Automation with no strings attached
Industry converges on Houston: Wireless, security, safety key highlights
By Gregory Hale
It would be very easy to pigeon hole ISA EXPO 2007 as an event focused on wireless, but when you really look at it, the entire automation industry remained fully represented throughout the six technology exchanges at the crowded Houston show.
As world manufacturing continues to grow, economic activity in the U.S. manufacturing sector has enjoyed a 72-consecutive-month expansion, according to reports.
With that news and the general upbeat mood of industry practitioners talking shop from one end of the show floor to the other, one of the key technologies on display at EXPO was wireless.
While exhibitors showed their wares, the ISA100 wireless standard committee met and talked about the wireless future.
ISA100 is a standard in the works for wireless automation systems, and one of the working groups for the standard, WG8, continued to ask questions about the final wireless standard. WG8 continues to work on a document called User Requirements for Wireless Networking in Industrial Automation Systems.
Dick Caro, long time networking and communications activist, marshaled the members and participants through several bullets on the agenda having to do with security, privacy, and quality of service the wireless standard would, and should, demand.
The scope of the group’s work is to represent the combined focus for end users in industrial automation for use by the ISA100 committee as it drafts a standard for wireless communications in industrial manufacturing.
The input from the group will augment the areas of coverage represented by the Use Cases coming from members of the User Working Group.
The group and the users’ document hopes to identify those requirements that must be included in a First Release standard. The sentiment from the meeting seemed to be there will be more than one release.
Other issues the committee has built into its list include:
Plant Topology: Industrial manufacturing plants vary in size from small rooms to many hundreds or thousands of acres in size, indoor and outdoor. Despite all sorts of physical impairments or proximity issues a solution for one should not make the solution for another, more expensive.
ISA100 networks must satisfy user expectations of similar performance, cost, and ease of deployment.
Environmental: Plant environments vary from “clean room” to outdoors—arctic to tropical conditions with relative humidity varying from desert-dry to rain forest. The first release should provide instruments and gateways (receivers) with electrical hazardous area certification meeting at least Class 1, Div 1 (Zone 1), and Groups ABCD.
Device power: While many areas of industrial plants have 110/220 single phase power available, wiring of that power to specific, often hazardous locations is expensive. Therefore, devices should consume little power, so they may receive energy from one of a number of alternative sources. As well, an option to use local DC power should exist.
Security and privacy: Isolation of an automation wireless network for purposes of security or privacy is impossible. One must assume attempts to jam the network and/or to intercept message traffic on the network will occur.
The network must continue to work correctly in the presence of such attempts, inform the network owners of these attempts, and take steps necessary to avoid the interference.
Network availability shall be in excess of 99.999% when used for ordinary service (less than five minutes downtime per year).
Availability of 99.9999% shall exist for all critical services (less than 30 seconds downtime per year).
Standards are one thing, but real-life usage is another, and folks in the industry want to use wireless. However, as wireless technology continues its ascent into automation, perceptions of what the technology is or is not remain.
The first word that comes to Ivan Ward’s mind when you say wireless is “expensive.” Ward works at Conoco-Philips in Farmington, N.M. He said since it gets more difficult to deal with cabling when you are adding facilities to one area, his company is “looking into it.”
If they are not using it, people are at least talking about it. Chris Allen with Delta Controls in Surrey, U.K., said it is “definitely something we need to get on top of. It’s all over the show,” he said.
Allen’s company makes pressure transmitters and switches. He said wireless “probably wouldn’t be suitable with pressure switches, but could work well with pressure transmitters. “I’ll be looking at the protocols for industrial standards,” he said. “We don’t want to back the wrong horse.”
Wireless was all over the show, as Peter Fuhr, chief technology officer with Apprion in Moffett Field, Calif., can prove. He had a spectrum analyzer that monitors radio frequency traffic throughout the EXPO. At the ISA100 booth, there was a real-time screen portrayal of wireless use. “The density here is crazy; every booth has antennas.” The screen at the ISA100 booth showed all the radio frequency in real time, specifically in one arena, in 2.4 to 2.5 gigahertz bands. “Why? Because it’s license free, so it’s really popular,” he said. “Even in the presence of all this interference, the wireless sensor signals are still getting through, and this shows how reliable the wireless sensor here is.”
