The requirement for remote networking of distributed automation systems is growing. Confidence in deploying wireless as an alternative to cabling is increasing as more wireless options are being made available and deployed in industry. Radio-based systems that interface directly to industry-standard PLC’s are becoming available. This reduces end-user risk of being tied to a single service provider.
Historically the South African telemetry landscape has been characterized by a limited handful of key players. This selection includes custom locally-developed telemetry RTU hardware and software, which is often tied to long service level agreements for maintenance and back-up. Furthermore, the rights to modify and maintain the telemetry system have been exclusively the domain of the single systems provider. If there is a lack of support or poor service delivery, it directly impacts the end-user who is locked into the contract without alternatives.
What are the alternatives?
End-users are demanding more open and flexible radio telemetry systems. The automation industry is fortunate to have many experienced system integrators (SI’s) that serve an extensive end-user market. Most SI’s have choice of brands of PLC’s that they use and support. Tabateq offers radio-based systems that are flexible enough to accommodate industrial standard PLC’s as well as remote I/O.
Elpro Technology’s WIBnet-based telemetry architecture allows the inclusion of several popular industrial fieldbus protocols (Profibus, Modbus, Ethernet/IP, Modbus Plus, DeviceNet) on the same network. These are directly coupled to the Gateway radio, which saves on wiring and PLC I/O expansion costs. The user-friendly configuration software (Figure 1) is openly available and the end-user is able to easily self-maintain and support the system. The common radio protocol (WIBNet™) is indifferent to which industrial databus is used on the PLC interface as illustrated in Figure 2.
The WIBnet™ radio protocol has been designed to allow very large network growth, as it is based on a change-of-state protocol as well as configurable integrity signal updates. The radio network is kept optimized by only sending traffic when it is necessary to do so. Radio modules within the same network can also be used as digital repeaters to extend transmission making the system very flexible. This is different to the traditional master and slave concept where the master has to poll all the slaves. With WIBnet™ a ’slave’ can talk to a ’slave’ without needing a ’master’ – essentially facilitating true peer-to-peer communications.
End-users are left with a choice of service providers since they are using commercially available PLC’s that can be supported by various industry SI’s. This ensures that the service-provider has to remain competitive in order to maintain future business with the end-user. The software tools needed for making changes to the radio network belongs to the end-user, which further drives the end-user’s choice of service provider for supporting the radio telemetry network. This in turn helps to ensure the client never has to fight for service and backup from a single company and has the freedom to proactively seek alternative support.
Case Study: Country-wide remote management of water resources
Tabateq would like to welcome another neighbouring country to the Elpro family. This particular country’s water authority has chosen to embrace Elpro as the radio telemetry of choice for the monitoring and control of its limited water resources. Tabateq’s primary strength has been in the mining sector and municipalities are now starting to gain the same benefits using Elpro – flexible & robust systems that are easy to setup and self-maintain. Installations are steadily growing in the country, and close alliances have been formed with local end-users as well as system integrators to ensure technical support and backup of installed radio systems are undertaken successfully. More details to come in a follow-up article!
About Tabateq Wireless Solutions
Elpro Technologies, which draws on over 25 years of international radio-specific experience, offers a comprehensive range of industrial wireless solutions that is designed for demanding applications where long-term reliability is essential.
Tabateq is Elpro's gateway into Africa. Tabateq’s exclusive focus is on Elpro and ensures that its wide partnership network, consisting of various carefully selected system integrators & resellers, offers the necessary local technical support and backing for the complete Elpro range.