Instrumentation, Communication, Monitoring


Q.  What advantages can industrial users expect to realize by implementing wireless

A.  An increase in the amount of process information that can be economically collected for both monitoring and control purposes. Sensor technology has long been cost effective for common process parameters such as pressure and temperature but the implementation of these devices is often uneconomic due to both the direct and indirect cost of hard wiring.

Wireless solutions permit not only permanent collection of information but also the implementation of temporary data collection for diagnostic or developmental purposes. This flexibility of wireless technology permits a more rapid response & a more accurate response to troubleshooting.  

The freedom to inexpensively monitor any “change-of-state” or “analog” sensor from almost any location permits the plant engineer to justify the collection of ‘want to know’ data and not just the ‘critical to process’ information that supports investment in hard wired systems. In the past, if plants wanted to monitor a pressure relief valve or rupture disk, or when a safety shower was in use, they had to run wire from the monitoring station to the source. Wireless solutions eliminate the cost and complexity of additional wiring and in many cases, reduces monitoring costs by 90-percent. 


Q. What are some of the common pitfalls users need to be aware of when implementing wireless in an industrial environment?

A.  Understand the environment for the optimum function of wireless solutions. A reputable manufacturer will offer the ability to administer an onsite survey to verify where wireless modules are best installed to secure data transmission. Even better, site survey services will be provided to ensure that such a survey is conducted by a wireless system expert.

Infinite battery life does not exist; the convenience of a battery powered wireless device makes them a natural first choice. However, when near continuous data updates are required, battery life will be compromised. Selecting wireless technology that offers integral battery power with the option for external DC power is the best solution; the same hardware can be deployed throughout a facility with each application appropriately powered. Where needed, solar derived DC power can be implemented.

The misconception that wireless technology is unreliable. Current generation wireless solutions use self testing protocols to ensure that a system remains active even when there may be no sensor data to transmit. Returning to the example of monitoring a rupture disk or pressure relief valve, where a simple ‘closed / open’ switch is used there will be no ‘change of state’ of the sensor signal for perhaps years. A background ‘heartbeat’ check is used to confirm that communication between system components is active with an alarm generated in the rare event of a loss of communication.


Q. What are some best practices users can employ to ensure effective application of their wireless solutions?

A.  Process manufacturers can choose from several wireless technologies. Finding the best wireless solution for their individual needs starts with understanding the application that requires monitoring and asking such questions as:

  • What is the process being monitored? This will determine the system ratio and whether a simple switch, analog or pulse sensor will be used.
  • Is the process housed in a hazardous environment?  If so, the wireless solution chosen should have the Class I Division 1 rating.
  • What is the operating range of the process, which will determine transmitters and whether the transmitters will be elevated and used with optional external antennas.
  • Also imperative for an effective application is open dialog with personnel groups who will support wireless installations including, maintenance crews, those responsible for monitoring, and the plant’s IT team.    


Q.  Wireless is a confounding topic for many industrial users. In an effort to shed a tiny bit of light on some of the popular topics in the wireless industry today, please provide a short explanation of each of the following terms and explain how they relate to BS&B's wireless systems?

A.   IEEE 802 –
Wireless HART

These terms have great meaning to the highly experienced instrumentation professional
but serve to alienate and confuse the occasional user resulting in a reduced use of
wireless technology. A simple approach is to ensure that a chosen wireless device is
compatible with the electrical environment to which it is to be applied, for example, Class
1 Division 1, with certification from CSA, FM or UL & determine with a site survey
endorsed by the manufacturer that the intended wireless technology functions correctly in
the specific application location.


Q. There is a lot of concern among industrial users about the security of wireless technology. What are some key best practices users can employ to ensure the security of their wireless platform?

A.  Wireless systems with built-in encryption, authentication, anti-jamming and other security measures offer the security of any software based electronic data system. Those systems that offer a unique identity number to each wireless module & use that number to verify the authenticity of each communication exchange are the most secure.


Q. How do you see industrial wireless evolving going forward? What can users look forward to in terms of new wireless capability in industrial plant environments?

A.  Several distinct families of technology that will include at least the following:

  • Wireless systems that are integrated with sensors, typically offered by sensor manufacturers as a means to leverage the sale of more sensors
  • Wireless systems that are independent of a sensor manufacturer, offering the flexibility to combine sensor types and brands into a single system
  • Stand alone wireless monitoring systems that allow the plant engineer to independently collect ‘want to know’ as opposed to ‘need to know’ information from field devices
  • Simple ‘point A to point B’ wire replacement devices that offer an alternative to hard wiring for low density sensor applications

Q. What are the benefits of using wireless technology?

A.  Wireless technology offers a cost-effective means of monitoring rupture disks, plant equipment and production processes.  No Expensive Conduit or Cable is needed asBS&B Wireless Monitoring Systems are approximately 10-times less expensive to install than wired alternatives.  In addition to the installation savings, engineering costs are dramatically reduced as extensive surveys and planning are no longer required to route wire back to junction boxes or control rooms.

Q. How does wireless technology compare to hard-wired system installations?

  • Hardwired installations costs approximately $30 to $50 a foot, or more in conduit depending on the application.
  • Hardwired point-to-point connections take much effort and time in planning layout   schematics as-well-as for installation
  • Hardwired installations are fixed while wireless installations are flexible.
  • Hardwired systems are also labor intensive costing a majority of the total system. A wireless system slashes labor cost to 1/10th the cost of wired sensors.

Q.  What radio frequency does BS&B Wireless Monitoring Systems use? Will we be required to maintain user licensing?

A.  Both use ultra high frequency radio communication (RF) that does not require user licensing.

Three system frequencies are offered:

  • 902-928 MHz: for use in the United States, Canada, Mexico and South America.
  • 915MHz: for use in Australia and New Zealand
  • 2.4 GHz: for use in Europe, most of Asia, the United States and Canada. 

Q.  What is the operating range of BS&B Wireless Monitoring Systems.

A.   Wireless transmitters are designed to operate up to one-mile using a convenient internal antenna. Effective range can be increased by elevating transmitters and/or the receiver radio module, or be the use of an optional external antenna to gain range of 10-miles or more. A repeater module can also be used to extend communication range or to get around physical obstacles that cannot be penetrated by RF.