“Overall, wireless is actually becoming more acceptable at its basic level,” said Hesh Kagan, director of technology marketing services at Invensys Process Systems in Foxboro, Mass. “Last year, people were prepared to experiment with wireless. This year, they’re prepared to start implementing solutions,” he said.
“People want to actually solve problems now versus proving wireless will work,” said Steve Lambright, chief executive of Apprion. Instead of “trepidatious pilot projects,” people are using wireless with more confidence and maturity, Kagan said. “You’re starting to see wireless move from a science experiment toward a viable technology. Now that people have gained experience, they’re learning their competitor is using wireless, so they better watch out,” Kagan said.
Catching the wave
Brent McAdams is seeing more manufacturers traditionally concerned with low-data-rate serial radios deciding to go to wireless Ethernet, which is a higher data-rate technology. McAdams is business development manager with FreeWave in Boulder, Colo. “The trend has always been low-data-rate serial radios,” he said. “There’s been a push from end users and manufacturers to high-data-rate Ethernet radios. With serial technology, you could only do one communication at a time. There was a poll (request for data) and a response,” he said. “But with Ethernet, you have more connections at one time, more polls, and more responses.”
While wireless is making its mark technologically, there are still some hurdles to clear when it comes to operations and IT playing together, Kagan said. “In the past, there was a separation between what happened in the control and business world,” he said. “In wireless, radio waves go where they want to, so they have to be managed in a highly integrated manner.”
“It can’t be a free-for-all,” Lambright said. “For the first time, you’re really seeing how this integration forces IT to work with process engineering teams and operations groups.” And that’s when you encounter some challenges, he said. “It can work great, and you can see an opposite extreme.”
Security ties in
End users are still focusing on security with wireless as well, McAdams said. “They’re concerned about encryption, radius control, and authentication.” Looking for higher levels of security, all manufacturers are tailoring their devices with encryption using the advanced encryption standard (AES). “There’s 128 AES and 256 AES,” he said. “The bigger the bits means there’s a bigger area to scramble data. As the encryption key increases, [hackers] would have a hard time [breaking in].”
Also there is the ability to have a MAC address filtering the associated IP address with the physical address of the machine. “If the address is in that table, it will communicate; if it’s not, it won’t,” he said. The MAC address is a hard-coded address in a device. The table resides in the radio. “You plug into the radio with Ethernet. If the IP address is not in the table, it will not allow access.”
McAdams said all major gas producers and chemical refining markets can benefit from using this technology. “It becomes costly to run conduit and wire,” he said. “So with wireless, there’s an immediate payback.”
Next year, wireless will see more integration as applications become deployed, Lambright said. “That will spur more rapid adoption of wireless. The cycle will emerge, networks will deliver the ability to pursue new applications they couldn’t have in the past, especially with condition monitoring and safety applications.”
“Up until now, we’ve been spending time on the technology,” Kagan said. “This time next year, we’ll be focusing more on solutions.”
Continuing on the wireless front, users had the opportunity to take a walking tour. Entitled Wireless Tech Tour: No wires, no hype, Ian McPherson of the ISA100 committee led the 15 or so hoofers to various places to in the giant hall to get exposure to the burgeoning technology.
“There are so many people with wireless wares here, that we can’t cover them all,” said McPherson, an Apprion co-founder and the vice president of network architecture there.
Safe and secure
Wireless was a key element to EXPO, but it was not the only technology on display. Security was another.
Security is a big deal, we know that, but when it comes to securing control systems, the industry needs special security measures for their special needs.
