Control News from Europe

Here are excerpts from the November 2007 issue of Andrew Bond’s Industrial Automation Insider, a monthly newsletter covering the important industrial automation news and issues as seen from the U.K.

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“Uncharacteristic Outbreak of Common Sense” in Wireless Wars

Last month’s attempt by Honeywell Process Solutions president Jack Bolick to delay release of the HART 7 specification and with it the WirelessHART standard seems to have concentrated the collective mind of the automation industry wonderfully. Bolick’s objection to WirelessHART was, ostensibly, that it was unnecessary, duplicating the provision for communicating with HART devices that will in any case be included in the forthcoming ISA100 standard.

Such duplication, said Bolick, “creates confusion and slows innovation.” While some have ascribed less noble motives to the Honeywell stand, many clearly agree with the diagnosis, but are coming up with a rather different prescription. Two weeks after going ahead with the release in the face of Bolick’s protest, the HART Communications Foundation (HCF) announced that it had entered into an agreement with ISA to collaborate and investigate opportunities to incorporate WirelessHART into the work of the SP100 Committee. Within the agreement is a mutual copyright licensing arrangement which allows ISA100 to evaluate and consider the adoption of WirelessHART and gives HCF access to all ISA100 documents going forward.

The two organizations are also establishing a joint technical committee to assess the degree to which WirelessHART technology meets the ISA’s objectives and whether it can be incorporated into what is now being called “the ISA100 family of standards”, although that term has ominous echoes of the multiple mutually incompatible protocols whose incorporation into IEC 61158 finally resolved the acrimonious battles over fieldbus. Nevertheless HCF executive director Ron Helson welcomed the new spirit of cooperation, adding that, “We believe WirelessHART is the right technology for process measurement and control applications and collaboration with ISA for adoption into the proposed ISA 100 standards is the right thing for the industry.”

Less than a week later, HCF also announced jointly with the Fieldbus Foundation and Profibus Nutzerorganisation (PNO) the launch of a cooperative project to extend their successful collaboration on the Electronic Device Description Language (EDDL) and develop a specification for a common interface to a wireless gateway. The project will be based on WirelessHART and the emerging SP100.11a standard and will include the development of use cases, requirements and specifications for wireless communication with intelligent field devices.

Users and potential users of wireless technology could be forgiven for asking why the process automation industry has had, once again, to peer into the abyss before this degree of cooperation has emerged. Why, for example, would it not have been possible for the ISA 100 committee in effect to delegate development of HART provision within ISA 100 to HCF from the outset rather than allow the development of the very real possibility that existing users of the world’s 25 million HART devices would have to choose between a WirelessHART protocol from HCF and a rival protocol for “HART over wireless” from ISA? Nor should they assume that this belated outbreak of common sense is permanent and will lead inexorably to the development of a single, unified standard.

Indeed precedent is hardly encouraging. If there is a happy ending, however, the seeming paradox is that it will be Jack Bolick and his letters that we have to thank. Is that what he intended all along?


Meanwhile, on Another Front

If you thought the agreement announced at Hanover Fair between the FDT Group and the EDDL Cooperation Team (ECT) to develop a common Field Device Integration (FDI) model would mark an end to name-calling and point-scoring between the respective advocates of the two technologies, then think again. Last month’s FDT Group User Forum in Antwerp heard the preliminary results of a study sponsored by WIB (Werkgroup voor Instrument Beoordeling), the Hague, Netherlands, based international association of automation end users, comparing the functionality of FDT/DTM and eEDDL for the integration of Foundation fieldbus devices. WIB commissioned Shell Global Solutions to perform the tests earlier this year, using a test set up comprising three different DCSs, three stand-alone tools and four field devices, all of which supported DD, eEDDL and DTM in various combinations.

The latest FDT Group newsletter reports that the initial conclusion is that FDT is “an intrinsically more powerful technology.” While both provide the data accessibility and functionality required to support commissioning of smart Foundation fieldbus devices, FDT/DTM offers extended functionality for both commissioning and maintenance, leading to a recommendation that FDT is the right platform for advanced applications and that users and vendors should not “try to stretch the capabilities of eEDDL to perform tasks for which it is not fit” but should “exploit the opportunities to implement intelligence in DTMs.” Quite where that leaves the FDI project is not made clear.


Emerson Steals HPS’ OneWireless Clothes

It’s little more than three months since Honeywell announced its OneWireless solution at its Honeywell User Group (HUG) meeting in Phoenix. OneWireless was, claimed HPS president Jack Bolick, the “the only wireless network a plant needs,” the implication being that users who were rash enough to adopt other vendors’ solutions, particularly those based on the then putative WirelessHART protocol, would rapidly find themselves having to manage a plethora of potentially conflicting wireless networks with unspecified, but undoubtedly dire results. While competitors’ names were scrupulously excluded from such utterances, it doesn’t take a genius to work out that the principle target of this approach has been Emerson, which has been selling its HART-based ‘Smart Wireless’ device networking solution since last autumn in North America and last January in Europe, although in quite what quantities is less than clear.

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.

Good Luck, Good Management

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.

Unified Wireless Architecture

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!


Embedded Solution Opens Up Wireless HART for All

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.


