Wireless Innovations from ABB

This review describes some of the ABB Instrumentation Division presentations at a press conference – entitled “Progress * Investment * Innovation” – attended at Stonehouse in Gloucestershire.

ABB Instrumentation opened its doors to the press and selected customers, to demonstrate their recent progress and investments in Instrumentation, and present some of the innovations that will shape their future.

The event was at the ABB UK Stonehouse factory, one of the three ABB Instrumentation manufacturing plants in the UK.

These are a part of the US$6Bn turnover ABB Automation Products division, which has manufacturing plants in China, India – plus also Germany, Italy, USA and the UK.

ABB is another company investing in production and manufacturing in the developed economies as well as the developing – and the UK is the centre of excellence for Flow, Analytical, Recorders and Controllers.

Last week Stonehouse showed off some of their flow and analytical capabilities.

One of the main production areas there is for MagMaster and AquaMaster electromagnetic flowmeters, introduced in the 1990s and now available in sizes from 2mm to 2.4metres bore.

Performance has always been to the original benchmark 0.15% accuracy specification: developments have improved manufacturing through-put and expanded the capabilities.

Last week saw Anglian Water receive a presentation to mark the delivery of the 500,000th Magmaster – a 250mm unit despatched on 7th August (7 days after order placement) to Covenham WTW (the delivery man knew where to go, its SE of Grimsby!).

Just one of the 300 units a week now manufactured at Stonehouse.

The AquaMaster battery powered units for water distribution monitoring are already demonstrating the use of wireless technology, with links via SMS and the mobile phone network back to the monitoring centre.

And yes, the wireless AquaMasters buried in a hole in the ground do have to have some wires, to get the SMS signal out of the hole and above the manhole cover.

This set the scene for the rest of the presentation on future developments from Sean Keeping, Global Head of Instrumentation R+D.

After the hesitancy shown by other suppliers, it is refreshing to see ABB as a major instrumentation force openly accepting and committing to the inevitability of wireless comms on their equipment, and ABB see this as the right route for information – not just measurement but status and condition monitoring information, to give confidence and a quality assessment to the measurement.

From the snapshots disclosed there will soon be releases using further SMS status messaging, from Analytical instruments for example warning of a lack of reagents, plus also wider use of wifi systems to link the instrument engineer’s PDA (dumb, ie a standard PDA); for communications between buried sewer flowmeters and ground level monitoring and display units; or from the multiple analyser sampling systems and the overall monitoring system telemetry station.

The ABB commitment to wireless does not stop there: the control panel designs on the next product generations owe a lot to mobile phone keypads, with the use of colour displays, as already seen on the latest ABB field mountable videographic recorder, the SM500F.

One example is the AW600, a new version of the Silica ppb monitor for monitoring power station feedwater, now reduced in size, with extended maintenance intervals, and full status monitoring and reporting.

It is still a reagent based measurement system, with chemicals delivered to the sample chamber using the ubiquitous peristaltic pump, then analysed using colorimetric monitoring, because this is still the best technology available for such low percentage measurements, after many years of proven use.

The ABB pH glass sensors are blown at Stonehouse too, but that’s a story to save for later.