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Wireless Sensor Adoption Expected to Grow Tenfold

According to a survey of industrial companies, 40 percent of respondents plan to deploy wireless solutions to monitor machine health.
By Beth Bacheldor
ON World identifies several companies with current WSN systems for machine-health monitoring, including ABB, Cooper Bussmann, Coronis Systems, Dust Networks, Honeywell and Sensicast. Dust Networks, for instance, has teamed with GE Sensing to develop WSNs; the first such product is a wireless network designed to help pharmaceutical and life sciences companies monitor and validate environments, such as freezers and sterilization processes, for regulatory and quality compliance purposes (see GE Sensing, Dust Networks to Develop Wireless Sensors).

In addition, industrial companies are leveraging WSNs to monitor air quality, assets and fluid levels in tanks. A Houston refinery, for example, is using wireless sensors to monitor oil levels in groups of tanks. The sensors could replace the costly manual checks that must be conducted in hazardous areas (see Oil Refineries to Test Sensor Tags).

WSNs can provide industrial companies an opportunity to monitor all—or, at least a majority—of their equipment around-the-clock, providing greater visibility of their operations than is currently available. According to the survey, about 29 percent of companies conducting any continuous monitoring today indicated that less than 5 percent of their equipment is currently monitored. And more than two-thirds, Hatler says, replied that less than a quarter of their equipment is monitored continuously.

The remaining 71 percent of respondents said they monitor equipment on a schedule, such as monthly (27 percent of those with scheduled monitoring), semi-annually (14 percent), quarterly (11 percent) and yearly (36 percent). For companies interested in WSNs, data reliability topped concerns about the technology, with 90 percent of interviewees ranking data reliability as the most important. Other top-ranked priorities included ease of use and long battery life.

Currently, the majority of installed industrial wireless networks use wireless networking technology that is proprietary rather than standards-based. However, ON World reports, that is changing. As with most emerging technologies, standards will play a key role in the growth of WSN, since standards-based technologies help ensure that vendors' systems and services can interoperate. Nearly half of the WSN nodes deployed this year will be based on IEEE 802.15.4, the specification forming the foundation for three WSN standards: WirelessHART, ISA 100 and ZigBee.

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