Wireless field devices for process measurement and control have been on the market for a number of years now. Standards such as ISA100 and WirelessHART have been developed and are now published by the IEC. Some products are in their 2nd or 3rd generation. Many of these products are an excellent fit for existing ("brown field") applications as well as for new plants ("green field") and the Industrial Internet of Things. Some products have their design optimized for wireless networking with features like embedded internal antennas (see figure). Given this, is the industrial wireless market about to take off, and if so why or why not?
One factor that has traditionally inhibited wireless measurement in new plants is the ability of EPC firms ("Engineer-Procure-Construct") to design new plants with wireless instruments. In ARC's view, this is not primarily a technical problem but a risk perception. In many new plant construction projects EPCs bear significant risk if the project is delayed. Schedule compression is critical to EPCs and re-work during commissioning is likely to delay project completion. Under these circumstances, it makes good business sense for EPCs to be very risk-averse and use designs that are "field-proven" even if they are old and suboptimal under other metrics.
In some circumstances, schedule pressure has led EPCs to adopt wireless devices in order to shorten a construction schedule. Also, the contracts between EPCs and process manufacturers are sometimes structured in ways that favor wireless technology when it will save time or capital. But in ARC's view, that is not usually the case today. Changes in practices like these could have a big impact on the wireless market.