Bluetooth - the future for sensor setup ?

Is process industry ready for instrument adjustment and diagnosis with Smartphones or Tablets ?

Wireless communication for industrial field transmitters has been a popular topic over recent years, with as many pro's and cons as there are standards. But what about using an accessible and simple means of instrument set up and operation using a smartphone or tablet?

Bluetooth has been a familiar feature in our everyday lives for many years now. For instance, every modern car we jump into has hands-free phone and music, keyboards and mice, remote controls, televisions and portable speaker systems in our homes are all using this communication protocol to increase safety and provide convenience. It's secure too, every day, in shops and restaurants, we put debit and credit cards into wireless payment terminals that use Bluetooth communication for securely transmitting sensitive financial information.

Now it is beginning to find its way into the process industry. This technology has the potential to configure, adjust, analyse and retrieve data in sensors from a safe distance using every day devices, whether they are supplied by the company or the users `own'.`BringYour Own Device' (BYOD) is becoming a more familiar term in our language, not just at the 'hi-tech' companies.

In industry it is emerging and already available on products like data loggers, controllers, analytical systems and valve positioners, now it is also being introduced to field transmitters for set up, monitoring and asset management. This is facilitated by the development and implementation of Bluetooth 4.0, which is now low power enough to be used on `loop powered' field based sensors.

This is probably the first and foremost question. Bluetooth communications are founded on three procedures:

* Authentication & Authorization - This is the process of determining who is at the other end of a Bluetooth link and if their device should have access to yours.

* Encryption & Data Protection - Bluetooth encrypts your data (128 bit) and only allows approved devices to decrypt it, making it much more difficult to for unauthorized users to capture and decipher your information.

* Privacy & Confidentiality - In addition to encrypting the data being transmitted, the latest Bluetooth 4.0 also makes it possible to encrypt the address of the Bluetooth device itself.
An additional layer of security is provided by the App or software that is required to carry out the communication on. Often, only that specific App will identify the device, how and with what it operates. Finally, if the user desires, the ultimate security should be also in enabling the Bluetooth to be physically switched off or removed. So, for example, in the process industry it may be used for convenience and safety during commissioning, calibration checks or testing, but it could then be disabled or removed during normal operation, if preferred.

What can be seen and used2
Due to the display quality and size of most smartphones and tablets, along with our familiarity with operating them, adjustment apps for process devices can offer excellent interface and visualisation capability for set up. This also extends to sensor asset management and enabling performance analysis, like filters, echo curves, trends and diagnostic functions to be easily visualized and evaluated. Bluetooth has the potential to offer simpler, faster adjustment and diagnosis, as well as better device management, safety and convenience for the user.

Useful for inhospitable or dangerous areas, locations and industries
Heat, dirt, noise, dust or gases (or even just horrible weather!) are just some of the hazards to personnel out in the process plant. Bluetooth 4.0 has a range typically around 25m, further in clear areas, so devices can normally be accessed and operated from a secure, sheltered position. Another reason can be the position of the device itself, this can avoid prolonged awkward working positions, climbing of ladders, working at heights, or even reduced exposure risk to harsh/toxic chemicals. These challenges all offer strong safety and productivity benefits to the user.

Hazardous Area use
Smart phones and tablets with Hazardous Area cases and approvals are also becoming both more commonplace and affordable. Up until now, any sensor requiring set up in a hazardous area needs either key pads on or adjacent to the transmitter, via specialist communicator devices, or it can be done via remote communication methods such as HART protocol, with typically a handheld terminal or PC connected on signal cables from a junction box/safe area some distance away. But this is not always practical, it requires opening of housings, connection into terminals at junction boxes or cabinets (with associated time consuming `Hot work permits'), and the communication speeds can sometimes be slow. As Bluetooth carries no energy in itself, as long as the communication devices at each end (e.g. sensor and smart phone) are appropriately protected and certified, there is no compromising of the hazardous area operating zone. Alternatively. with a 25m+ range, the Smartphone can also be used in a place of designated safety.

Consistent set up and capture the moment
Easier to read displays. intuitive screens with pertinent user information and faster connection, wireless Bluetooth communication has the potential to increase productivity during sensor set up, commissioning and maintenance phases. It is also well known that a better quality, intuitive device interface means less 'adjustment returns' and improved process control. Of course how often do instrument people hear "It just happened and you missed it" ? When something does need checking, the ability for faster connection and sensor diagnosis means for example, during a process upset, it could help to see and capture 'that moment', which in itself could save money and reduce environmental danger.

