Wireless Industrial Networking Expected to Take Off in 2011

After years of hype, wireless networking solutions are expected to see some actual significant growth this year in purchase orders, shipments and revenues, according to the latest report from VDC Research Group. Wireless networking product shipments overall will exceed 25% CAGR through 2015, details Tim Shea, senior analyst at VDC.

Research for its latest industrial networking report—highlighting the top 10 trends for the industrial networking solutions market in 2011—found that standards development, as well as improved technology (e.g., ISA 100 and WirelessHART) and security (e.g., mesh networking and WPA2) are removing some of the major barriers to wireless adoption and relieving security and reliability concerns that have traditionally stood in the way of wireless success.

"Standards development initiatives among a number of the primary automation suppliers, end users, OEMs and other relevant stakeholders is a major driving factor beyond the continued technical enhancements made in response to reliability and security concerns," Shea says.

According to survey respondents who use wireless networks, the family of 802.11 networks will play an increasingly dominant role as the technology improves and continues to edge out narrow-band proprietary networks. Wireless users indicated particularly strong future demand for 802.11n, ISA SP-100.11 and WirelessHART, Shea says. “Technical considerations aside, the reason for expected future demand resides primarily among the number and type of suppliers designing products for these networks, and the legacy presence as fieldbus derivatives,” he adds.

Benefits and Drawbacks, Wireless Networks

Real-time Ethernet capabilities are expected to dominate the wired side of industrial networking, according to VDC. The bent there is toward EtherNet/IP and Profinet for discrete industrial automation applications, and Modbus TCP for process automation applications, Shea notes, adding, "Based on respondent data, our outlook for wireline industrial networking infrastructure product shipments will exceed 20% CAGR through 2015."

Industrial networking will be no stranger to mergers and acquisitions this year, also. VDC expects increased M&A activity, and predicts that a large IT player will acquire an industrial networking solutions provider. With the Spectris acquisition of N-Tron in October, and again with Belden’s acquisition of GarrettCom in November, Shea noted in VDC's blog the expectation for continued M&A activity, including the prediction that RuggedCom will be acquired soon.

Shea also noted a trend toward convergence within the networking products themselves. As VDC notes in its latest industrial networking report, automation suppliers are driving down costs, providing space savings and reducing wire interface by embedding switch port capability into products, such as network I/O adapters, PLCs and drives. Embedded switch capability is on the rise to capture growing demand for Ethernet capability.

VDC is continuing its coverage on the industrial networking solutions market in 2011 with the 2010 Industrial Networking Infrastructure Products Global Market Requirements & Opportunities Analysis.

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