Once upon a time, every telephone in America was connected to a vast network of wires. Then the digital revolution came. Wireless technology swept away traditional landline phones in many peoples’ lives, replacing them with pocket versions that link using a radio signal instead.
Scott Barrett, general manager of Commercial Wireless Systems International, wants to merge wireless technology with the conventional systems that monitor and control production at plants and refineries. However, he does not see the need for an immediate revolution.
“Many plants and refineries have antiquated systems in place,” Barrett said. “Lots of subsystems are tied together by stand-alone panels. Maybe the wiring is compromised due to age, causing ground faults throughout the premises.”
Rather than completely retool, CWSI introduces a reliable wireless alternative to the hardwired backbone already in place. The company’s wireless modules make it possible to monitor and even interact with existing equipment made by other manufacturers.
“We can work in conjunction with what already exists,” Barrett said. “We form a hybrid application that utilizes both conventional and wireless.”
Bennett founded CWSI in 2004. First sales began in 2010. In January 2015, Tyco acquired CWSI as an addition to its Fire Protection Product business unit.
“CWSI is an excellent strategic fit to our business,” said Raj Arora, general manager for Tyco fire protection. “It allows us to expand our reach through adjacent sales channels and in segments of the market where we have not been present.”
Bennett said being acquired by Tyco was a great opportunity for his company.
“Tyco brings a lot to the table,” he said.
Industrial applications of the CWSI technology ranges from plant evacuation and emergency reporting to flow, tamper and post-indicator valve monitoring. Just as it lends redundancy to conventional addressable systems, CWSI provides builtin redundancy thanks to its secure wireless format known as frequency hopping spread spectrum (FHSS).
Instead of relying on a single frequency, CWSI technology communicates the same data via multiple frequencies to ensure reliability, Barrett said.
“To be able to compromise multiple frequencies at the same time is far more difficult than a single channel,” he said.
Hardwired systems require fault detectors that alert the operators of any interruption of service. NFPA standards require the same from CWSI modules if the radio link is compromised in any way.
Wireless technology also offers the opportunity to extend remote control functions to equipment not previously monitored by conventional systems. CWSI significantly reduces labor and material costs, Barrett said.
“The introduction of a wireless solution makes it affordable to extend the control network to functions that, prior to this point, required a human operator on hand,” he said.
Equipment cost is not the only consideration. Closing down production to completely retrofit the control system can be costly with regards to lost production. The shutdown time to install CWSI technology is fractional by comparison, Barrett said.
In the future, CWSI plans to offer wireless notification systems for emergencies. The CWSI system is completely independent of the existing electrical system. “This system is self-contained and totally battery operated,” Barrett said.
Wireless technology is a reliable solution to the expensive problem of maintaining and updating existing control systems in plants and refineries, he said.
“It eliminates the labor burden,” Barrett said. “It provides a cost effective alternative in the industrial marketplace.”