Machine Design

Wireless sensor networks are coming to a machine near you

Say goodbye to wire harnesses and cable carriers as wireless technology takes hold in factory automation.

A wireless I/O control cabinet from Opto22, Temecula, Calif.
A wireless access point from Symbol Technologies, Holtsville, N.Y.
An RF ID tag used by Siemens Dematic USA, Grand Rapids, Mich.
A Nokia phone displaying parking information via SMS messaging, as implemented with Opto22 wireless controls.

Technological advances may soon relegate to the ashbin of history the bundles of cables that characterize factory-floor machinery.

This is one of the conclusions that can be drawn from speakers making presentations at IWAS (Industrial Wireless Automation Summit), an upcoming conference on industrial wireless technology. Speakers from such companies as Mesh Networks, Millennial Net, and Ember Corp. point out that developments in wireless so far have focused on such high-data-rate uses as cellular phones. But the picture is starting to change as the cost of the technology comes down. It now looks as though inexpensive low-data-rate networks will soon begin showing up in industrial applications ranging from equipment on factory floors to fleets of trucks.

The changes these networks bring could be far ranging. Among the first areas to benefit from industrial wireless technology is that of sensors and I/O. The idea: Get rid of the bulky network cables and wiring now needed to route sensor signals back to motion and process controllers. Use instead small, light wireless transceivers powered by battery or which pick up operating power inductively.

The proposition is particularly attractive for sensor-studded end effectors that are constantly in motion. They typically perform operations such as cutting and grinding, pick-and-place assembly, and related tasks. Troubles associated with connectors and cabling going out to moveable actuators can be a sore spot at plants striving for minimum downtime.

Work taking place at think tanks such as Darpa (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) and at university labs promise to eliminate such woes. Researchers are figuring out ways of configuring small and inexpensive sensors able to communicate amongst themselves in what are called ad hoc networks. These networks are typified by the lack of one single controller that manages transmissions between network devices. Instead, sensors obey a protocol that dictates who gets access to the airwaves and for how long.

I/O, sensor networks, and tutorials headline upcoming wireless summit

The Industrial Wireless Applications Summit (IWAS) runs March 8 through 10 in conjunction with the Wireless Systems Design Expo at the San Diego Convention Center. Key themes include wireless industrial I/O, wireless sensor networks, mobile industrial applications, and RF ID in industrial applications.

A special "supersession" on the first morning of the conference covers the basics of wireless systems and propagation. It is oriented toward nonelectrical engineers and non-RF specialists. It is sponsored by National Instruments Corp. with help from speakers hailing from the University of Texas and Wireless Valley Communications Inc.

For more information on the speakers and on the IWAS conference, visit the conference Web page at

Industrial Wireless Application Summit, San Diego Convention Center, San Diego, Calif. - March 8-10, 2004

Monday, March 8 Industrial Wireless I/O Preliminary schedule
Wireless Sensor Networks
10:00 a.m. - 10:45 a.m. Tutorial: RF/Wireless Network Basics
Mihir K. Ravel, National Instruments; Jeff Andrews, University of Texas Wireless Networking and Communications Group; Eric Reifsnider, Wireless Valley Communications Inc.
ReFLEX™ Wireless -
Technology Wireless Data Before Wireless Data was Cool, Lance Decker, Wireless Innovations Inc.
To be announced
11:00 a.m. - 11:45 a.m. Coordinated Lifting without the Wires
-- Bill Baker, Gray Automotive Products, and Larry Jaipaul,
Computer Electronics Research Group Ltd.
1:00 p.m. - 1:45 p.m. KEYNOTE - Rob Poor, CTO, Ember Corporation
2:00 p.m. - 2:45 p.m. Industrial Wireless Technology -Agility, Mobility and Security - Wayne W. Manges, Oak Ridge National Laboratory Wireless Web-Enabled Automation Lowers Costs and Enhances Remote Monitoring and Control for Water Facilities - Greg Woods, Control Technology Corp. Harnessing Multi-Mode Wireless for the Plant Site - Phil Macafee and Douglas Molitor, Power Touch Technologies Inc.
3:00 p.m. - 3:45 p.m. KEYNOTE: Henry Samueli, Ph.D.
4:00 p.m. - 4:45 p.m. Network Architectural Requirements for In-Plant Wireless Solutions Zachary Smith, Ember Corp. Reliable and Secure Wireless Industrial Connectivity: Understanding Protocol and Application Fit with Wireless Technologies - Kevin Zamzow, ProSoft Technology Self-Organizing, Wireless Sensor Networks - Tod Riedel, Millennial Net Inc.
Tuesday, March 9
9:00 a.m. - 9:45 a.m. The Versatility of Bluetooth Wireless Technology in Industrial Applications - Sandy Harper, Parker Hannifin Corp. RF ID: Recognizing Benefits Beyond Compliance - Joe Dunlap, Siemens Dematic ZigBee Alliance and Technology Overview - Kory Brown, Vice President, Wireless, ZMD Wireless
10:00 a.m. - 10:45 a.m. To be announced Wireless Mesh Networking for Industrial Monitoring - Rick Rotondo, MeshNetworks ZigBee Enables Low-Cost, Power-Efficient Wireless Networking - Denise Eribes, Motorola
11:00 a.m. - 11:45 a.m.* A Road Map to Implementing Wireless Networking into Industrial Systems - Mike Grobler, DPAC Technologies Corp RF ID in Action: Fluid Tracking and Monitoring - Rick Garber, Colder Products Successfully Implementing Wireless Technology - Lance Decker, Wireless Innovations Inc.
12:45 p.m. - 1:45 p.m. KEYNOTE PANEL: The Future of Industrial Wireless:
What's on the Horizon and Where the Growth Will Be
2:00 p.m. - 2:45 p.m. Un-Intentional Interference - The Forgotten Threat - Kevin Towers, OMNEX Control Systems Inc. RF ID in Machine Design - Suresh Palliparambil, Escort Memory Systems (EMS) Technologies for Building Wireless Industrial I/O Systems - David Potter and Rahul Kulkarni, National Instruments
3:00 p.m. - 3:45 p.m. KEYNOTE: Ronald E. Reedy, Ph.D., Founder, Vice President & CTO and Director, Peregrine Semiconductor
Wednesday, March 10
9:00 a.m. - 9:45 a.m. Applying Wireless Technology in Industrial Environments - Tim Cutler, Cirronet Inc. RFID as a Catalyst for the Lean, Adaptive Enterprise - Nelson M. Nones, Apriso Corp. Doing Useful Work with Wireless Sensor Networks - Insights into Business Efficiencies - William W. Westerman, Accenture Technology Labs
10:00 a.m. - 10:45 a.m. Wireless Machine-to-Machine Implementations in Industrial Applications - Benson Hougland, Opto 22 To be announced Wireless Sensor Networks: Past, Present and Future - Kris Pister, Dust, Inc.
*WSD Keynote Panel "Using PoE to Empower the Proliferation of Wireless Devices" takes place at this time.
Exhibit hall hours: Monday 12-5, Tuesday 10-5, Wednesday 10-2
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