Chris Martin with Industrial Defender was on hand in the Security XPod to give an overview of how these products can help users secure their SCADA and DCS systems and networks. They are specifically engineered for the SCADA and DCS environment. The products are different than other security measures because they “stop at the plant perimeter, and the edge of the process control network,” Martin said. “We don’t sell our solutions into the enterprise. We feel there are unique characteristics and solutions sold on the corporate side that are not applicable for the plant side.”
“It’s important to have security counter measures in an industrial control system, but it’s also important to have those counter measures designed for use in an industrial control system as opposed to using mainstream products, which may or may not be suitable for this application,” said Eric Cosman, engineering solutions architect at Dow Chemical. “If you dump antivirus software for typical IT on a control system, the cure might be worse than the disease.”
Steven Hawkins with ABB in Wickliffe, Ohio, and a member of the ISA99 control system security committee, said it is becoming “more and more important for traditional process control engineers to understand the concept and to be able to develop solutions to provide the necessary security.” In the past, most of the solutions have come from the IT side with IT-specific products. “Those who lived in the IT world knew about firewalls, and the specific security compliance they dealt with,” he said. “In the process control side, we were never connected to corporate networks, and process control network was an island. Now there’s connectivity so they could be vulnerable to viruses and things the IT people have tried to prevent,” Hawkins said.
When talking about security, the next issue a manufacturer can jump to is safety. It is one thing to secure a plant; it is another to ensure it is a safe environment.
During the 2 October keynote address, veteran safety and security risk expert Steve Arendt, vice president of organization performance assurance at ABS Consulting, said, when industrial accidents happen, humans are ultimately to blame. “The Deity doesn’t accept blame.”
Arendt led ABS’ project supporting the Baker Panel’s 2006 inquiry into the tragic March 2005 BP explosion in Texas City, Tex., that killed 15 workers, injured 180 others, and was the worst U.S. industrial accident in more than a decade.
Technology failures, management failures, and human failures all fall to humans who design and build the equipment, processes, and management systems. As a result, organizations’ “culture” toward safety and risk management is key to avoiding tragic incidents, Arndt said.
Speaking to a near-capacity room, the 29-year chemical process safety veteran listed four primary approaches to improving safety and risk management: standards-based (ISA, ANSI, for example); compliance-based; continuous improvement-based; and risk-based (prioritizing potential problems).
Warning “business can get in the way of environmental and security changes,” he emphasized how culture is key. “Culture is the DNA in all of us that makes us want to do the right thing, at the right time, in the right way,” he said.
To achieve that objective, organizations need to establish safety as a core value; provide strong leadership; maintain a sense of vulnerability; establish and enforce high standards of performance; empower individuals to successfully fulfill their safety responsibilities; defer to expertise; ensure open and effective communications; establish a questioning/learning environment; provide continuous monitoring of performance; foster mutual trust; provide timely response to safety issues and concerns; and formalize the safety culture emphasis/approach.
“Put sensors, not censors, at every (organizational) level,” Arendt said.
To eliminate a security issue or a hazardous environment, it all comes down to putting everything in context.
That is where the OpenO&M Initiative comes in. The initiative takes every manufacturing standard out there and makes them interplay, coexist, and communicate with one another. In addition, the domain should include the usual sensor on the plant floor to the boardroom. This is not just collaboration; it goes way beyond that.
“It’s a diverse world, so get over it,” said Alan Johnston, OpenO&M Initiative chair. “People and technology have to work together with owner operators to reach complete systems integration.”
Plant operations is a complex world requiring a diverse community of people, processes, and technology to work together.
OpenO&M is an initiative of multiple industry standards organizations to provide a harmonized set of standards for the exchange of operations and maintenance (O&M) data and associated content.
OpenO&M is an effort composed of diverse groups of relevant organizations and subject matter experts organized in industry specific Joint Working Groups (JWG) focused on enabling O&M application interoperability. The goal of the JWGs is to offer domain end users a harmonized set of data exchange standards while avoiding duplication of work.
“Cooperative effort of standards is the whole point,” said Tom Burke, executive director of the OPC Foundation. “The success is that the standards are useful, used, and adopted, not just standards for the sake of standards.”
