Other Process Industries
Process industries adopt M2M to reduce operational costs and improve process efficiency. Many process industries—such as chemicals and oil refining—are experiencing increases in investments because of shale activity in the U.S. The industry is faced with an aging workforce at the same time that new capacity is needed, placing significant pressure on industries to find and train the next generation of operations and maintenance personnel. In the near future, a larger number of employees are likely to retire within a short time span, and the need to find qualified employees to replace them will become acute.
M2M enables data collection and remote control from process equipment. Much of the maintenance can be completed remotely, reducing the requirement for onsite service personnel. Moreover, by connecting the process equipment to the automation control system, end users can optimize pump operation, increasing process efficiency.
One of the biggest concerns in the M2M space is a lack of standards for the devices and software. Without clearly defined standards, costs incurred because of deployment and optimal use are restraining the adoption of M2M solutions. With many software providers present in the M2M space, end users have difficulty mapping their existing legacy systems to this new technology because of the different protocols with individual devices and platforms.
Figure 2. Connected wireless oil and gas components: simplified topography
Application platforms are usually specific to individual vertical markets, and a customized, off-the-shelf solution that accommodates a number of vertical segments is needed.
Another key concern is security. As end users take advantage of their custom-built devices and software, they may have no way to ensure that the communication network is secure. Since the data is transferred across different media, permissions, controls and supports, major security issues can arise for data transfer between M2M devices.
The Future of Intelligent Systems
The M2M market for pumps is expected to grow rapidly. Unfortunately, many pump manufacturers do not have the ability to manufacture or integrate electronic solutions to their products. As a result, distributors and system integrators are currently filling the gap. This reduces pumps to a component in a large solution, decreasing competitive advantage and commoditizing the pump.
While large manufacturers acquired such capabilities, the way forward for smaller manufacturers is to partner with M2M solution providers. A major discussion thread in the industry right now is: how is this current model going to play out as adoption increases? Will manufacturers develop a larger role in creating, driving and selling intelligent pump systems? Or will the distribution channel build capabilities and expertise to own most of the intelligent pump revenues that are available? How this plays out is one of the most interesting trends in the pumps space today and will continue to drive thought leadership discussions throughout the industry.