Your New Technology Has Arrived

You're invited to be part of our upcoming story on technology trends. You can do it right now. Right here. Just hit the Comments button and answer one or more of the questions at the end of this post. We can't wait to hear what's coming down the pike.

Here's the story so far.

You've heard of control rooms and distributed intelligence, but did you ever hear of a distributed control room? Dave Stock, of Innovative Control Inc., Crystal Lake, Ill., says his system integration firm is using wireless, Internet server-based handheld PCs to take former process control-room tasks onto the plant-floor at several paint and coating facilities. For example, if an operator on the floor needs to order 1,000 gallons of material for a process, he no longer uses a pushbutton station, but instead uses one of the handheld PCs to link a wall-mount barcode via Foundaton fieldbus to the plant's SCADA system and PLCs, which send his order to the plant's motor control center. "This allowed us to remove 30 pushbutton stations at $1,000 each from one facility, and these savings helped the whole project go forward," says Stock.

Similarly, some sources indicate that far flung I/O and control devices with added intelligence capabilities are now being organized into groups coordinated around a distributed hub, and taking on even more of the functions that used to be sent back to traditional control rooms.

Even standards organizations seem to be cooperating more. Now that wireless Ethernet appears to be settling on Wi-Fi and Bluetooth technologies, the focus appears to be moving wireless down closer to the sensor level, according to Carl Henning, deputy director of the Profibus Trade Organization (PTO). In fact, the Fieldbus Foundation (FF), HART Communication Foundation (HCF), and PTO have agreed to form a cooperative team to seek and evaluate the best solution for wireless at the sensor level. This will be similar to the team that helped the organizations form their recent Electronic Device Description Language (EDDL) agreement. "This team will help prevent a divergence of standards from occurring over sensor-level wireless," says Henning.

You say you've got more and better trends to report? Well, show us by answering one or more of the following questions:

What are the most important networking trends occurring now?

How did these trends originate and develop, and how are they likely to unfold in the future?

What's the most over-hyped trend now, and why and how is it likely to shrink and/or evaporate?

What's the most innovative networking trend or useful technology, and what makes it practical?

Do you have any specific examples or case studies of users applying this solution or benefiting from this trend?

What's the most overlooked networking trend, and why will it have more impact than anyone realizes now?