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Honeywell Launches Sensor Network Kit

May 25th, 2006 News - Manufacturing - Automotive
Honeywell Sensing and Control (S&C), the division of Honeywell that provides sensors and switches to the aviation, military, automotive, manufacturing and commercial building sectors, has announced an agreement with wireless sensor network platform provider Crossbow Technology. Through this agreement, Honeywell S&C is rebranding and selling Crossbow products as part of a wireless sensor network development kit. The kit, designed for original equipment manufacturers, is available now through S&C's direct sales and distributor channel.

"The kit gives Honeywell customers who don't have experience with wireless sensor networks a first step in deploying one," says John Krier, Honeywell S&C product manager for sourced product. Many of the products Honeywell sells are already wireless, but this is Honeywell's first wireless sensor network (WSN) solution with a mesh networking architecture. A WSN consists of battery-powered nodes—devices that combine motes (small computers with RF transceivers) and integrated sensors for conditions such as shock or temperature. In a mesh network, the individual nodes communicate data, including the node's unique ID, to a central data-collection point, or gateway, by relaying that data from node to node until it reaches the gateway. This allows users to place nodes across a large area without needing a gateway within its read range.

For end users, mesh WSNs can reportedly lower deployment costs over non-meshed wireless networks, in which nodes must send data directly to a gateway. The companies say it can also lower such costs over hard-wired control or sensing applications, because they require less hardware and simpler installation. Additionally, lower deployment costs could bring a faster return on investment.

OEMs can utilize the development kit to create small-scale WSNs that can be used for applications such as environmental monitoring or security for commercial buildings, industrial manufacturing facilities or automation systems to control power usage.

Honeywell's WSN development kit is made up of three motes, each consistin of a computer processor chip and a 2.45 GHz transceiver that uses the IEEE 802.15.4 air interface protocol. The motes can send and receive data at 250 kbps data rate. The kit also provides two data-acquisition circuit boards. Two of the motes and data-acquisition boards can be combined with Honeywell sensors of the OEM's choosing to form WNS nodes. Utilized in tandem with a, base circuit board, the third mote acts as a gateway, collecting the sensors' data and sending it, via an Ethernet link, to a back-end system. The kit also comes with Crossbow's MoteView software, used to establish the network and control the hardware.

Honeywell has been investigating mesh-networking products and decided to roll out the WSN development kit now because the technology "has moved from the lab to the production floor," Krier says. "Technology companies like Crossbow have done the missionary work, and we can now enjoy the harvest." He notes that Honeywell customers are witnessing the emergence of wireless sensor networks. "Their questions are more about how to employ wireless sensor networks rather than [if they] should employ the technology," he says.

Krier adds that Honeywell is looking at WSNs on a very broad basis and also plans to make stronger commitments to the technology by moving beyond the developer's kit and integrating a WSN platform into its products and services in the future.

"We're pleased and proud that Honeywell S&C selected us for this offering," says Joerg Bertholdt, Crossbow's vice president of marketing. "It validates the work we've done thus far."

Krier says Honeywell application engineers have been trained on the installation and use of all the Crossbow products and software Honeywell is now reselling. Customers will receive primary product support from these Honeywell engineers, through Crossbow's services might be required in cases where customers have advanced applications.