New ISA100 and WirelessHART dual gateway

Nivis, a company that specialises in secure, open standard wireless sensing and control networks, has announced the release of the Nivis WirelessHART Gateway, a totally misnamed router for wireless sensor networks of any type: whether WirelessHART or ISA100.11a protocol based. Nivis call it a reliable and secure wireless communication gateway for real world industrial plant applications. Then they get round to mentioning that it is actually an innovative dual protocol solution for low-cost field device communication, based on both the WirelessHART and ISA100.11a standards. The communication stacks and hardware will simultaneously support both protocols and the network wirelessly integrates both types of devices.  As a result, Nivis users can retain complete flexibility to choose whichever wireless sensor style they want to use, and add to their networks as products evolve in the future.  The Nivis Gateway is available now.

The Nivis WirelessHART Gateway (but they don’t mean that really) is quoted to be an integral component in the creation of any wireless network, facilitating communication between host applications and field devices in the network. The Gateway has been successfully tested for interoperability with several WirelessHART adaptors, and other sensors from leading suppliers including Emerson, MACTek and STG. The Gateway is available in two models.

1) VersaRouter 910 (VR910), an all inclusive, fully-brandable, hazardous location certified gateway complete with enclosure.

2) VersaRouter 810 (VR810), a fully integratable and intrinsically safe certified module that is designed to be integrated into custom enclosures as an OEM module.

The VR910 and VR810 employ the Coldfire V4e MCF5485 processor @200MHz and with 64MB of RAM. Both offer Modbus TCP support and come with Nivis Management and Control System (MCS) that allows customers to manage their wireless networks securely and easily. Both products have passed HAZLOC certifications (i.e., ATEX Zone 2, C1D2, etc.) and EMC certifications (i.e., FCC, ETSI, etc.). A complete list of certifications is available upon request.

“The release of the Nivis WirelessHART gateway solidifies our position as an industry leader in secure wireless sensing and control technology,” said Trae Harrison, VP of Sales and Marketing. “The addition of the WirelessHART Gateway to the Nivis product line enables customers to utilize either ISA100.11a or WirelessHART using the same platform.”

Nivis claim to be the world leader in secure, open standard wireless sensing and control networks. Established in 1998, Nivis focuses on research and development of mesh networks and applications supporting mesh networks. From a history in custom engineering to a concentration in commercial and industrial products, Nivis has more than 500 man years of experience in research, development, and implementation of Smart Grid and industrial wireless technology.  Nivis is headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia with additional offices in Chattanooga, Bucharest and Cluj, Romania. For more information visit

Oil spill response radar

The Sigma S6 radar technology, developed and produced by Rutter Technologies in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, has proven to be very effective in detecting and tracking oil slicks off the coast of Norway during the recent Norwegian Clean Seas Association (NOFO) trials held June 8-9, 2010. As part of the NOFO trials Rutter integrated the radar technology with an infrared camera and charting software from its Norwegian partner, Aptomar, to form an integrated Oil Spill Response and Management system. This integration allowed for operational decision making both onboard the vessels and onshore in the NOFO command centre. Aptomar CEO, Lars Solberg, says “the combined system has shown its capabilities within the areas of automatic oil spill detection, area, thickness and volume estimations….Rutter and Aptomar will continue to integrate their systems and are ready with the first commercially available Oil Spill Response and Management System.”

With the successful completion of the trial, approval is pending for the Sigma S6 Oil Spill Response Radar to be recommended as a key piece of technology on all vessels operating in the Norwegian offshore Oil and Gas Industry. Rutter President and CEO, Fraser Edison says “The Sigma S6 has been proven as the best technology to automatically detect and outline an offshore oil slick in all types of weather conditions, night or day”. Edison says Rutter is also hoping to partner with the US Coast Guard towards clean-up efforts in the Gulf of Mexico, and have offered the use of the Oil Spill Response Radar to the American Government as assistance in managing the environmental impact from the sinking of the Deepwater Horizon rig.

SCADA 50% cost claim causes a stir at Drives & Controls exhibition…

P4A MD Paul Hurst and MMI solutions MD Dennis Price were causing some consternation at the Drives & Controls exhibition held at the NEC last week, by asking visitors the question “Are you paying too much for your SCADA?” the answer it seems is a resounding ‘Yes!’

