• By P. Vidya
  • July 31, 2020
  • IIoT Insight

By P. Vidya

While in the past temperature transmitters were widely viewed as commodity products, recent ARC market research indicates that digital technology and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) connectivity are driving innovation in this previously “sleepy” product area. Suppliers offer a broad range of devices appropriate for a wide range of process conditions. Their devices have sophisticated designs and advanced functions, including digital signal processing, multisensing technology, and self-diagnostics, plus wireless and other connectivity.

Within the overall industrial temperature measurement space, ARC has been observing a gradual shift from thermocouples (TCs) to resistance temperature detectors (RTDs) for selected applications, particularly to lower-cost thin-film RTDs. Although thermocouples are generally better than RTDs in terms of cost, ruggedness, measurement speed, and temperature ranges, RTDs are more accurate and have better repeatability. In addition, RTD sensors are relatively easy to calibrate.

Another trend is the growing use of integrated assemblies for process temperature measurement. An integrated assembly provides a thermowell, RTD, transmitter, and local LCD display with a single model number. This reduces costs for both suppliers and users by simplifying order processing and reducing installation costs. With an integrated assembly, the user gets a fully tested system, calibrated to match the sensor.

The adoption of wireless field devices will continue to affect the dynamics of the market for temperature transmitters and other field devices. Although wireless temperature transmitters still represent a very small portion of the overall temperature transmitter market, the wireless market is poised for strong growth in the long run. Wireless technology allows users to install field devices in measurement points that previously were not feasible due to the high cost of wiring. This is particularly true for hazardous or inaccessible areas. Encryption and mesh networking technologies have largely addressed user concerns about the security and reliability of wireless transmission of process data. This is particularly true for monitoring applications. However, battery life remains an issue for wireless transmitters mounted in areas that do not have ready access to line power.

Today’s increased emphasis on plant asset management (PAM) supports the proliferation of smart, microprocessor-based temperature transmitters that have digital output and bidirectional communication of diagnostic and process information. For the foreseeable future at least, the vast majority of process variables will continue to be communicated (wired or wirelessly) to industrial controllers and data acquisition devices via either conventional analog signals or industrial digital protocols. However, low-cost IIoT-connected sensors and analytics software are now also being used to support industrial monitoring and asset management applications. These include predictive analytics that can help identify asset- or process-related issues so these can be resolved before they negatively impact plant performance, safety, or environmental compliance.

Forward-looking automation and instrumentation suppliers are investing to bring IIoT to the field device level in the temperature transmitter market. IIoT-enabled capabilities, such as remote monitoring and remote services, can help establish a more collaborative relationship between end users and suppliers. IIoT solutions are now available to help increase horizontal integration along the value-creation chain, from planning to operations and maintenance, and for vertical integration from the field to the control level and beyond.

End users can also leverage the expertise of suppliers to help manage and improve the performance and availability of plant assets across their entire life cycle.

To succeed, suppliers must provide IIoT-ready edge devices, gateways to log and capture data from multiple sources, and cloud capabilities to store and analyze data. Delivering meaningful and actionable results to customers and developing appropriate cybersecurity mechanisms will help end users embrace the new technology. Technology end user organizations, in turn, need a well-thought-out digital transformation strategy and appropriate executive support to reap benefits.

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About The Authors

P. Vidya, ARC analyst, is based in ARC Advisory Group’s offices in Bangalore, India. Her research spans industrial instrumentation and automation. Before ARC, Prasad worked as an analyst at Capgemini, Infiniti Research, Ltd., and Lucintel. She earned an MBA degree from the Bhilai Institute of Technology.