Be in the future now
The latest version of the VEGA PLICSCOM universal display and adjustment module has optional Bluetooth 4.0/LE. This is secure and encrypted, on/off switchable communication for both Android and ICS smartphone or tablet set up and diagnosis. Amazingly, it is also fully backward compatible with all plics® level and pressure transmitters manufactured since 2002 -because of the built in modularity of the system, it can be easily retrofitted without any software update.A magnetic pen supplied even offers the option to operate the PLICSCOM buttons through the glass viewing window, and an ATEX certified version wis available now for some sensor variants with more to follow. There is also a Bluetooth USB dongle for PC connection via FDT/DTM / PACTware. This offers a great opportunity for tens of thousands of existing users and their already installed sensors to try it out the future today. Download the VEGA Tools App at IOS c - Android store or find out more at under
'Wireless ACIIUSLMe11L'.

It's all in the prices
The new VEGAPULS WL S 61 contactless radar sensor is an ideal solution for applications in the water and sewage sectors. Its very competitive price combines with globally-proven success and comprehensive features to deliver a compelling radar based level sensor.

Radar technology offers numerous advantages when compared with ultrasonic level sensors; radar is independent of weather influence: strong sun, wind, surface turbulence, condensation, fog or rain. In addition, no compensation is needed for signal transmission time due to air temperature fluctuations. Water radar sensors are ideal for level control and flow measurement in water treatment plants. The excellent focusing enables their use in sewage pumping stations, rainwater overflow basins, digesters, sludge tanks, open channel flow measurement and for open water level gauging too.

As a compact, loop powered sensor with an accuracy of +/- 5 mm and range up to 8m along with its flexible mounting options, this means it can easily be installed into new or existing applications and connection to level controllers, telemetry or SCADA systems is straightforward too. The latest development stems from many years of experience of applications worldwide in the water and environmental sectors, providing ease of set up, ultimate performance reliability and protection of the environment. It joins the VEGA radar portfolio with another water radar device: VEGAPULS WL 61, which has been available for several years and now has a very large installed and working base of over 40,000 units world-wide.

Previously, cost was perceived as an issue with radar technology, but this new variant VEGAPULS WL S 61 offers a price more favourable than comparable to short range ultrasonic systems. It has a fully featured specification, performance and design optimized for use in the water-supply and sewage sectors. The housings are a robust IP 68 (2 bar), this high degree of protection also makes it suitable for applications where the sensor may be temporarily submerged, the technology is wear and maintenance-free. It complies with the latest Level Probing Radar standard (LPR): approved for openair use without restrictions or special attachments.

Another entirely new feature is Bluetooth wireless operation from a free App via IOS or Android smartphone or tablet and/or PC with free to download PACTware when combined with a VEGA Bluetooth USB adapter; this option makes commissioning and diagnosis even simpler.

Wireless Bluetooth adjustment for all plics® sensors
Bluetooth is familiar in our everyday lives. Virtually every modern car has hands-free phone and music. Now it is beginning to find its way into the process industry, this technology can be used to configure, adjust, analyse and diagnose sensors. The latest version of the VEGA PLICSCOM universal display and adjustment module has optional Bluetooth 4.0/LE with secure encryption and a range typically around 25m. This means devices can be accessed from a safe, sheltered position. Amazingly, it is also fully backward compatible with all VEGA plics® transmitters since 2002. The modularity of their plics® system means it can be retrofitted without software update, so thousands of existing VEGA sensors can convert to Bluetooth! A magnetic pen supplied can operate the PLICSCOM buttons via the glass window. There is a Bluetooth USB PC dongle for FDT/DTM / PACTware connection. Try out the future today, download VEGA Tools App at IOS or Android store. Go to

Bluetooth compatibility across the entire product range
VEGA Bluetooth communications have been a standard option across the whole range of plics® transmitters since March this year and it is also backward compatible to all sensors supplied since 2002. It features secure 64 bit encryption and pairing using Apps or PC USB dongle via PACTware. Up until now, it has only been available for safe area devices.

Adding yet another new option for the new 80 GHz radar level sensors VEGAPULS 64 (liquids) and 69 (bulk solids), they have added ATEX / IECEx:Ex ia, Ex ia/t (Dust) FM: OL, XP, DIP approvals. This enables the easy set up and sensor management using EX capable tablets and smartphones, run by Android, with Bluetooth 4.0 via theVEGATOOLSApp.They can also be operated via a magnetic pen through a window. This range of product compatibility and dual capability is yet another world first from VEGA.

This option means `hot work' permits may not be needed, as no covers are removed or wires connected to sensors or signal cables. Engineers can work from safer locations, possibly even outside clean rooms in electronics, pharma and food industries, saving time and increasing safety. For more details about this exciting innovation, please look under Wireless Adjustment at

For sales and technical information contact:-

Tel +44 1444 870055

December 2016


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