Because the HART protocol is so prevalent,WirelessHART has many advantages, but other proprietary communications protocols may have their advantages as well. They would require the end user to own the vendor specific gateway or controller and to utilize their software, but if they are already invested in that it may be the more desirable option. A more open protocol, however, has the advantage of being able to communicate with a wider variety of devices, and support for industry collaboration initiatives such as the Field Device Integration (FDI) initiative. With many users deploying WirelessHART networks for monitoring pressure, temperature, and level, WirelessHART gas detectors can simply drop into these networks without additional software, or investment.
In many cases, the IT team will be responsible for managing the entire plant wireless network, so they will need to know about the standards and security properties of the sensor as well as details about range, speed, interference, and other networking factors, all of which should be available from the device vendor or the FieldComm Group that manages the WirelessHART standard.
The IT team will also be concerned about cyber security. Cyber security vulnerability is primarily a function of the communications protocol. WirelessHART, for example, is well-encrypted. End users of course, should also work with their IT teams to be sure their network is covered by existing firewalls, intrusion prevention, intrusion detection, and other cyber security technologies and policies that may be in place.
The technology for wireless gas monitoring has developed significantly. As more end-users adopt wireless devices at the field and plant level, they will likely become an increasingly important fixture in the industrial landscape. If prices pressures continue to mount in the hydrocarbons industry, for example, the need for safety will not go away and the need for cost-effective solutions will grow. As market conditions improve, the increased volume of hydrocarbon processing activities will introduce more potential leakage vulnerability and greater need to assure stakeholders that producers and transporters are doing everything they can to ensure safety. Regardless of which direction the economy takes, the Industrial Internet of Things is coming and there is little doubt that some of those sensors transmitting data into the cloud will be wireless and configured to protect against potentially harmful gas leaks.
by: Wil Chin, Vice President of Marketing and Business Development at United Electric Controls
Joe Mancini, Senior Product Manager at United Electric Controls
Greg LaFramboise, Retired Wireless Technology Lead, Chevron