Expanding Monitoring with Wireless Sensors

by , | Jul 26, 2023 | Industrial IoT | 0 comments

Emerson’s Shane Hale presented Using Wireless Sensors to Expand Monitoring without Expanding I/O and Junction Boxes at the 2023 Ovation Users Group Conference. Here is his presentation abstract.

Many end-users want to free up operators and maintenance personnel from manual checks that provide little immediate value and want to increase the monitoring of assets to mitigate unplanned shutdowns. However, the cost of wiring and I/O is hard to justify, especially on existing sites already near capacity for control system I/O and home-run cabling.

WirelessHART sensors can alleviate these issues by providing industrial-grade rugged sensor solutions that connect to control systems or business networks without requiring J-Box space or Control System I/O.  This presentation shows the range of WirelessHART Sensors available, discusses network architecture and cyber-security concerns, and some pre-built solutions for monitoring assets that can help automate manual rounds while improving reliability and enabling predictive maintenance.

Shane opened by showing how wireless monitoring helps digitally transform plant staff’s day-to-day work by reducing routine manual data collection to more value-added activities. Automating manual rounds improves the collection of data and makes the data available to other people and processes.

Wireless monitoring enables digital transformation of plant staff activities

Wireless measurements are ideal for both process and reliability monitoring. Traditional process measurements for pressure, temperature, level, and flow are available as wireless devices. Reliability measurement devices are available for vibration, acoustic, discrete signals, gas monitoring, location awareness, stranded diagnostics, corrosion & erosion, and connected lighting.

Compared with wired sensors, wireless devices enable reduced engineering effort, simplified design, lowered material cost, lowered project risk, and faster installation and commissioning—saving time and cost.

These devices use the WirelessHART communications protocol but are entirely separate from Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 3G/4G, or any other wireless protocol to meet the needs of industrial instrumentation specifically. This open IEC 62591 standard was introduced in 2007 and approved in 2010. It was developed by instrumentation companies for instrumentation, and security was designed into the protocol from inception. WirelessHART operates in the ISM 2.4 GHz spectrum using an IEEE 802.15.4 radio and is backward compatible with HART “user-layer” communications.

WirelessHART Gateways communicate with the devices and manage the network. Devices automatically locate other devices to form a mesh to share with the gateways. Each device uses multiple paths to the gateway to provide robust, reliable communications. Communications distances can extend from 100 feet around dense construction areas and up to half a mile line of sight with high-gain antennas.

From a security standpoint, three types of attacks are possible: device, wireless, and network. No RS485, USB, Ethernet, or IR communication paths are available for device attacks. The device must be accessed locally with specialized configurator tools.

Wireless communications use Direct Sequence Spread Spectrum (DSSS), Time-Division Multiple Access (TDMA), and dynamic frequency/channel hopping. The protocol does not use Internet Protocol (IP); all messages passed through the network are AES 128-bit encrypted.

From a network standpoint, WirelessHART gateway security uses hardened Linux operating systems, HTTPS webserver interfaces, built-in port & protocol firewall, signed and verifiable firmware hashes, role-based access and customizable password policies, and no backdoors or undocumented user accounts.

Visit the Industrial Wireless Technology section on Emerson.com for more information on the technology and wide range of devices to help you digitally transform your operations.

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  • Shane Hale
    Global Director of Business Development, Pervasive Sensing

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The opinions expressed here are the personal opinions of the authors. Content published here is not read or approved by Emerson before it is posted and does not necessarily represent the views and opinions of Emerson.

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