Wireless technology has assumed rapid significance for industrial automation over the last couple of years thanks to numerous benefits for industrial applications. Future opportunities and challenges for this industry were the subject of the "Future of Wireless Solutions in Industrial Automation" workshop organised by Frost & Sullivan on 5 February 2009 in Frankfurt am Main, Germany.

Iain Jawad, Practice Director of the Automation & Electronics Practice at Frost & Sullivan, opened the workshop, introducing the preliminary findings of Frost & Sullivan's research on the Automation and Control Systems Market put into the current economic context. He presented the key findings of the latest end users analysis, focusing on how to increase the adoption of wireless technologies for end users, what the driving technical and business reasons for adopting the wireless technology are and what end users see as the critical purchasing criteria.

Mike Ferris, European Wireless Expert with Emerson Process Management pointed out the advantages of wireless systems for the customers, such as lower infrastructure costs, technical reliability, low risks and easy and flexible installations. He said: "Wireless technologies specifically designed for the process industry are offering a sea change in the way plants are instrumented and operated. From wirelessly connected process measurements to asset tracking and mobile worker technologies, end users can drive increased plant performance and productivity across all levels of the plant. The International WirelessHART standard coupled with a rapidly increasing installed base across numerous different industries allows process operators to specify high reliability systems with confidence."

Emerson's presentation was followed by Kevin Zamzow, Strategic Product Marketing Manager, with Prosoft Technology. Mr Zamzow focused in his presentation on wireless reliability, illustrated by various case studies. Zamzow said: "When choosing a wireless technology, factory automation users have to focus on meeting their application requirements, including fit with industrial protocol, throughput, latency, distances, security, co-existence with other wireless networks, and other factors. In fact, in many cases, industrial wireless provides more reliable communications than alternatives including festoon cables, slip rings, and conductor rails. Costs reductions coming from engineering, installation and maintenance are also contributing to the success of industrial wireless."

"˜Wireless Vibration Monitoring Inside a Metal Box' was the topic of the presentation by Chris James, Product Manager, SKF Reliability Systems. The potential benefits of wireless monitoring are clear in rotating equipment health applications. James said: "A cornerstone of machine condition monitoring is vibration measurement, which is a bandwidth-hungry and complex technology that presents some challenges to wireless systems. Nevertheless wireless can be, and has been, deployed in vibration applications - even inside a gigantic "˜metal box' like a crude oil carrier."

Johannes Bleuel, Head of Sales & Marketing, E-Senza Technologies, showcased selected wireless applications highlighting key success factors for creating customer value through wireless approaches. Examples included energy optimisation of industrial operations, high-speed data-collection at rotating machinery and enabling new service-business models in process industry by wireless applications. Bleuel noted: "Almost always, industrial wireless solutions have to be integrated into existing automation infrastructures. Therefore, wireless systems must be designed to seamlessly interwork with existing field devices and automation systems while maintaining their scalability, flexibility and cost advantages."

Other participants of the workshop included Dr Guntram Scheible, Wireless Product Manager, ABB Stotz Kontakt GmbH; Rolf Nilsson, President & CEO, Connectblue; Anders Røyrøy, Project Manager StatoilHydro; Frank Fengler, Head of Fieldbus & Tools Lead Center, ABB; Jochen Koch Marketing Manager, Siemens AG, Industrial Communication; Graham Martin, Chairman & CEO EnOcean Alliance; Siegfried Gronbach, Managing Director, NemaSystems Automation; and Thomas Schildknecht , Managing Director Schildknecht AG.

Mr Jawad summarised the key findings of the workshop, saying: "The future trend of the adoption of wireless industrial automation solutions will be dependant on the seamless integration into the existing plant infrastructure and other control systems. The key assumption for growth is that wireless devices from multiple suppliers need to be compatible and a uniform standard be applied wherever possible. This is what end users are clearly looking for in their solutions."

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