Apprion’s Lambright discusses wireless issues, new system

Next generation ION system addresses security reliability and scalability in large process manufacturing plant wireless network applications.
By Jack Smith June 27, 2007

Moffett Field, CA-based Apprion released the next generation of its ION system for industrial application networking. Apprion provides wireless application network systems and services designed for oil and gas, chemical and power/utilities.
Stephen Lambright, Apprion’s president and CEO said this release of the ION industrial wireless application networking system is built from the ground-up as “the first truly open, scalable and extensible foundation for managing multi-vendor wireless devices and applications.” It has improved security, management and integration capabilities to meet the challenges of the evolving process manufacturing environment, he said.
The updated system consists of Apprion IONosphere and IONizers. The IONosphere is an on-site controller design to automatically bring devices, systems and applications under management %%MDASSML%% ensuring improved network performance, security and reliability %%MDASSML%% regardless of the wireless vendor. IONizers are designed to integrate and secure previously disparate wireless-enabled applications such as VoIP and condition monitoring.
While the basic building blocks for a wirelessly connected plant exist today, wireless systems have remained fragmented, proprietary and difficult to integrate, making it difficult to realize the full potential of wireless in an industrial setting. “It’s not just about the DCS; it’s not just about the controls,” said Lambright. “It’s about all the other operational systems that occur within the facility that are as important as the DCS environment is. They are not part of the DCS, and yet they almost inevitably require some form of wireless technology. But there are challenges around the implementation of those applications.”
The initial design goal behind Apprion was to put a common infrastructure in place that was interoperable, giving customers freedom of choice use the best tool for the job, with the premise that no one size will fit all when it comes to wireless technologies. “Customers are going to want to %%MDASSML%% almost as a visceral reaction to the bus wars %%MDASSML%% be able to not be stuck with one vendor,” said Lambright, “but be able to choose the vendor of choice, depending on the application, technology or the criteria they were going to use, be able to plug-and-play that into one common infrastructure that they could take to IT and have it IT-blessed because it was secure; it was manageable; and it spoke by all the rules that IT has created around their security architecture.”
Initially, security was a barrier to wide implementation of wireless technologies. “As you know, one of the issues around wireless was as soon as someone brought it up, IT would shut it down because it would open a hole in their beautifully architected fortress that they created around their networks,” Lambright said. “What we’ve done is basically taken the best practices that IT has implemented in the last 10-15 years, and applied them to the specific needs, issues, concerns and criteria of the process world.”
However, as we hopefully near adoption of standards, wireless technologies are gaining ground. “You see more and more interest in wireless, and more people coming up with solutions around wireless, and being able to tell their story,” said Lambright. “Apprion’s story is:‘It’s all good. We’ll help you go through the technology selection criteria, or you can choose yourself and tell us how you want to do it.’ What we provide is that layer of management and integration around, not just the network, but the applications; and be able to guarantee that there’s reliability, security, manageability and scalability of these infrastructures %%MDASSML%% that you can go forward with confidence that you’re not going to get stuck in a box with old technology that you can’t rely upon.”