Emerson goes east with Smart Wireless

06 March 2008

Emerson Process Management has rolled its wireless solutions out to the Middle East and Africa, with a launch on March 6, 2008. The global process specialist introduced its Smart Wireless solutions to over 200 customers and press at the Emirates Palace, Abu Dhabi.

Wireless Smart Pack
Wireless Smart Pack

Having pinpointed the Middle East and Africa as its fastest growing market place, the launch was an important milestone in Emerson’s worldwide promotion of the new technology.

Sabee Mitra, president of Middle East and Africa at Emerson, introduced Smart Wireless Architecture, telling his customers: ‘we will have more eyes and ears in your plant’.

However, it seems the company’s biggest challenge is going to be convincing its customers that its ‘eyes and ears’ are as reliable as traditional wired alternatives.

Customers seemed very concerned about signals getting blocked or facing distances too great for the technology to work.

Philip Bond, director of Rosemount, and Bob Karschnia, vice president of wireless, explained how self-organising field networks allowed the wireless signal to automatically re-route itself on experiencing a blockage. Using other instruments to relay the signal to the wireless gateway creates a mesh that is, claimed to be, nearly impossible to break.

However, throughout the launch customers repeatedly asked whether the signal would still work given various adverse conditions. Invariably the answer was yes but it may be Emerson needs to get into these plants and prove its technology.

It could be argued that safety was less of a concern, to Emerson’s customers, than reliability. Karschnia explained how encryption, verification, authentication, anti-jamming and key management were all designed to offer a secure solution. Furthermore, a live demonstration, by Alan Baird, PlantWeb marketing manager, reinforced this message.

There were a number of customers who seemed sufficiently comfortable with these safeguards to ask the panel of Emerson representatives if they could use the technology to control, and not just monitor, plant processes.

Karschnia argues that the technology is there to do this but feels that plant managers need to get used to using wireless for monitoring applications before moving on.

Emerson suggests plant managers need to start small and build up a network, claiming its products scalability makes this easy to implement.

Much emphasis was placed on how easy these products are to use. Karschnia said he always kept his 67 year-old mother in mind when deciding if the system was simple enough to implement and operate. If the technology is as simple as Emerson claims it could be an important contribution to alleviating the global skills shortage the industry faces. However, having not tested Mrs Karschnia in a plant environment we will have to take his word for it.

Emerson also announced its collaboration with Cisco to offer applications including those for worker mobility, voice over IP communications and tracking of personnel and assets, and video applications.

Huw Pegler, director of manufacturing sales at Cisco, described the collaboration as ‘two market leaders, in their individual fields, with complementary visions and complementary solutions.’

The Middle East and Africa event follows launches in Europe, Japan, Argentina, Laitn America and Asia.

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