Even organizations are not immune from the consolidation bug. It had been previously announced that, given a couple of transitions and the similarity of membership and technology, industrial networks organizations the Fieldbus Foundation and the HART Communication Foundation would investigate merger.

Here is the latest news. An unstated reason is significant along with emphasizing a statement within the press release. First, there are leadership changes. Ron Helson, the longtime leader of HART recently retired. I have to believe that Rich Timoney, the longtime Fieldbus leader, is preparing to retire (conjecture on my part, I dont want to rush him). This becomes convenient timing.

Further, look for the sentence “suppliers will also profit.” This is significant. The two organizations have significant overlap, yet basically the same set of suppliers support each. By combining, suppliers can get more return from less investment. Since both technologies are pretty mature and stable, this makes a lot of sense.

The Boards of Directors of the Fieldbus Foundation and the HART Communication Foundation have approved unifying the two Foundations into a new industry organization. The joint statement said the new organization would be “dedicated to the needs of intelligent devices and their integration in the world of Process Automation.”

The combined power of both organizations will serve to protect the investments that end users in Process Automation have made in HART and FOUNDATION fieldbus communication technologies. The mission of the combined organization will be to develop, manage, and promote global standards for integrating devices into automation-system architectures, providing functional solutions for process automation suppliers and end users. Suppliers will also profit from the increased efficiencies in resource utilization, procedure consistency, and member service and support improvements.

The Fieldbus Foundation and HART Communication Foundation have a long history of cooperation. For example, the two worked together to develop common international standards, such as Electronic Device Description Language (EDDL) specifications and Field Device Integration (FDI) technology. Combining the organizations offers significant potential for harmonizing the procedures and efforts supporting the two protocols, as well as simplifying each technology’s implementation while better delivering their full benefits in plant operation and maintenance.

The FOUNDATION fieldbus and HART specifications will continue to exist individually, and to evolve into the future. Each protocol will retain its own brand name, trademarks, patents, and copyrights.

The new organization will continue development, support, and promotion of the two existing protocols, and will direct the development, incorporation, and implementation of new and overlapping technologies. Thus, the new organization will eventually serve as the single source for FDI, the sole integration tool for HART and FOUNDATION fieldbus technologies. The name of the proposed organization is not yet finalized.

The next step will be to complete the membership ballot by the end of summer 2014. Following a successful membership vote, legal filings for the creation of a new not-for-profit entity will take place in September 2014. As a final step, it is expected that the new organization offices will be consolidated and located near Austin, Texas, in early 2015.

The leadership of Helson and Timoney cannot be overstated. Their contributions to industrial automation are significant. Many thanks are due them.

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