Remote monitoring of critical instruments with wireless adapters

10 July 2012

The introduction of FieldKey wireless adapters from ABB has allowed Lafarge Plasterboard to monitor critical field instruments remotely from the plant control room.

The factory took part in a trial of prototype wireless adapters from ABB early in 2011 and has subsequently installed several commercial FieldKey units to check the performance of critical instruments. They are moved around the site to monitor any instruments that engineers suspect may be experiencing a problem. “We would previously have had to physically go to each instrument and pull off the information onto a laptop,” explained electrical technician, Matthew Pepper. “Now, we can interrogate instruments remotely, which is especially helpful where access is an issue.

“We are using the adapters to check that there are no system faults on the instruments, check calibrations and make fine-tuning adjustments. We are not currently looking to use them for process control on our existing production operations but we will be considering them in any new installations in future.”

FieldKey adapters can be easily fit to any instruments equipped with 4-20mA HART communications. On the Lafarge site, for example, they are used with equipment from at least three different manufacturers. The adapters are small and have a rotating antenna which enables them to be fitted into tight spaces if necessary. They also use energy harvesting, taking power from the 4-20mA loop, so they do not need batteries. With no need for hardwiring to the network, each FieldKey can be installed in under three minutes, eliminating the need for a plant shutdown and any consequent impact on the existing control system.

The FieldKey transmits the data from the instruments to a Wireless gateway which has an Ethernet port to allow communication with process recorders and asset management systems. At Lafarge, for example, the FieldKey adapters are integrated with the company’s existing PACTware asset management system.

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