Both Paul and Dennis are intent on transforming the SCADA software market in the UK by breaking what they see as an unfair price premium being paid currently for SCADA software and integrator support. Everyone it seems who was questioned at the show, and many that offered their opinion having seen the banner on the exhibition stand and on the company website at agreed – many citing examples of far lower quoted prices in other European markets. For the background and inside story to this see the Industrial Automation INSIDER June 2010 issue, available on subscription via!

The cure for this market imbalance is being supplied via an exclusive sales, distribution and support deal with leading Italian market SCADA provider Progea. Not previously available in the UK the Progea product is branded as Movicon 11 SCADA, the package costs on average 50% less than equivalent systems from competitive suppliers, whilst offering comparable or superior levels of functionality, scaleability and connectivity.

“To date SCADA systems have been more expensive in the UK than anywhere else; restricted licences, rising development costs and yearly system integrator fees all add up to mean that SCADA as a whole hasn’t been a great deal for UK buyers,” comments Paul Hurst. “We booked the exhibition stand at Drives & Controls with the intent of delivering a bold statement, and ruffle some feathers because we know we can back that statement up, and supply a genuine alternative without the premium cost, we now offer users of mainstream SCADA systems all the functionality, of their existing systems, but at a price on average 50% less. What’s more we are offering unlimited free development licences for users and system integrators and asking the question; are you paying too much for your SCADA?”

With no legacy code platform (unlike some other well-known market players) Movicon 11 is the only SCADA/HMI platform completely based on XML and Web Services technologies, Vista XP CE and soon WINDOWS 7 making configuration easier and quicker than any comparable product. The openness and flexibility of the Movicon architecture makes it the perfect SCADA/HMI supervision solution for modern applications, and is easily applied to any sector that employs a basic level of automation.

Movicon 11 also provides integrated connectivity at the Web level, its innovative architecture is based on JAVA (Integrating easily with XML, SVG, Web Services technologies), allowing server access using internet browsers in any platform (Windows™, Linux, Palm, PocketPC and Javaphones telephones (thanks to J2ME). Servers can be both Windows Vista/XP and Windows CE.

Movicon 11 has many improvements over legacy SCADA products but two specific advantages are the implementation of an “open database” enabling the user to specify the form of data storage e.g SQL, mySQL, etc. and secondly the inclusion of a full report generator, negating the need for a separate add on historian or reporting package often costing thousands of pound each.

Progea started in 1990 in response to the strong demands for software and services in the automation field. Experience gained through the years by collaborating with leading companies has helped formed the foundations on which the Movicon SCADA platform is based. Progea’s SCADA product Movicon is now in its 11th generation, having completely re-developed the software platform, to keep pace with the latest database and software protocols, unlike many other well known branded SCADA products that rely on older database formats such as DOS.

Nexans make cables – automation cables

Nexans make cables, electric cables, Euro 5bn worth in 2009. Of these, 2.5bn are for electricity infrastructure – power, railways etc, but 1bn are Automation cables – for oil, gas, petrochem, wind turbines, photo-voltaics, aeronautics, automotive and true automation – robots and handling machines. A typical contract is the Frame Agreement with BP, to supply their deepwater umbilical projects in the Gulf of Mexico – delivering power and communications to 5000 ft below the sea surface. Nexans are the cables that enable undersea control of robots, and video feeds to the surface. Nexans claim to be #1 in automation cables – maybe the name Alcatel would be more familiar: that company became Nexans in 2000.

There are no standards for automation cables, the industry moves too fast. Nexans maintain their position by working to develop and test custom cables to meet their client’s specs. But the robot market hit a crisis in 2009 – with production almost halved from 2008, when 113,000 robots were produced. Interestingly, in this market, Japan leads the way with 295 robot type units sold per 10,000 workers, and Singapore, Korea and Germany follow in second place with around 160 units. The US market was particularly low in 2008, mainly based on recession in the automotive industry, at 80 units, and Europe in general averaged 50 units.  But these are robot user figures, for Nexans the relevant robot and machine tool manufacturers are concentrated in Germany and Italy, with 33% of the world market, followed by Japan with 19%: USA is down at 4% of the market. Sales of the robot producers are not expected to recover to these 2008 levels till around 2012.

