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Honeywell has made two main criticisms of the Emerson solution. The first is that devices based on WirelessHART don’t conform to ISA 100. Indeed, Honeywell’s Gary Wedge, addressing the wireless session of the Pharmatex conference in Cork, Ireland, last month, went so far as to repeatedly describe Wireless HART as a proprietary protocol. The other is that, by focusing solely on field device networking, Emerson was denying its users and potential users the opportunity to take advantage of the much wider possibilities offered by in-plant wireless networking solutions.
It was probably just good luck that the first of these objections was substantially undermined by HCF’s release of HART 7 on the Friday before Emerson Global Users Exchange opened in Dallas, Texas, but it was certainly good management that one of the first announcements made at the user conference was an alliance with Cisco that appears to offer users pretty much everything now that OneWireless will offer once ISA 100 is released, plus the added bonus of WirlessHART-based device networking now.
Cisco has made no secret of its ambition to exploit the growing convergence of the IT and automation worlds by extending its reach from the corporate level to the plant. At last April’s Hanover Fair, it announced a collaboration with Rockwell Automation under which the two companies plan to develop what they called “a common technology view,” and in July, it announced its own wireless solution specifically targeting the upstream oil and gas sector.
Under the newly announced agreement with Emerson, the two companies will collaborate “to offer open-standard solutions for wireless process and plant management applications that install easily and operate reliably in the challenging process manufacturing environment … combining their expertise and technology to deliver a complete solution that improves productivity, safety and operational efficiency for manufacturing customers.”
In effect, the aim appears to be to bring together Emerson’s existing WirelessHART-based, self-organizing field networks and mobile operator and maintenance worker applications with Cisco’s wireless plant networks that offer applications such as worker mobility, voice over IP, personnel and asset tracking and video under a common umbrella which might have been dubbed OneWireless, had that name not already been appropriated elsewhere. Under the agreement, Emerson will project-manage and deliver wireless solutions to customers, based on the two companies’ joint expertise. Many Emerson customers already use Cisco’s wired plant network applications and are expected to be open to the idea of extending into the wireless domain and right down to the device level using the Emerson technology.
The plant networks will be based on Cisco’s Unified Wireless Architecture which provides industrial-class wireless access points, controllers and network management software. Emerson will use the Cisco technology to provide ubiquitous, highly secure wireless LAN coverage and integration within a plant’s existing IT infrastructure, thereby eliminating the need for a complex wireless overlay network. Configuration and management of the Wi-Fi network will be handled centrally by Cisco’s Wireless Control System.
“We envision that the open-standard wireless infrastructure and applications jointly architected with Cisco will simplify the implementation of value-added wireless automation projects and reduce risk,” explained Emerson Process Management president John Berra. “The age of wireless will be advanced as process and IT improvements are smoothly integrated, and the canyons of steel and limits of wiring are removed as obstacles to the imagination of customers.”
In what has developed into a game of technological ping-pong, largely based on the respective competitors’ user conferences, it would be surprising if Honeywell did not come up with a riposte to the latest Emerson initiative. Its next opportunity to do so comes at its European User Group conference in Salzburg in early November. Watch this space!
WirelessHART, as embodied in the newly released HART7 specification, adopted the concept of self-healing mesh networking, but didn’t swallow the Dust Networks proposals, as originally used by vendors such as Emerson, hook, line and sinker. So it’s all the more remarkable that, within days of the release of HART 7, Dust was able to announce a WirelessHART-compatible Wireless Sensor Networking (WSN) solution based on its TSMP (Time Synchronized Mesh Protocol) technology, which ARC’s Harry Forbes has described as “a foundational building block of the WirelessHART standard” and “a catalyst for the industrial market.”
Known as SmartMesh IA-510, the 2.4GHz WirelessHART solution will be available in the first quarter of 2008 and is the first in what will eventually be a family of Dust WSN solutions. It consists of the PM2510 embedded network manager which provides the mesh network functionality for WirelessHART gateways and two “mote” form factors, which allow vendors to add WirelessHART capability to field devices. These are the DN2510 MoC, which is integrated into a 12x12mm system-in-package (SiP), and the M2510 RF-certified mote module.
Their early availability should enable vendors of HART field devices rapidly to develop WirelessHART compatible versions and to develop retrofit kits for existing HART devices already installed in the field. With vendors such as Emerson and Phoenix Contact already using its technology, Dust is clearly hoping that its solution will rapidly become the de facto process industry standard solution for WirelessHART – and that WirelessHART capability eventually becomes ubiquitous in all process industry field devices, just as is now the case with HART itself.
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