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Industrial Networking Organizations Discuss Merging

As industrial networks proliferate and the benefits of all-encompassing communications systems become clear, end users are expressing the need for digital fieldbus connectivity and the desire for easier interoperability among various fieldbus technologies and networking protocols.

Two of the largest organizations—the Fieldbus Foundation and the HART Communication Foundation—are addressing those needs by announcing the potential for merging the two organizations.

A single industry foundation “could better leverage the complementary benefits of the technologies [and] create more cooperation and collaboration” dedicated to the needs of intelligent device communications in the world of process automation, according to a statement. The merger offers significant potential to harmonize many aspects of Foundation Fieldbus and HART protocols, making it easier for end users and suppliers to implement the technology and obtain the full benefits of each in plant operations and maintenance. 

In late September, the two organizations announced a memorandum of understanding to explore “a merger of equals” that, in addition to the above benefits, would provide improved economies of scale by merging the training and education, testing and registration, tradeshow and event participation, online presence and social media strategies of the two organizations. Members of both groups “should see increased efficiencies and reduced total costs as more and more standards, processes and procedures are harmonized,” said the statement.

Both the Foundation fieldbus and Hart specifications would continue to exist separately and evolve, and both would continue to support the wireless strategies that exist today within each organization. The goals of both organizations include improved products and services and increased market share of digital devices in the total device market.

The HART Communication Foundation lists a global membership of more than 285 companies. The Fieldbus Foundation’s global membership includes more than 350 controls and instrumentation suppliers and end users. The two organizations have worked extensively together in the past, including work on the development of common international standards such as Electronic Device Description Language (EDDL) and, most recently, the development of the Field Device Integration (FDI) specification.

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