The OpenO&M initiative deals with communication all along the manufacturing platform, but one of the problems is there are fewer engineers to communicate with.
Where are all the engineers going to come from?
Dr. James Truchard, National Instruments founder and chief executive, Rimbach lecturer on 3 October, said they are coming from the tech-savvy generation: Today’s third graders.
“We need to have tools in the classrooms that are working in this same tech-savvy way to give them that connection. Otherwise it’s just magic, their gadget just works. And they don’t understand how.”
Making engineering fascinating to these third graders is one way we are going to alleviate the engineering and science crisis. Experienced engineers are reaching retirement age. Take a look, and you will see 23% of chemical engineers are over age 50, Truchard said.
“Our engineering graduation rates peaked in the 1980s. Despite our best efforts to change that, it hasn’t changed. People from China and India are going back home and taking the technology with them. If you look at engineers as a fraction of the labor force, that has been flat for three decades. The reason lies with the energy crisis and changes in environment; we haven’t made investments in society,” he said. “We see we have a major challenge on our hands to take on and continue to be that global supplier of technology from the developed world.”
One way to do that is to expand engineering efficiency by using global communication and collaborating. “The information is available on a global basis. A researcher in China has the same access as you do here in Houston or wherever you are,” he said. “If you are not taking advantage of this new way to get information, you won’t be competitive. If a new technique is found anywhere in world, it needs to be applied as soon as possible. A new marketplace is changing the world.”
How do we go about producing more engineers? ISA has been a big supporter in working with universities to increase the number of engineers that are graduating, Truchard said. “We need the theoretical and practical. The better we can meld the two, the better we can do. We need a strong focus on hands-on learning. All of us from childhood have experiences that influenced our interest in engineering. I grew up on a farm, and crystal radio was the big thing that led to my career in engineering.”
Truchard said the best way to get kids interested in engineering is to start in Kindergarten and work through graduate research. LEGO has been one of the most successful introductions, he said, using MindStorm as their technology. “Kids are really having a lot of fun with it. This is what we need out there for those third graders to get excited about robotics, science, engineering, and the like.”
The critical methods to use include hands-on experience, collaborative project-based learning, design, creativity, and innovation. “The key thing to get these projects moving is to bring in some design so they get experience with it,” he said. “And keep creativity in it.”
This was compiled from a series of reports written by Ellen Fussell Policastro, Nicholas Sheble, and Jim Strothman.
YAPs: Networking starts early
Young automation professionals (YAPs) converged again this year at the ISA EXPO YAPFEST. And like last year, YAPs had an important opportunity to network with industry peers, mentors, and like-minded students and professionals.
“I’m an ISA member and a volunteer room monitor this year at EXPO,” said Haoying Liu, from the University of Houston. Liu found the opportunity to talk with peers and other companies among the benefits of attending the YAPFEST. “I can get prepared for job hunting, maybe working for an oil company in the development department,” Liu said. “My interest is in sensor networking. It’s a hot topic today. So I hope to meet some people from the oil industry.”
The Houston Section invited Roy Thoppil-Joseph of Bayer to YAPFEST last year. As a former president of the ISA student section, he just had to come back. “This time I’m a working professional,” he said. “I just want to meet people. There might be people from my group here this year, and maybe I can offer some advice,” he said. One piece of advice Thoppil-Joseph would offer is to “start looking and meet people,” he said. “I met people here last year,” he said.
The whole reason for YAPFEST was to address the issue of an aging workforce.
Kevin Regalado of Lamar Institute of Technology in Vidor, Tex., came with his class to “hear about all the jobs. I just talked to Shell about jobs, training, and an internship,” he said. “I hope to leave with some good leads to start me off.”
—Ellen Fussell Policastro
Gold is great, but there is more to student competition
While going for the gold is great whether you are in the Olympics or the ISA International Student Games, students said they came to Houston for much more.
