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Wireless Sensor and Actuator Networks for Measurement and Control

Industry is increasingly turning to systems composed of distributed intelligent devices that communicate via digitised data streams. These systems can move monitoring and control functions closer to the production cycle, adapt and continuously enhance the performance while reducing operational overhead and installation, or maintenance time. Connection of field devices, measurement sensors, controllers, and actuators through a field bus requires a lot of wiring, and as a result, for many automation systems the cost is “all in the wires”. With the help of self-organizing wireless sensor and actuator networks (WSAN) these costs could be reduced.

We are now on the brink of a wireless revolution e.g. in the building automation industry, where even push buttons and lamps are becoming equipped with wireless communications to avoid cabling. However, wide deployment of wireless industrial automation requires substantial progress in wireless transmission, networking and control. Especially, the reliability of the current wireless networks need to be improved significantly in order them to become accepted in the automation society. While there has been significant recent progress in the wireless automation, users are still very cautious about the new technology. In a user study conducted by IMS research it was found that industrial users are very reluctant to use wireless communications for anything else but monitoring and data collection. The study identified the following major barriers to wide adoption of industrial wireless technology: 45.8 % of the potential users had concerns about data security, 43 % had concerns on reliability, 27.5 % felt they had too little knowledge and 14.8 % considered the technology too expensive. In this project, we are addressing these major barriers of wireless automation with particular focus on reliability, cost-effectiveness and knowledge transfer. We approach the reliability issues from two directions, in turn we improve the reliability of the wireless communication and in turn we make the control and data fusion methods more robust against variations in the network dynamics.

The objective of the WiSA project is to develop wireless sensor and actuator networks for a range of applications, including industrial applications. We are using a cross-layer optimisation approach to develop networking protocols, sensor fusion techniques, and control methods that work in harmony, enabling wide deployment of wireless industrial automation and monitoring applications. Our approach is the one of co-design, i.e., to achieve system reliability by jointly considering wireless communications, data fusion and closed loop control. We are aiming at both novel theoretical developments and a packaged tool chain for complete system simulation and implementation, including control design, automatic code generation, and hardware in the loop simulation. We believe that such a tool chain is needed to enable cost-effective development of reliable and safe wireless control systems. In this framework, we have developed a platform for algorithm and protocol integration, simulation and verification encompassing all the required communications and application layers. The tool chain is called PiccSIM.

The main objectives of the project are the development of

  • wireless communications (transmission technology, MAC and network layers)
  • novel distributed information fusion algorithms for sensing, monitoring and control
  • sensor, network and process diagnostics
  • distributed and hierarchical control principles
  • a tool chain integrating the results into a single tool for a complete design and simulation platform.

The consortia of the project consists of partners from Finland and Sweden. These are

The research is financed by Tekes in Finland and by Vinnova in Sweden via the Nordic technology program Nordite.

  • Keywords: sensor and actuator network, distribution, coordination, radio resource management, data fusion, diagnostics, distributed control, asynchronic delays, wireless automation, WirelessHART, ISA100.11a
  • Duration: 2006-2010
  • Research area: Wireless Automation, Operations & Maintenance, Process Control
  • Related projects: GENSEN, WISM, ISMO, ERHE, DADA, PIPO,
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Contact persons

Aalto Staff


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Bachelor's theses

  • Mikko Pihlanko: Langattoman automaation standardit (Standards of Wireless Automation)

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  • Kalle Torkkeli: Estimointi ja säätö tietoliikennerajoitetuissa järjestelmissä (Estimation and control in communication constrained systems)

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  • Salin, Richard: Koordinering av kommunikationshastighet i trådlösa reglersystem (Coordination of communication speed in wireless control system)

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