Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Evolution of Wireless SCADA

Integrating wireless instrumentation with SCADA systems can drive reduce deployment costs and operational efficiency. The use of wireless instruments in gas production and pipelines operations has been gaining momentum over the past few years. Driven by cost cutting measures and the need to gain more operational visibility to meet regulatory requirements, wireless instruments eliminate expensive trenching and cabling while providing access to hard to reach areas using self contained, battery powered instruments. However, SCADA operators and engineers are facing the challenge of integrating wireless instrumentation networks with other communication infrastructure available in the field. Debugging and managing dispersed wireless networks presents a new level of complexity to field operators that could deter them from adopting wireless instrumentation despite the exceptional savings.

Since Guglielmo Marconi sent the first signal telegraph across the Atlantic, wireless became parts of our everyday lives. The last ten years have seen dramatic change not only in the radio technology but more importantly in how we use it as consumers and oil and gas professionals. Pipeline companies and gas producers have relied for many years on long range wireless technology to transmit and distribute critical operational data using a wide range of technologies including, satellite, UHF, VHF, and license free spread spectrum. As more consumers to acquire the latest Smart Phones with embedded Wi-Fi, broadband capabilities, and Bluetooth the radio modules price have plummeted over the past three years. This has made it easy on industrial vendors to integrate the modules of radio into a long list of sensors and devices.

As a result industry oil and gas has seen an increase in wireless instrumentation, also broadly known as wireless sensor networks, offered from major process SCADA suppliers and control. Wireless became the holy grail of the industry with pundits and editors predicting double digits annual growth and a $1.2 billion market by 2012.


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