installation times from months to days; and,
  • Gateways and locating software.

"Emerson enables about 41,000 wireless applications worldwide that have amassed about 13 billion operating hours," explained Alexander. "However, the market has needed an affordable, accurate location system. Yesterday, we had GPS, Wi-Fi, BLE and RFID technologies; infrastructures of WiFi access points, beacons and readers; and tags rated for Zone 1 with replaceable batteries. Unfortunately, installation was often difficult, expensive and time-consuming because conduit and wires were needed for power and connectivity.

"Today, Location Awareness is moving to a WirelessHART mesh networking technology; and infrastructure of WirelessHART anchors, access points and gateways; and Zone 0 tags with wirelessly rechargeable batteries. This allows quick, one-person installation with no wires. WirelessHART decreases barriers to help users increase safety in their facilities."

Location scenarios

Alexander reported there are several primary scenarios where Location Awareness can help grant users safer and more secure environments. They include:

  • Geofencing and monitoring can help keep anywhere from 10 to 10,000 employees and contractors safe. It establishes a designated work zone, or geofence, around a group of personnel or contractors, and keeps them safe by providing alerts when someone ventures outside the zone. It also creates zones for known hazardous locations.
  • Safety mustering lets managers know if their personnel are safe and accounted for at designated muster points during drills or during actual fires, explosions or other events.
  • Man-down alerts let personnel that have tripped or fallen push a button, send an alert with their location, and get a responder out to them faster.

"Location Awareness digitally transforms the safety of your facility with WirelessHART location technology," added Alexander.