Wireless is still a hotly contested issue in the process industry. I find it frustrating to cover, partly because of the shots various vendors take at each other and partly because the term “wireless” is almost meaningless in and of itself. It just means “without wires.” But I’m willing to bet a bottle of wine that when you saw that first word, you immediately thought “wireless sensor networks”–also known as the WirelssHart v ISA100.11a debate.
As I tried to explain years ago, there are lots of wireless networks and applications. There are sensor networks (which CTO Jason Urso took shots at during his keynote). There are computer networks (WiFi). There are radio networks. There are cellular networks. There’s mobile operators, personnel tracking, fire and safety, and on and on.
Honeywell has a product that, in grossly simplified terms, is multiple radios in a box, called One Wireless. When you talk wireless at Honeywell, though, you really have to think in terms of One Honeywell. So when Ray Rogowski, new wireless team leader, told me that Honeywell has won a majority of never lost a bids situation for wireless applications, I thought to ask–what applications for wireless. Oh, security, video, fire and safety. These are all applications that incorporate not just Honeywell Process Solutions (HPS), but other divisions of Honeywell International Inc. It’s not that it doesn’t have some ISA100-ready (the test for compliance kit was released just today, so certified ISA100 products are expected before the end of the year), it’s just that Honeywell wants to emphasize wireless in its broadest application sense and not focus only on sensor networks.
But ISA100.11a was not hidden from view. Spokespeople brought up many times “It IS a standard. ISA is a viable standards setting organization. It is only in trouble with ANSI due to procedural issues, not technology.”
OK, that’s technically correct. However discussion in a panel assembled to try to make sense of the issue for editors did touch on a reference that there are some technical difficulties with the initial standard as written. “Only to be expected.” Also true. So while the committee is resolving difficulties with ANSI, another subcommittee is wrestling with convergence of ISA100 with WirelessHart. One surprising statement was that if WirelessHart could just add one protocol to support a function block, then it would be pretty good. So we may be closer than we suspect to a unified standard. I hope so, because I’m weary of the bickering. And I bet users are, too.
Dick Caro, noted networking guru and consultant, moderates the ISA100 panel:
Members of the panel included Honeywell wireless team members and two users: