I wrote about 10 blog posts on the airplane over to China, but then I couldn’t access my blog from over there. I don’t think I ever said anything bad about the country. Anyway, here’s the first of many catch up posts.

Attendance was low and the hall was only about half-filled with exhibits, but there was some buzz and company announcements at the annual (actually last) ISA Expo held in Houston Oct. 6 through 8. At least that was true until Thursday morning when it was announced that there would be no more Expos and rumors flew regarding a huge restructuring of the organization’s staff.

ISA switches to technical training “Automation Week”

The International Society of Automation (ISA) unveiled plans for its new event, ISA Automation Week: Technology and Solutions Event, to be held 4-7 October 2010 at the Westin Galleria Complex in Houston, Texas, USA.
    ISA Automation Week will feature “intensive” educational and applications-based technical conference sessions delivered by subject matter experts. Still trying to broaden its reach, ISA notes in its release, “Discrete and process automation professionals will have a chance to learn techniques and solutions for creating more efficient, productive, and economical manufacturing processes. ISA training courses and standards meetings will also be held concurrently, making ISA Automation Week a one-stop shop for automation and control knowledge and networking opportunities.”
    The event will feature a focused exhibition area for a limited number of companies to showcase products and services during scheduled networking and exhibit sessions. In a release, ISA states that 65 percent of the space available for the exhibit has been sold.
    Following are other announcements from ISA Expo 2009.

exida
    exida, a global supplier of functional safety, security, and alarm management services, engineering tools and certifications, held a press conference to proclaim it is the first company to offer a “holistic evaluation of the most important attributes of an automation product–functional safety, functional security and availability.” Its Functional Integrity Certification is said to be the only independent, third party assessment that examines functional safety, security and availability attributes of an automation product through assessment of its design, testing and manufacturing. The program also scrutinizes how a product performs under stress, in the field and over time.
    For functional safety, a product and its development process are evaluated per the international standard IEC 61508 to determine its Safety Integrity Level (SIL). The SIL level is a measure of the probability that a product will perform its intended protection function when needed. Functional security assesses a product’s resiliency to intentional or accidental manipulation that could cause it to behave differently than was intended.  A combination of network robustness testing, security feature assessment and software development process assessment helps detect and avoid vulnerabilities and systematic design faults. The certification is based on the ISA Security Compliance Institute (ISCI) Embedded Controller Security Assurance (ECSA) test specification. Finally, an availability assessment ensures the dependability of automation products in critical applications. exida uses modeling and probabilistic methods, combined with empirical data, to help predict product reliability.

Apprion
    Wireless technologies in industry have wide ranging application–not just sensor networks. Apprion, in conjunction with its partner/investor Motorola Enterprise Mobility Solutions, described an installation at Huntsman Corp.’s facility in Port Neches, Texas. Industrial Mobility contributed MobilOps field mobility software with Apprion wireless and Motorola hand-held computing to enable Huntsman operators to execute “smart rounds” and checklists, enter real-time defect elimination work requests, monitor and control Standard Operating Conditions for each piece of equipment, and access the most up-to-date Standard Operating Procedures.

Hart
    The Hart Communication Foundation announced release of a major upgrade to the Hart (OPC) Server. Using OPC data access, the new Hart Server Version 3.1 supports Hart 7, Hart-over-IP based networks and WirelessHart gateways. The Hart Server is a standardized Hart Communication interface component of most major Hart-enabled asset management systems. The software provides the backbone for systems to communicate using Hart technology. “Users will find the new tool improves performance of their current Hart Server installations while giving them access to new applications using WirelessHart technology,” says Ed Ladd, Hart Communication Foundation Director of Technology Programs. “By standardizing the communication interface, the Hart Server ensures interoperability across multiple vendor host systems.” The Foundation has developed the HART Server to facilitate serving HART data to plant networks and other high-level OPC-compliant applications. The HART Server provides easy access to Hart device data anywhere on a plant network.
    Several process automation companies expressed commitment to the WirelessHart standard and announce ongoing product releases in statements issued during the Hart Communication Foundation press conference at the ISA EXPO 2009. Executives from ABB, Emerson Process Management, Endress+Hauser, Pepperl+Fuchs and Siemens  were present to address how WirelessHart technology is impacting the process industry and their expectations for its adoption by end users.

Siemens

The Simatic PCS 7 process control system from Siemens Industry, Inc. includes a comprehensive set of tools to implement the recommendations and requirements of the newly adopted ANSI/ISA-18.2-2009 Management of Alarm Systems for the Process Industries standard. The standard gives engineering, operations and maintenance professionals a framework to follow when designing, implementing, operating and managing alarm systems in a process plant. The standard follows a lifecycle management approach similar to the functional safety standard IEC 61511/ ISA-84.
    Simatic PCS 7/Open OS HMI from Siemens Industry Inc. enables process plant managers to extend the life of their current distributed control system (DCS) while upgrading to the functions of a modern human machine interface (HM). Validated over the past five years on other Siemens OS migration products, PCS 7/Open OS provides an open framework that allows plants to customize data, faceplates and symbols while retaining the existing controllers–including intellectual property–and field wiring.
    “Plant Asset Management from Siemens Industry Inc. uses a combination of software, smart instrumentation and fieldbus communications to continuously monitor the critical plant assets, reducing the risk of failures while increasing equipment availability. According to Siemens because Plant Asset Management was designed to integrate into the PCS 7 process control system, minimal engineering and configuration efforts are required.

Belden
    Belden made several announcements at ISA Expo. First, it announced the addition of new 2,000 Volt VFD cable designs to its existing line of Variable Frequency AC motor drive cables. It also has added three new Bonded-Pair, shielded cables to its DataTuff family of Industrial Ethernet cables. Bonded-Pair technology, a patented construction that affixes the conductor insulation of the cable pairs along their longitudinal axes to maintain uniform conductor-to-conductor spacing between the pairs to ensure that no performance-robbing gaps can develop. Finally, it announced added temperature and use ratings, and expanded multi-pair capabilities to its line of low capacitance DataBus Cables for FOUNDATION Fieldbus applications.

FDT
    The FDT Group announced release of the CANopen annex as the 9th protocol specific annex for the FDT Specification. The annex includes, beside the actual specification document, the XML schemas and examples which are required to implement a Device Type Manager (DTM) for CANopen devices.

Levelese
    Levelese Inc., a Denver, Colo. maker of industrial level instrumentation and accessories, has developed a new tank gauge sensor and display for tank level measurement. The products are said to be easy to install, use, maintain, and understand. Based on patented technology and a decade of research, the Levelese tank gauge installs with screw or flange connections, can be repaired in place by replacing modular components, and interfaces with the most common industrial signals or protocols, including 4-20 mA, Modbus, Hart, wired and wireless communications. Using the principle of buoyancy, the Levelese level measuring system weighs an inert plastic chain that is secured below the fluid surface, determines the inverse of liquid level, and converts it to an analog, digital, or wireless electronic signal for indication, alarming, or other applications.

Iconics
    Iconics announced that its Genesis64 achieved full certification for Microsoft Windows 7. “Genesis64 takes advantage of the new Windows 7 Multi-touch ease of use capabilities allowing a more natural way to interact with the manufacturer operations,” stated Russ Agrusa, president and CEO of Iconics. “Windows 7 is a game changing operating systems and we have designed Genesis64 to fully maximize all the features Windows 7 offers to the marketplace.”

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