Internet of Things in Process Instrumentation and Automation

If you subscribe or follow many of the process instrumentation and automation publications, web sites, and/or social channels, you know that the Internet of Things (IoT), also known as the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is a frequent topic of conversation. Microprocessor-embedded sensors and final control elements have a long history in our industry and the Internet opens up even greater possibilities to take advantage of the data they collect and process. Emerson’s Pervasive Sensing strategies imbue IoT by combining innovative sensors with analytical software built on human centered design principles (HCD), together coupled with expertise.

Emerson's Bob Karschnia


I came across a great description of IoT and its application in Pervasive Sensing strategies by Emerson’s Bob Karschnia in terms of what these advancing technologies mean for process manufacturers and producers.

Bob noted that the additional information provided by these pervasive sensing devices provide ways to automatically improve performance, safety, reliability and energy efficiency in production facilities.

These improvements occur as a result of:

  • Collecting data from sensors (things), much more cost effectively than ever before because they are battery powered and wireless
  • Interpreting this data strategically, using subject matter expertise to effectively analyze the data, either locally or remotely
  • Presenting actionable information, built on task-oriented HCD principles, to the right person—either plant personnel or supplier-provided experts, and at the right time
  • Leading to results in performance improvements, when personnel take corrective action

IoT starts at the sensor level where pressure, level, flow, temperature, vibration, acoustic, position, analytical and other sensors collect data and send this collected information to control and monitoring systems via wired and wireless networks.

Over the last several years with the advent of sensors that are wireless, self-powered, non-intrusive, calibration free and maintenance free, production processes can now cost-effectively send information from thousands more sensors to the control and monitoring systems. These sensors help create the IoT for the facility and gives its operating and maintenance personnel a better understanding of overall plant operations.

These control and monitoring systems include distributed control systems (DCSs), asset management systems, enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, and other specialized software such as vibration monitoring solutions. With expertise and strategic algorithms embedded into the control and monitoring systems, this creates understandable, actionable data for the right person via one of two basic methods:

  • Collected information is presented to plant personnel and they decide what type of action to take
  • Action is taken proactively

An example of the first case is displaying temperature values from the inlet and outlet of a heat exchanger along with flow information at a DCS operator screen. Plant personnel could use this information to ascertain if the heat exchanger is working per design.

For the second case, specialized software could calculate the inlet/outlet temperature differential, determine the flow rates, continuously analyze this information, and compare it to desired values. This analysis could reveal heat exchanger fouling before any serious degradation in performance, a form of predictive maintenance, and indicate this condition to plant personnel.

Remote experts could be the ones monitoring these conditions and coordinate with the facility to have the maintenance and repair services performed. Pervasive sensing is actively happening with more than 4.3 billion operating hours for Emerson wireless sensors in production facilities around the globe, connected to control and monitoring systems, and delivering improved plant performance.

Pervasive Sensing

The Building Blocks of Pervasive Sensing

You can connect and interact with other experts working with pervasive sensing device and work processes in the Wireless group in the Emerson Exchange 365 community.

One comment so far

  1. Using digital networking from the very first meter, the sensors and actuators, opens tremendous opportunities. More sensors can be deployed to collect “missing measurements” around the plant: measurements that were previously not done due to the high cost of 4-20 mA and on-off signal wiring and I/O cards etc. See further explanation in this article: Instrumental to Success
    http://www.ceasiamag.com/article/instrumental-to-success/11137

    Till now the focus of automation has very much been basic process control and safety; this is done by the primary layer of automation: the ICSS (DCS + SIS) operated form the control roo,. With Pervasive Sensing infrastructure as well as with IIoT the focus is on the personnel beyond the control room; reliability/maintenance, energy, HS&E, and for productivity – as a second layer of automation.Here are two more relevant articles:

    Beyond the Control Room
    http://www.ceasiamag.com/article/beyond-the-control-room/10658

    Second Layer of Automation
    http://www.ceasiamag.com/article/second-layer-of-automation/10354

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