Nexans have now rebranded their automation cables as Motionline, anticipating a major turnaround in their market – which is mainly with the German and Italian robot and machine builders.

At the First Friday Club presentation in London this month, Giuseppe Di Lorenzo, Commercial Director for Automation, commented that any standards for automation cable would “Impose a constraint on the development of automation cable systems”, and implied that it might slow things down so much that the competitors might be able to catch up! Currently the cables can achieve a bend radius of 7x the OD and can be supplied with a defined “No Failure” life expectancy. Nexans have produced a video to show their extensive testing facilities for cables in repeated automation movement applications, see

Prize for oldest Pelton wheel flowmeter

Custom flow meter manufacturer and distributor Litre Meter is to celebrate 35 years of continuous manufacture of its Pelton Wheel flowmeter by offering a luxury weekend break to whoever sends in the oldest meter still in use, for repair or recalibration.

Litre Meter began manufacturing their Pelton Wheel flowmeters, designed to accurately measure low flow rates, in 1975. Since then they have been used in a variety of applications ranging from measuring the flow of water into the boilers of a world record breaking steam car to precisely measuring the flow of gasoline in an automotive fuel injection test rig for Delphi.  It is easy to identify the age of the meter. Each one is marked with a unique serial number in the format xx/xxxxx. The oldest working meters are likely to have numbers that begin xx/x4xxx, xx/x3xxx, xx/x2xxx or xx/x1xxx.

Litre Meter chairman Charles Wemyss said: “To help Litre Meter celebrate the continued success of the Pelton Wheel meter and to demonstrate its accuracy, reliability and versatility we are looking for the oldest one sent in by one of our customers for repair or recalibration.  We are confident of finding many meters still in use that have been running well beyond 20 years. We have already had one candidate. Crown Packaging recently returned a meter for repair that has been in use since February 1986.”

If you think you have the oldest Pelton Wheel in your facility please contact Litre Meter. The winner will enjoy a luxury European weekend break for two, with spending money. “With more than 30,000 meters currently in use there are a lot of people in with a chance. All Pelton Wheel LM & MM meters returned for repair or recalibration before 31 March 2011 are automatically entered. The competition is open not only to customers from the UK but also worldwide,” added Charles Wemyss.

CSB Safety Videos

The US Chemical Safety Board (CSB) has received the prestigious European Process Safety Centre (EPSC) Award 2010 for the CSB Safety Video series. The award is given to acknowledge “progress toward a less-hazardous Europe” and this is the first time the Centre has given the award to an American entity, and only the second to an organization or individual outside of Europe. The EPSC was founded by the European Federation of Chemical Engineering and has a membership that includes leading chemical companies, manufacturers, contractors, consultants, and academic institutions, representing a significant part of the process safety community in Europe. As its website notes, the Centre is an industry-funded network which exists to provide an independent forum for the leadership and support of process safety within Europe.

Award for National Instruments

National Instruments UK has achieved prestigious Laureate status in the UK’s Best Workplaces Programme, after being named one of the UK’s 50 Best Workplaces for a fifth consecutive year.  NI is now among only 20 companies in the UK that have achieved the accolade of Laureate status.
“It is an honour to be recognised again in the UK’s Best Workplaces top 50, and to be ranked in the list for the fifth year running, particularly following one of the most challenging periods in the economic and employment climate in decades”, said Robert Morton, NI UK & Ireland Managing Director. “These results demonstrate that NI remains a company built-to-last, one which truly values its people, even in challenging times when it can be difficult for some companies to keep commitments.  This also illustrates the rock-solid success of our 100-year plan for being a stable company that empowers employees and customers to change the world,  as one of the UK’s leading providers of measurement and automation technologies.” In addition to the UK honours, the Great Place to Work® Institute has also named National Instruments one of the best places to work in France, Germany, Italy and Mexico during the last year, and for eleven consecutive years in the US.

