Wireless continues to be one of the fastest growing segments in the automation market for two reasons. One is that it's a lot less costly to have devices communicate on a wireless network rather than going through the process of installing conduit. The other is the available access to very difficult locations and hazardous areas in the plant. For these applications, maintenance and diagnostic tasks can be accomplished more quickly, effectively and safely using a wireless connection.
The two main issues with wireless technology, reliability and security, are being addressed in new products. For applications where there aren't concerns about serious injury or damage to equipment, many engineers are now looking toward wireless solutions. In the future, wireless will be used in more critical applications, as well.
Control Microsystems' Ethernet Data Radio
Using "IP over Ethernet," the JR50 from Control Microsystems utilizes portable network access to extend corporate offices onto the plant floor and beyond to remote assets such as field-installed controllers and intelligent sensors. The JR50 includes a powerful 1W transmitter (900MHz model) and ultra-sensitive receiver for high speed, over-the-air data throughput up to 256 kilobits/sec. A frequency-hopping algorithm increases security by restricting communication to permitted devices only and 256-bit AES encryption provides protection from hackers.
The product is designed to operate as a remote data radio, access point, repeater or network bridge. It offers dual Ethernet ports, a built-in Ethernet switch, an extended operational temperature range and metal enclosure. The product is configured using an embedded HTML Web server that provides network management and remote diagnostics' capabilities.
Phoenix Contact's Radio Transceiver
Phoenix Contact's RAD-ISM-900-EN-BD industrial radio transceiver brings Ethernet or serial data onto IP-based networks from remote locations, even in high-interference environments. Using the MOTR-9T radio platform and a 1W, frequency-hopping spread spectrum (FHSS) transceiver, the unit operates in the license-free 902–928 MHz ISM band. Users can configure over-the-air data rates up to 500 kilobits/sec, while adjustable packet sizes maximize data speed and minimize latency. Selectable 128/192/256-bit AES encryption prevents unwanted intrusion and keeps data secure. Multiple wireless communication streams allow simultaneous Ethernet, I/O control and serial ASCII device communications from a single radio without external gateways or additional serial wireless converters. Using embedded software, any network PC with a Web browser can configure the devices. The unit is approved for Class I, Division 2 hazardous locations.
Banner's DX99 Battery-powered Wireless Node
Banner Engineering's DX99 battery-powered node collects analog, digital and temperature information in hazardous areas. The system is a combination of wireless communication, battery technology and intrinsically safe electronics. Hazardous areas pose unique sensing challenges and the DX99 moves the intrinsically safe power supply from the control room to the wireless transceiver. Using a battery-based power supply, it produces an intrinsically safe power source for the transceiver and an external third party sensor. The unit can be operated as a stand-alone unit for up to 10 years on a single battery. The wireless technology transmits and receives information at distances up to three miles (150 mw with a 2dBi antenna), while consuming very little power.