Technological Darwinism-the theory that the best products achieve the broadest adoption-is an urban myth. The disposition of R&D dollars and the content of standards determine, to a large extent, which technologies get a chance to prove themselves. Given this, what effect will the new SP100 wireless standard have?
The reliability of wireless systems has long been the Achilles' heel of the technology. Perhaps one of the first steps toward allaying the fears of users is to come up with litmus test to gauge the system?s vitality.
ISA's SP100 wireless standards committee is trying to do things right by learning from the experiences of those who went before them to create protocols. The vendors are doing their part, but where are the end users? Those deploying sensors stand to gain the most from well-thought-out wireless standards.
Although it's impossible for a standard to please all the people all the time, the groups that create them have to come as close as possible. Before it can come up with viable standards for wireless monitoring and control networks, ISA's SP100 committee has to come to grips with requirements, preferences, and expectations.
Gideon Varga, DOE's portfolio manager for the Sensors and Automation Cross-Cut in the Industrial Technologies Program, announced his new government-funded R&D program at the Sensors Expo in Chicago (Rosemont) on June 5, 2006. The standing-room-only crowd was very attentive and extremely global in nature. The interest in advanced (wireless) sensor networks now stretches around the globe, and Gideon's session, Sensors to Revolutionize Manufacturing prompted energetic discussion about what is coming from his DOE office in the future.
Not long ago, many experts ruled out the pursuit of energy scavenging as a power source, saying that advances in battery technology and power optimization would render it unnecessary. But recent developments suggest that it might be premature to relegate power harvesting to a few special applications.
If you've read my articles in Sensors magazine, you are familiar with my evangelism of ubiquitous sensing. Ubiquity of wireless sensing is clearly the best way to achieve the potential envisioned by a presidential advisory committee in 1997."
As I walked through the exhibit hall at the International Forum on Process Analytical Chemistry (IFPAC), I felt as though I was judging a science fair. The technology was impressive and clearly indicated an irrefutable level of engineering sophistication. I found it difficult, though, to imagine these devices in a refinery. For good reason, it turns out.
A little government influence promises to ignite wireless sensor networking progress this year. Meanwhile SP100's momentum continues to surprise, and the petrochemical and pharmaceutical industries recognize the value of wireless. And, I wonder, who'll be the Wal-Mart of the process-visibility phenomenon?