Coming: networks of wireless sensors that could usher in new generations of superefficient controls and machines.
Look ma, no wires
Every modern production line is characterized by numerous sensors and actuators. Each one of them demands cabling to handle power and data. This cabling is not only costly to install but also can be a source of failure.
In 2002, automation supplier ABB received the gold European Innovation Award for its wireless sensor technology meant to address these problems. ABB wireless proximity switches make restrictions from cabling on movable machine parts in manufacturing cells a thing of the past.
The wireless sensors do not require power cables but instead draw their power from an electromagnetic field set up in the manufacturing cell. Wireless proximity switches in the cell pick up energy from the ac field inductively using small coils. The sensors also have small radio transceivers for communicating with a special input module. This module behaves like a traditional input module, handling up to 60 wireless proximity switches simultaneously. Five input modules can coexist in the same area to handle up to 300 sensors in one manufacturing cell.