The Emerson Global Users Exchange ( kicked off this morning at the Gaylord National Convention Center in Washington D.C. with keynote addresses from Greg Stephens, chairman of the Emerson Global Users Exchange, John Berra, chairman of Emerson Process Management, and Jack Bacon, Ph.D., P.E. , a NASA engineer working on the International Space Station. The highlight of the addresses came when Berra introduced his recently announced successor as president and business leader of Emerson Process Management (, Steven Sonnenberg.

Taking the stage for what he described as his final keynote at an Emerson Exchange, Berra literally handed Sonnenberg a set of keys in a gesture symbolizing the changing of the guard at Emerson Process Management. Berra, who has served as president and business leader of Emerson Process Management since 2000, described Sonnenberg as a “true innovator” and said he felt confident that Emerson Process Management would be in good hands under the direction of Sonnenberg. Sonnenberg, who has been with Emerson since 1979, vowed to continue in Berra’s tradition, emphasizing customer service and quality products as the key to Emerson Process Management’s success. Berra, who will continue to serve in a strategic role as chairman of Emerson Process Management, left the stage to a standing ovation from the crowd of 2,500-plus process automation users assembled here for this week’s Emerson Exchange.

The theme for this week’s events at Emerson Exchange will largely revolve around wireless technology. During his keynote, Berra said, “I believe that as we go forward into the next few years, we will see as much as 20 percent of the measurements that are made in an average plant to be made by wireless.” Berra was particularly vocal in his support for the HART Communication Foundation’s ( wirelessHART protocol. He said that with 16 major automation companies already publicly supporting wirelessHART and the protocol’s recent acceptance by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC, as a Publicly Available Specification (PAS), wirelessHART figures to be a major enabler of wireless plant automation systems going forward.

Emerson shipped its first wirelessHART-enabled products last week, making it the first company to do so, according to Berra. The company is also holding a press event later this afternoon focusing exclusively on its Smart Wireless platform.