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Choosing the right Wireless environment

/ 22 November, 2012

Feroz Qureshi, OneWireless Market Development Leader, Honeywell Process Solutions, discusses the process of choosing the right Wireless environment.

Wireless technology provides a low-cost solution for unlocking value in the plant and for enabling a mobile and more productive workforce. The possibilities are endless. Imagine sensors gathering data where traditional devices cannot reach, providing more real-time data to make knowledgeable decisions. Imagine a wireless network delivering on the promise of lower installed costs.

As with most emerging technologies, today’s market offers proprietary wireless-enabled solutions that tactically solve industrial business needs, but may not meet requirements for the future. Key implementation issues that must be addressed include handling multiple types of devices from just a few to thousands, operating in noisy radio frequency environments, sending data reliably and when needed, predictable power management and solid security. To help keep up with the development activity and help users find the best solution for their unique application, several industrial wireless standards are developed for the automation industry out of which primarily ISA100.11a stands out.

Getting Ready for Wireless

Many industrial facilities are already deploying wireless networks for targeted requirements. Many customers are excited to adopt the wireless technology to their install bases but as well confused and curious to know guidelines on how to select the right wireless network and wireless standard.

To help such customer to get their plants ready for the future, the list below presents considerations and questions to ask in preparing and selecting the right wireless industrial standard to identify how this emerging technology can enable robust business results.

Functionality and Applications

Consider how many different functions are more efficient with wireless technology.

  • Are you willing to deploy multiple wireless networks to manage and maintain or do you just want one strategic network? (Many users have multiple uses but want just one wireless network to deploy and manage.)
  • Will you consider some simple control applications?
  • Do you want to enable your field workers with wireless handheld devices to access data and interact with various servers in the facility?
  • Will you want first responders to utilise your wireless network in case of an emergency?

Multi-speed Support

Do you have requirements for information to reach the control room quickly for some applications and less quickly for others? Can you afford to have your alarms transmitted back at the same rate as monitoring information?

  • Will you do low-speed monitoring as well as high-speed monitoring for certain process measurements?


Can your operations survive without the information conveyed wirelessly? Most can today, but as you look forward and really embrace wireless, your future applications will require a more reliable network. Also, most wireless solutions are using the unlicensed Instrument, Scientific and Medical (ISM) frequency bands which provide limited bandwidth for your plant.

  • Have you developed a plan for how you are going to use the ISM bands in your industrial facility? This consideration will help a plant ensure solid wireless operations. Sub-optimised ISM bands will lead to reduced scalability and reliability, limiting your wireless usage, much like a wiring conduit that is already full.

Security –

Security is essential to protect against malicious intent and to protect your intellectual property, your bottom line and your people.

  • So what security do you need? How much is enough?
  • Do you need just one security system or many?

These are important considerations as you strategically deploy an industrial wireless network. You most likely will want to have just one wireless security approach. This gives you just one system to manage and provides you the opportunity to pick the best available solution to match your wireless uses today and into the future.

Self-contained and Predictable Power Management –

When most users consider wireless deployments, they understand the upside of no wiring and the cost advantage, but they also envision the downside of having to change many batteries in industrial devices throughout the facility. Device power management is a very important consideration when selecting a wireless network.

  • How long do you want your wireless devices to be self-powered? Do your wireless devices require add-on products to maintain and install in order to meet your reporting rate needs?
  • What level of a predictable maintenance schedule do you require?

This is a complex question because the answer must consider the power source, the device needs and how often the device communicates. Most users will require a device that is self-powered for at least three years and at best, for the lifetime of the device. This is a reasonable demand when selecting a wireless network.

Scalability –

Planning for future growth and considering what happens when your wireless demands are for several thousand devices must be a consideration in selecting your network.

  • How many devices can your network handle?
  • Will that be enough for the lifetime of your wireless network?
  • What happens when you go beyond the limit of your network capacity? Can your network expand?

Many users begin with very limited wireless needs but as they begin to see the benefits of wireless technology, their needs grow exponentially.

Investment Protection and Application Integration –

Many plants reap benefits from having previously deployed multiple application interfaces and wireless products throughout the facility. These interfaces can include Modbus, OPC, HART, FOUNDATION Fieldbus, Profibus, Ethernet and many others. How many of these have you deployed in your facility? Usually, plants contain multiple application interfaces driven by different departments. Many users also want information coming from their wireless devices to utilise these existing legacy applications and protocols. When selecting a strategic wireless network you must have the ability to easily interface with all your legacy applications that will require wireless data. This is very important because this network will service your whole operation, not just one department.

  • Can your wireless network serve many application interfaces?
  • Will your next choice support your existing wireless devices?

There are many aspects to consider as you deploy wireless in your industrial facility. Deploying this enabling technology is a strategic decision. Consider all the areas discussed above in a comprehensive wireless solution for your facility. Industrial wireless networks that do not address each area satisfactorily may not fit your long-term strategic use of wireless technology.

The OneWirelessTM wireless infrastructure and solutions available from Honeywell are a perfect fit to ensure a Safe, Reliable, Efficient, Sustainable and Interoperable solution to meet the wireless requirements within your industrial facility. Honeywell’s OneWireless solutions, supported by the implementation of the ISA100.11a wireless standard guarantees the continued productivity they demand today, tomorrow and into the future.

With millions of operating hours in installations around the globe, Honeywell is committed to offering wireless solutions to meet the needs of industrial users today and in the future. We have the experience to ensure proper network design, installation, maintenance, and ongoing operational performance. Honeywell has designed, developed and installed millions of wireless devices in fields ranging from avionics to building automation–many of them in mission-critical applications.