While all students looked forward to the competition, there could only be one winner, and the Gold Medal went to British Columbia Institute of Technology, Canada.
“I wanted to get connected with other members of the instrumentation community,” said Christopher Braet with Lambton College. “We are familiar with the labs in school, but we’ve been brainstorming about what they’ll throw at us. We know we’re working on a boiler loop. There will be an older technology (valve proofing system), and we have to wire it up to the new system. But I don’t think it will be hard.”
Even first-timers were confident they could tackle the task. Robert Donnelly, California State Polytechnic University, said even though they did not get “hands-on” experience at school, “it’s more for the experience, to get a feel for what’s out there in the industry.” The winners were:
—Ellen Fussell Policastro
Products released at EXPO
Wireless sensor line debuts
Marlborough, Mass.-based AirSprite Technologies, a developer of wireless sensor infrastructure systems for industrial automation, rolled out products that should deliver improvements in operational efficiency, plant utilization, and employee productivity. AirSprite said it will build its wireless sensor infrastructure products on two emerging standards—WirelessHART and ISA100. The company’s first products will connect directly to HART devices and require no changes, will enable the installation of industrial wireless networks that work with existing systems, and will be upgradeable to comply with future standards.
Compact router unveiled
The Magnum DX900 Industrial Router from GarrettCom Inc. allows plant engineers and IT departments to link remote, harsh-environment industrial sites to central systems and operations centers using Digital WAN services. The DX900 Industrial Router supports public or private digital facilities, frame relay services, and new MPLS-based IP services.
Trace gas analyzer spots ultra-low levels
Tiger Optics LLC showed its HALO+, a mini-cavity ring-down spectroscopy (CRDS) analyzer that can measure at parts-per-trillion levels. HALO+ can analyze moisture in gases down to ultra-low levels with accuracy, speed, repeatability, and low cost of ownership.
Safe control system launched
ICS Triplex launched its latest safety and critical control system, AADvance. The company said AADvance offers customers levels of choice, flexibility, and scalability for a safety and critical control system. AADvance is a distributed and intuitive, centrally managed control solution that offers the customer a number of significant benefits. The AADvance software environment provides centralized control over a plant-wide safety management system via the AADvance Engineering Workstation.
HMI/SCADA system improves Tags
Enhancing its FactoryPMI database-powered human-machine interface/supervisory control and data acquisition (HMI/SCADA) system, Inductive Automation offered a new release featuring an improved SQL Tags technology. The real benefit of the improved Tags technology is ease of use. It features a drop-and-drag interface, which takes only one-tenth of the time of the previous method. It also offers better diagnostics and scalability, officials said.
Siemens updates Simatic
Siemens Energy & Automation, Inc. enhanced Version 7 of its Simatic PCS 7 Process Automation System to include a set of advanced process control (APC) capabilities. The APC enhancements in Version 7 of PCS 7 are tightly integrated into the system, allowing users to choose from different proven methods to help optimize their processes.
Byres Security introduced Tofino, a security solution envisioned to “make security work for the control technician.” It consists of three main components: “There is basically what we call the global security module, the actual appliance, and the management system,” Eric Byres said.
Plug and pray doesn’t play
GENESIS64 is the new offering from Iconics, and it takes visualization and SCADA to new levels. GENESIS64 takes advantage of the following Microsoft Windows Vista’s key features: Universal data connectivity using Windows Communication Foundation; real-time KPIs and Windows Vista desktop sidebar technology; enriched user experience with Windows Presentation Foundation; hardware accelerated graphics for 3D imaging; increased security via user account control integration; and virtual earth geographical information system integration.
Green chip, green energy
GreenPeak is venturing into the industrial and manufacturing arena with its wireless communication devices, which leverage three key technologies including energy harvesting. They operate battery-free without cabling. Second is an energy harvesting interface that enables the modules to utilize power provided by external solar, electromagnetic, and piezo-electric transducers. Third is a mesh technology that enables designers to create extended sensor networks without battery-powered or cabled routing nodes.