World news: July 2012
Comms sales set to double, despite user conservatism
European sales of industrial networking and communications equipment will almost double in the five years to 2015, a new market study predicts. This growth – from €854m in 2010 to €1,596m in 2015 – will come despite continuing end-user conservatism about new communications technologies.
The study, by Frost & Sullivan, looks at Ethernet, fieldbus and wireless technologies. It says that the emphasis on raising plant efficiencies has underlined the need for constant tracking of production flows and quality assurance at every stage of production. Industrial networking and communication devices can help to monitor critical parameters and provide information which can be used to boost efficiencies.
“As industrial networking and communication devices have the ability to retrieve real-time data from multiple, sometimes inaccessible, field devices, they are critical to process control operations where rapid reaction is necessary to prevent any abnormal functioning of the systems,” comments F&S senior research analyst, Katarzyna Owczarczyk. “Real-time capabilities also enable convenient and cost-effective transmission and monitoring of data parameters over long distances.”
However, the conservative attitudes of some end-users towards implementing new technologies has proved a major restraint to the wider use of industrial networking.
“The application of field devices happens mostly in greenfield projects because end-users are hesitant about changing existing plant infrastructure,” Owczarczyk explains. “Many are comfortable with traditional ways of plant operation. Hence, they are less willing to invest in industrial networking solutions, viewing them primarily as an alternative, rather than a first-choice option.”
Concerns over system reliability and security are fuelling such conservatism. While real-time technologies can make data available on the Internet and intranets, some users worry about the security of this data during transmission because it is relatively accessible. Moreover, they are unwilling to risk investing in wireless technologies, because they are still not convinced about their robustness.
“Manufacturers of industrial networking/communication devices need to generate greater awareness and to conduct workshops and training to educate end-users about the advantages of integrating industrial networking into the manufacturing process,” Owczarczyk suggests. “Once end-users realise the benefits of these devices, adoption levels are set to soar.”