Thesis for the Degree of Master of Science


Year 2002
Jori Suhonen

Wireless Automation in Process Industries

This study was carried out in the Laboratory of Process Control and Automation at the Helsinki University of Technology. The aim of the study was to find out the current status and future trends of wireless automation in process industries.

In the literature part of the study several technologies used in wireless automation were discussed. Special weight was put on the discussion of the suitability of these technologies for process automation purposes. The technologies discussed include all the relevant network technologies, connection protocols as well as application development technologies used nowadays and in the near future. In addition several case studies were covered in the literature part. The case studies include many interesting and innovative applications using wireless automation technologies ranging from simple small-scale systems to entire communication systems of a factory.

The experimental part of the thesis was divided into two parts. In the first part a questionnaire study about wireless automation was carried out. Altogether 220 professionals of the automation industry answered the questionnaire. The questions covered wireless automation from several aspects and the results from the questionnaire study tell us how the respondents see the current status and future trends of wireless automation. We can conclude that the respondents strongly believe that in the future wireless technologies will be used more and more extensively for process automation purposes. In particular, the use of wireless automation in process monitoring and process control applications seems to be increasing rapidly.

In the second half of the experimental part a wireless test environment was built using Bluetooth and commercial GSM-network. The aim of the environment was to simulate a tank’‘s communications structure far away from the backbone system. In the system Bluetooth was used for short-range communications between meters and an SMS gateway. SMS was then again used for long-range communications between the gateway and the backbone system.

Experiences gained from the test environment were encouraging. First of all the system seemed to work very well for the job and secondly the system was relatively easy to implement and to configure. The only small problem with the system was the use of SMS, which cannot be used in real-time meter reading applications. Using e.g. GPRS instead would solve this problem. In the future the environment will be used for educational and scientific purposes

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