Tower of Babel Solution

Invensys points out that industrial operations typically introduce wireless networking by experimenting with a point solution for one application, then another point solution—often based on a different protocol—to solve another problem, and so on. The result: a messy, non-interoperable system unwittingly created, often with the blessing of the IT department.

The automation giant aims to solve this problem by partnering with startup Apprion, to develop a sort-of "wireless multiplexer" that accepts multiple frequencies and protocols from various devices—no matter which vendor or application—and converts them to a common data model. The system is designed to support IEEE 802.11 (WiFi), 802.16 (WiMAX), 802.15.4 (including ZigBee), plus RFID, VoIP, and proprietary protocols. Apprion is also developing systems management software to direct and control wireless data, and a security infrastructure.

Invensys is offering the solution as a managed service designed to overlay existing control and information systems, regardless of heritage. The service covers any necessary hardware and software, plus site survey and analysis; engineering; systems integration and implementation; and ongoing support. Invensys is already conducting site surveys at several large process facilities. Apprion, meanwhile, has just raised $7.5 million in Series A funding. (www.ips.invensys.com, www.apprion.com)

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