The Manufacturing Mother Lode
Wireless technology will soon see widespread adoption where it will have, perhaps, its most profound impact, says a new ARC Advisory Group study. Its use in manufacturing is expected to grow at a compounded annual growth rate of 26% over the next five years, from $325.7 million in 2005 to more than $1 billion in 2010.
Wireless is the most important emerging technology today in manufacturing automation, says ARC—not only because of cost reduction, but because manufacturers see the ability to enable new business processes that will be safer, more reliable, and more transparent. Field operations within process plants need more information that can be delivered only wirelessly. Historically, process manufacturing could not use wireless on a broad scale, but ARC notes that new sensor networking and WLAN developments will soon change this, enabling visibility into hidden processes, assets, and activities. (www.sensorsmag.com/1106/Smfg1)
An example of new product development is the new wireless version IQMS's software, called EnterpriseIQ RealTime Wireless Production Monitoring System. It uses mesh network technology and a proprietary mote design to enable real-time production management from anywhere at any time. By connecting directly to shop floor machines, the system can synchronize all network machines to monitor discrete, cyclical, and continuous operations, and convey data to the manufacturing schedule in seconds. Automatic production shift reports simplify inventory reconciliation and increase data integrity. (www.sensorsmag.com/1106/Smfg2)
Two wireless sensor networking standards, ISA SP100 and ZigBee, report recent progress.
The highly active ISA SP100 committee, whose burgeoning membership is working to produce a wireless industrial automation standard, says its September proposal conference was wildly successful. "The original idea of offering presenters the chance to consolidate with like-thinking compatriots was so successful that the committee went from 26 proposals to 2," says co-chair Wayne Manges.
Over five days, more than 50 attendees saw advanced technologies ranging from a physical layer based on chirp-spread-spectrum to security schemes based on new implementations of risk-vs.-consequence models. One presenter produced evidence that his company had achieved an astonishing "five nines" (99.999%) reliability in a wireless network tested at an industrial site. (www.sensorsmag.com/1106/Ssp100)
Meanwhile, the ZigBee Alliance has reached three milestones: its members shipped more than 10,000 developer kits, it has certified its thirteenth ZigBee-compliant platform, and visitors to the alliance Web site have downloaded the ZigBee specification more than 29,000 times in one year. In addition, three large OEMs—Huawei Technologies, Schneider Electric, and Siemens—along with global semiconductor supplier STMicroelectronics have all increased their memberships to the highest level (promoters) and have taken seats on the board. (www.sensorsmag.com/1106/Szig)
Savi Technology is offering a RAND (reasonable and nondiscriminatory) licensing program on its intellectual property for active RFID products, which are based on the ISO 18000-7 standard. Savi has launched the program with a Quick Start plan available through December 31, 2006. At the same time, Savi will also provide a regular license plan with no availability limit. Those who take advantage of the Quick Start plan will pay lower up-front fees in the licensing program. (www.sensorsmag.com/1106/Ssavi)
Mark your calendar, too, for Lantronix's second annual Wireless Design Contest, held to encourage engineers to enable machines or devices using the company's embedded 802.11 b/g wireless Device Server. Contestants must submit a working prototype board design, with a summary of the project and its operation, by March 1, 2007. First place will receive $6000; second place, $4000; and third place, $2000. Additional awards will include the best entry from a student or educational institute and the entry with the lowest power usage. (www.sensorsmag.com/1106/Slan)