Waiting For a Standard

June 30, 2008
I’m writing this while on a trip to Phoenix to attend the Honeywell Users Group Symposium. It’s interesting, because Honeywell Process Solutions is often portrayed as the main antagonist to Emerson Process Management in the ISA100 wireless networking standard development process. 

This standard under development by a committee of the Instrumentation, Systems and Automation Society (ISA) will define many of the technologies necessary for a safe and secure wireless application in industry. The process sometimes spills over into the press—something that is regrettable. Standards making is a messy process best done in the background until consensus begins to form.

On the plane from Houston to Phoenix, I happened to sit beside an engineer for a large petroleum company. When I asked about wireless adoption, he said he was waiting for a standard. During informal conversations here in Phoenix, I’ve heard that refrain repeated. Both HPS President Jack Bolick and Wireless Product Manager Jeff Becker expressed confidence that the first of a proposed family of standards—ISA100.11a, wireless sensor
networks—would be adopted this year. That is good news. Even with the adoption of WirelessHart, the industry needs this ISA standard to move forward. I continue to believe that wireless technologies will be game changing in the way plants are run.

Wireless should not be synonymous with sensor networks, though. Many times, when I ask about wireless, the response centers on wireless sensor networks. Many things can be wireless, and when combined, they will change the way we manage and operate plants and factories. The concept of the mobile operator empowered with devices communicating with wireless Ethernet, perhaps Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP), Bluetooth for communicating
with devices, and cellular technology, is powerful in itself. Watch this magazine for continuing coverage.

Check out this archived Webcast on wireless technologies and an overview of the WirelessHart standard at
www.automationworld.com/webcast-4036

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