ISA 100 Wireless Network Standard Progressing

The ISA100 Wireless Networking Committee is progressing toward its first standard, while another group is developing compliance testing methods to assure users that products will conform.

The ISA100 Committee of the Instrumentation, Systems and Automation Society (ISA) has released two news items marking significant progress toward the adoption of a standard. The first letter ballot of the ISA100.11a Working Group is underway. The ballot opened on Monday, May 5, and will close on Tuesday, June 3. ISA100.11a Working Group members may vote on the ballot, and may provide editorial or technical comments.

“This draft standard reflects a collaborative effort between end-users and vendors on the ISA100.11a Working Group, and that's what makes this standard relevant,” said Jim Reizner, section head, corporate engineering, Procter & Gamble Co., in Cincinnati, and co-chair of the ISA100 Users Working Group. “The end-user community will benefit from the ISA100.11a standard once it's approved, and we're on our way to making that happen.”

The ISA100.11a standard is designed to provide a wireless industrial process automation network to address control, alerting and monitoring applications plant-wide. The standard focuses on battery powered field devices with the ability to scale to large installations. It addresses wireless infrastructure, interfaces to legacy host applications plus security, and network management requirements in a functionally scalable manner.

“We're thrilled to release the draft standard for letter ballot,” said ISA100 co-chair Patrick Schweitzer, of ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Co., Fairfax, Va. “The ISA100.11a contributors have worked very hard to develop an open standard that's simple for users to implement and deploy. This is an important first step in a thorough approval process outlined in ISA guidelines. We look forward to input from the working group members to ensure a clear, concise, effective standard for end users and suppliers around the world.”

Testing too

In addition to balloting on the initial standard, another group is working on methods for testing products to the standard to assure users that the products will work within the network.

The ISA100 Wireless Compliance Institute (WCI), with an initial membership of nine companies, will provide assured device compliance and interoperability with the ISA100.11a standard, an important development for users planning to deploy ISA100.11a standard-compliant devices into their facilities. The early members of the Institute, including Airsprite, Chevron, Honeywell, Invensys, Nivis, Procter & Gamble, Shell, Shenyang Institute of Automation and Yokogawa, have handled the development phase of the program, and expect to formally launch the Institute this summer.

The Institute has retained a technical director, Jay Werb, to coordinate the technical aspects of assured interoperability and compliance with the ISA100.11a standard. The Institute is currently developing ISA100.11a standard test points that will be used as a basis for conformance requirements in a test specification that is scheduled for May completion. To expedite development of compliance tools, the effort is being undertaken concurrently with the recently released Working Group draft letter ballot. The developed test points will be finalized in close collaboration with ISA100, and used by WCI to conduct compliance tests.

A Wireless Device Test Kit (DTK) is also under development for testing device compliance with the ISA100.11a standard. It is scheduled for availability in the second half of 2008, and will be demonstrated in the ISA100 booth at the 2008 ISA Expo Oct. 12-14 in Houston.

In the short term, the Institute will test devices for compliance to a reasonable number of profiles defined by ISA100, and will collaborate openly and proactively with ISA100 to define the key profiles that are needed in the marketplace. In the long term, WCI expects to test devices for compliance to any profile that is of interest to its members, not necessarily restricted to profiles that are defined by ISA100.

Customer beta sites

Because real-world testing is critical to the success of the ISA100.11a standard, the Institute is establishing customer beta sites with on-site activities scheduled to begin late this year. The Institute is also developing, in conjunction with ISA, a five-course wireless training curriculum. The curriculum includes a device product developer's training course planned for presentation during the ISA Expo.

The Institute's founding members have established an ISA100.11a standard alpha test bed using a preliminary ISA100.11a device stack and associated management software. This test bed was successfully demonstrated at the ISA100 meeting in Chongqing, China, in April of this year. Three vendors participated in the demonstration, providing interoperability among multiple vendors utilizing two radio platforms.

The Institute is welcoming and encouraging other vendors to participate in this demonstration for our future venues later this year. These include the ISA Wireless Summit next week in Cleveland, Ohio; the ISA100 meeting June 23-26 in Nice, France; the ISA100 meeting planned for August at the ISA headquarters in Raleigh, N.C.; and ISA Expo 2008 in October.

Instrumentation, Systems and Automation Society

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