ABB acquires K-Tek

ABB Process Automation has added Louisiana-based K-Tek, a manufacturer of liquid level detection and measurement systems, to their Measurement Products Business Unit. Veli-Matti Reinikkala, head of the Process Automation division, commented that “K-Tek is well established, particularly in the oil and gas industry, which is a growth area for ABB”.  K-Tek is quoted as being recognized as a global leader in magnetic level gauges, magnetostrictive level transmitters and laser level transmitters, with sales of USD50 million and 250 employees. They also manufacture guided wave radar and ultrasonic level measurement systems, RF capacitance level systems, vibrating fork level switches, bulk solids level measurement products and pressure / temperature switches: no overlap is quoted with the current ABB product portfolio.

Liquid level switching and level measurement systems seem to have been the ‘poor relation’ in terms of the technology adopted by major US process control companies. Indeed the main players in this field seem to have been European, with Bestobell Mobrey, Endress+Hauser and Vega being in the forefront of the industry there, and the main US supplier being Magnetrol. Then with the advent of radar systems, Saab in Sweden joined the European majors, only to be acquired by Emerson: Mobrey followed that route later and both now operate within their Rosemount Measurement Division. K-Tek started in 1975, and has grown significantly, although 350,000 installations in 35 years does not make them a major level controls supplier. The E+H Liquiphant sold a million units in the 17 years after its introduction in 1983, and another half million in the three years after that.

So will there be any further acquisitions in this part of the industry? Vega might join a European consolidation of instrumentation companies, but would not be a likely target for a US company. Will one of the majors like Yokogawa, Invensys or Honeywell wish to add more of the basic sensor manufacturing and snap up Magnetrol? It looks more likely that ABB would consider this as an interesting additional option to expand their level capability. But then maybe Magnetrol itself will consider a product expansion and move further into Europe, alongside the likes of Krohne?

BP in the Gulf of Mexico

Ever since the April 20 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon ocean rig, we have been accustomed to regular, and now almost daily reports from BP. These, with the associated websites, have shown the extent and professionalism of the BP and Transocean teams dealing with the response to this problem. Very quickly the BP commitment to the problem, in terms of people in Houston, in developing engineering solutions and in delivering the supplies needed, and involved in oil barrage and clean-up operations, passed 20,000, and is now closer to 30,000. Anyone who works for BP is either involved, or scheduled to be sent out to the project teams. The fact that this organized effort is in place and effective is demonstrated by the way that successive solutions and ideas for the well leak containment and collection have been rolled out, and installed 40 miles offshore and 5000 feet down. As this is written it looks like the lower marine riser package containment cap is successfully diverting a significant proportion of the oil flows to the Discoverer Enterprise drill ship, but even then the next section of the plan, to combat any problems in hurricane or storm conditions, is being instigated.

The measured and well executed response from BP is in marked contrast to the sometimes ill-informed and sensationalist statements and reporting from politicians in the USA. As ever, those who live by the culture of blame and compensation shout loud to stir up a frenzy, whereas BP just keeps on working, and spending money to sort out the problems as they work through them. It is reassuring that there are others, such as Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, who rejected calls for the armed forces to take control, confirming that the best technology available is with the oil industry themselves. BP has confirmed they are there for the long term, long after the reporters have found a new prime target to attack, so our best wishes go with them.

First Friday Club for UK Editors

The First Friday Club was started by Chris Rand, then Editor of Industrial Technology, and Bob Brooks, in 1998. The meeting is designed to bring around 15 editors of the UK Engineering press together for some 15 minute presentations, product launches or updates from 3 or 4 of the major suppliers, the forward thinking ones that want the press attention, and those that provide products worth the editors taking time to write stories about. Then there is the further opportunity for one-to-one interviews and chat over drinks and lunch: the event is held in The Cheshire Cheese, an ancient London pub on Fleet Street. The sign outside says rebuilt in 1667, and known haunt of Samuel Johnson and Charles Dickens, and other aspiring writers. The FFC saves the editors time, by concentrating several presentations into one event, and saves the supplier companies money. More important these days, with so many editors working from home, it provides a useful meeting point to see both their ex-colleagues, and to find out who their new competitors are. For many years John Fisher of Fisher Marketing was entrusted to organize the event, but now the role has passed to Cadence Fisher Marketing. Some of the regular presenters are Rockwell Automation, ABB and Erwin Sick: but any supplier can use the First Friday Club to present their latest developments in an economical way. Surprisingly, in these times, the event has not really attracted many small UK manufacturing companies, but there are always a good supply of European manufacturers wanting to introduce their presence to the UK engineering press (