It was a good, if difficult, decision to switch to an earlier flight yesterday and go on a plant tour of the Arkema chemical plant in Crosby, Texas to see the first implementation of ISA100.11a wireless sensor network technology. Guess what? It works. Within two weeks of the adoption of the new standard, four companies put together production-ready products and the local integrator was able to have it installed and operational.

Honeywell, Yokogawa, Gastronics and Nivis combined to supply products that included wireless level sensing, temperature sensing, gas sensing and limit switch with information brought through a wireless gateway into a Honeywell DCS and Nivis network management tool.

Plant Manager Didier Auber pointed out that the reason they started evaluating wireless was a remote tank that holds water for the fire extinguishing system. Someone had to periodically go out to the site, read the level gauge, record the result and then go back and enter the information. The cost of running signal cable out to the tank was prohibitive. Enter wireless. Now operators can get continuous readings directly from the sensor. Alarms can be added to the DCS system. After this decision was reached, it became logical to look for other remote monitoring that could be easily installed and yield similar benefits.

I used the term “production-ready” because the engineering work to put wireless on instruments can be completed more quickly than gaining all the requisite regulatory approvals. True production components are expected first quarter of next year.

So, yes, ISA100.11a wireless is real. Underlying technology is available. Production parts, tested by the Wireless Compliance Institute of the ISA for compliance, are expected for end user installation early next year.

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