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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
The WirelessHART standard, which is focused on process applications, has recently been ratified by the HART Communication Foundation (HCF), an independent, not-for-profit organization. The WirelessHART standard is based on HART (Highway Addressable Remote Transducer), a bidirectional protocol used to communicate between intelligent field instruments and host systems. WirelessHART-based products are expected to become commercially available in early 2008.

The second standard applicable to WSNs is the ISA 100 draft specification, which has a broader focus, including process, automation, RFID and facility management. The specification is being developed by ISA, which prior to 2000 was known as the Instrument Society of America. The ZigBee specification, developed by the industry group ZigBee Alliance, is also gaining traction, according to ON World.

While all three standards address the WSN market, the proposed ZigBee standard is a more broadly targeted specification for a range of RF applications requiring a low data rate, long battery life and secure networking. ZigBee operates in the industrial, scientific and medical (ISM) radio bands—868 MHz in Europe, 915 MHz in the United States and 2.4 GHz in most jurisdictions worldwide. The ISA 100 draft specification is more broadly focused but designed for industrial applications. It defines a complete industrial wireless sensing architecture and supports multiple industrial protocols via a single wireless infrastructure. The WirelessHART standard, created specifically to address the needs of the process industry, defines wireless communications capability using the 2.4 GHz band and is compatible with the more than 22 million HART-enabled devices installed in industrial plants worldwide.

ON World's WSN report is based on more than 275 phone interviews and surveys. Of those, 115 phone interviews were conducted with senior managers at North American industrial companies in numerous industries, including chemicals, food and beverage, pharmaceuticals, oil and gas, metals, and pulp and paper. Thirty-one percent of the companies had more than 300 employees at their locations, and 47 percent of those interviewed were in senior management positions, such as plant manager, VP of operations or engineering. The rest were primarily employed in engineering or operations.

ON World also surveyed 108 experts representing the leading industrial WSN OEMs, service providers, systems integrators, module makers and component suppliers. Of these experts, 55 percent said they plan to include support for ISA 100 in their products, 40 percent reported plans to support WirelessHART and 32 percent indicated they would support ZigBee.

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