New wireless instruments can improve safety monitoring

There is now yet another generation of instruments on the market-wireless! The developments in instruments are faster than what a traditional chemicals manufacturing plant was used to. First we had pneumatic/hydraulic & mechanical instruments, then analog instruments, then digital “smart” instruments, fieldbuses and now wireless. However, in this case these may prove to be very useful for safety monitoring.

How? Recall that in most plants, safety valves and rupture disks are devices that are not monitored remotely (except perhaps if there are CCTV cameras installed around them). Thus other than a bang (when the rupture disk goes off), there is no apparent indication. If you cannot hear it, nothing can be done.

There is now however a way, with the advent of wireless safety relief valves and wireless rupture disks. These devices have a small wireless transmitter mounted inside them, so that you can remotely monitor their status in far-away control rooms;suddenly they are now visible on a plant’s DCS or a SCADA system.

Isn’t that great? Coupled with some newer instruments that can be mounted on safety showers and eyewash fountains (that transmit a digital signal wirelessly when operated), it will lead to a greater degree of safety, even in older plants (as presumably one can retrofit the older relief devices and showers with these wireless transmitters).

Have any of you any experience in such a wireless safety instrument implementation?  We will be glad to hear from you about your actual experiences. Please respond through the comments form (look for the link near the title of this post).

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One comment

  1. Thanks for the blog – this site is definitely going in my feed reader!

    So, ya… wireless devices in a safety system is a fabulous idea.

    I wonder what would happen if I introduced a device into your wireless network proximity that randomly broadcast the same signals as these devices?

    What would happen if you believed a pump or valve had failed when it really hadn’t? What if you believed that all of them had failed?

    There are numerous problems with wireless devices:
    1) Data leakage – an adversary can intercept all transmitted data for analysis
    2) Replay – an adversary can replay any captured data
    3) Generation – an adversary can fabricate new types of data
    4) Subversion – an adversary can attack your system remotely – over the wireless network with an eye toward system compromise.

    If you want to deploy wireless sensors, you must be willing to:
    1) be happy if you never hear from the device
    2) not trust any input from the device(s) when making decisions about operations
    3) not allow the devices, or any network they communicate with to have a direct or indirect connection to a trusted network
    4) assume that any input received from devices is adversarial

    As I think about it, I’m not even sure I’d use wireless as a redundant network link because of the overwhelming security issues involved.

    Bill

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