Wireless gives digital transformation wings

Jim Montague

Many ingredients, such as software, networking, microprocessors, cloud computing and the Internet of Things, combine to make digital transformation possible, but the one that can help as much as the others and might be overlooked is wireless technology. Because it can take industrial networks into previously inaccessible locations and gather signals that used to be stranded, wireless can give users more of the data and benefits needed to boost their digital-transformation efforts and justify investing in them.

"We believe there are three main elements in using wireless to aid digital transformation. These elements include secure connectivity and choosing the right wireless network for transferring data to where it can be analyzed; determining how the infrastructure will support pervasive sensing; and, in our case, two new Plantweb digital ecosystem applications in the areas of asset health for pre-configured analytics and workforce effectiveness for digitally enabled users," said Tom Bass, product management director for wireless with Emerson’s Automation Solutions business, at Emerson Global Users Exchange 2019 in Nashville, Tennessee.

Choose wireless wisely

"There's been a massive deployment of wireless in the process industries during the past 12 years, and this has led to an increase in choices. However, users still need to decide which wireless to invest in and what criteria to use," explained Bass. To determine which wireless infrastructure is most suitable, it must:

  • fit with the user’s existing security architecture
  • possess simplified network management
  • be certified for hazardous locations and conditions
  • have deployment flexibility
  • be future-proof.

"Field and plant networks must work seamlessly to successfully deliver operational analytics solutions, but their users also have to address some unique industrial automation features," added Bass. "For example, plant networks have to account for different data rates and ranges and whether they're licensed or unlicensed protocols. Meanwhile, field networks have to address update rates, battery life and scalability issues."

"There's been a massive deployment of wireless in the process industries during the past 12 year." Emerson's Tom Bass reminds users to choose wireless wisely at Emerson Global Users Exchange.

Hardware lends a hand

To give its users some tangible assistance in deploying wireless for digitalization in those fields or plants, Emerson is bringing its 13 years of experience in pioneering and implementing wireless to bear and partnering with longtime collaborator Cisco on a new wireless-networking solution. Combining Emerson’s expertise in industrial automation and applications with Cisco’s innovations in networking, cybersecurity and IT infrastructure, the new Emerson Wireless 1410S Gateway with the Cisco Catalyst IW6300 Heavy Duty Series Access Point combines the latest in wireless technology with advanced WirelessHART sensor technology, delivering reliable and highly secure data, even in the harshest industrial environments.

Wireless 1410S Gateway access point provides enhanced Wi-Fi bandwidth necessary for real-time safety monitoring, including Emerson’s Location Awareness and wireless video. These applications enhance personnel safety practices, improve plant security and help to ensure environmental compliance. A reliable and fast connection between devices and people streamlines decision-making by providing real-time analytics. It also enables a mobile workforce to virtually come together, collaborate and resolve critical issues quickly. Wireless 1410S Gateway also supports mobile applications that offer immediate access to process control data, maintenance information and operation procedures, enabling improved plant productivity and worker safety.

Wireless 1410S Gateway features:

  • Class I, Div. 2 certification
  • flexible connectivity with three power-over-Ethernet (PoE) and one small-form-factor-pluggable (SPF) port
  • ac/dc and PoE for power redundancy
  • fiber capability
  • lightweight, compact design for simpler deployment in extreme temperature ranges
  • up to 200 devices on WirelessHART, and up to 100 devices on ISA100
  • resilient mesh-architecture support based on 802.11 AC Wave 2
  • improved temperature range of -50 °C to 75 °C.

 Apps and sensing on tap

Back on the software side, Emerson has released two new Plantweb infrastructure analytics apps, which are part of the overall Plantweb Insight analytics portfolio that already has seven other apps.

  • Power Module Management provides calculated insights about power-module status, estimated remaining life and estimated total lifespan. Its benefits include access to power-module status from multiple Emerson gateways, effective maintenance planning to replace power modules and awareness of short-lifespan power modules.
  • Network Management provides calculated insights about network status, network best practices and gateway load. Its added features include a network diagram, consolidated syslog alerts, and an IP address, a network ID and firmware version lookup.

In addition, Bass added that Emerson has released three more technologies to its 21-member Pervasive Sensing portfolio. Its new solutions include:

  • location tags and anchors that can digitally transform facility safety with a WirelessHART-based location awareness system
  • expanded toxic-gas monitoring capabilities for H2S, CO and O2—similar to the H2S sensor, the CO and O2 depletion sensors are smart sensors that store calibration data on the sensor itself
  • AMS wireless vibration monitoring to provide triaxial vibration and temperature monitoring with embedded PeakVue analytics to predict bearing issues.

"All of these capabilities demonstrate why investing in an appropriate wireless infrastructure is part of the foundation for digital transformation success," concluded Bass.