ARC Tags ABB as DCS Market Leader

ARC guards its market share data jealously as we’ve noted in previous years, but that hasn’t prevented ABB from trumpeting the news that its continued leadership of the global DCS market was confirmed in the latest “Distributed Control Systems Worldwide Outlook,” released last month. What ABB didn’t say, however, was that while, according to ARC, the worldwide DCS market grew by an unprecedented 14% between 2005 and 2006 to reach $13.4 billion, the word on the Houston street during the ISA Show—sorry Expo—was that its own growth failed to keep pace, with the result that its market share actually fell.

ARC research director, Larry O’Brien, conceded as much when he said, “The rapid growth of the DCS market and the battle for the installed base, make it no easy task for the market leader.” Nevertheless, as a result if its acquisition-fest of the late ’90s, ABB, says O’Brien, “continues to enjoy the largest installed base of any supplier, and is making key strides in evolving its installed base forward to its System 800xA platform.”

That evolution was in part responsible for ABB’s being able to claim back in August of this year that it had sold more than 3,100 Industrial IT 800xA systems, incorporating over 14,000 AC800M controllers, since the introduction of the new system back in January 2004. Nevertheless, the word is that competitors still see ABB’s installed base as the most vulnerable of all the DCS vendors’ to penetration, and indeed identify it as the main source of their own penetration.

But if ABB, despite being the leader, is the biggest loser in the DCS market share stakes, others will certainly count themselves winners. Arguably the most notable of these is Emerson which, so rumor has it, and despite a marginal increase, has finally caught Invensys in terms of global market share, albeit with Siemens snapping at its heels. Emerson, however, probably derives greater satisfaction from having overtaken Honeywell as North American market leader. Biggest gainer, although frustratingly still without moving up the pecking order, is Yokogawa, while we understand that Rockwell has for the first time moved on to the leader board, albeit with a share only a fifth of that of the next largest contender.


When Is a Safety User Not a Safety User?

When a press briefing is given by two safety system vendors and two consultants, even if one of them was until recently Head of Electrical and Control Systems at the U.K. Health & Safety Executive (HSE), you’d think it was stretching a point to describe it as a presentation from the “Safety Users Group.” And to an extent you’d be right. It’s true that the one group notably absent from the briefing in London in mid-September—other than the editor of INSIDER who was unaccountably on holiday—were actual users of safety systems, but that was no doubt primarily because of a reluctance on their part to discuss their own safety issues in any kind of open forum, least of all one which includes the press. That said, however, and with perhaps one notable exception, the presenters managed to avoid making any overly partisan pitches and to stick reasonably closely to the theme outlined by Safety Users Group founder and president Didier Turcinovic, which was to emphasize the business case, as against the more obvious scare-you-out-of-your-wits case, for safety.

Turcinovic’s argument is essentially that safety makes good business sense. He cites International Labour Organisation evidence that not only is there “no statistical evidence that economies with lower occupational health and safety standards are more competitive,” but that, on the contrary, “the safest countries also have the best competitiveness ratings.” Moreover, he sees a direct parallel with the way attitudes to quality changed after the introduction of ISO9000 in the 1990s, delivering not just improved quality but cost savings, reduced product returns, improved efficiency and fewer disputes arising from poor organization. Far from diminishing performance, he argues that what he calls a ‘holistic’ approach to safety will have similar long term benefits, providing not just a license to operate, but clear differentiation from the competition by exceeding the increasing expectations of society.

Star turn of the event without doubt was Ron Bell, formerly of the HSE and now of Ron Bell Consulting (RBC), but most significantly in this context, chair of one of the two IEC working groups which was responsible for developing IEC 61508 and now of one of the two teams revising it. Bell wasn’t above waking his audience up with some spectacular Buncefield photographs before taking them through a brisk whistle-stop tour of functional safety in general and IEC 61508 in particular, but his most telling comments related to HSE’s and, by implication other regulatory authorities’, attitude to IEC61508 and its future evolution. “HSE will use IEC 61508 as a reference standard for determining whether a reasonably practicable level of safety has been achieved when E/E/PE systems are used to carry out safety functions.” The extent to which it does so will, of course, depend on individual circumstance, but in the specific case of the process and machinery sectors, “IEC 61511 and IEC 62061 will be used as reference standards for the process sector and for machinery respectively.”

Demand for complex safety systems can only increase, in line with increasing regulatory pressure. With ever more complex supply chains, the future focus will increasingly be on the organizational and personal competence of all those in the supply chain, with particular attention being paid to risk based approaches to the determination of system safety performance and to the performance and compliance of legacy systems.

On the specific subject of the revision of IEC61508, Bell said that the aim has been to ensure that any changes would add real value and that any perceived benefits would be balanced against their economic cost to users and, particularly, to organizations that have already invested in the current standard. Key issues considered in the revision of Parts 1 and 2 included the use of the concept of ‘Systematic Capability’ and the vexed question of safety manuals for compliant items. In the latter case, it is proposed that suppliers of products who claim compliance with the standard will have to provide a safety manual for each compliant item for which they claim compliance and document a justification for all the information in it.

Significantly there are also proposals to require malevolent and unauthorized actions to be considered during hazard and risk analysis, although actual security policies are seen as being outside the scope of the standard. Instead references to more authoritative security standards will be made.


Professionally Developed Toolkit for Cyber Crime

Latest edition of cyber security specialist Symantec’s biannual Internet Security Threat Report (ISTR) reveals cyber criminals becoming ever more professional and commercial in the development, distribution and use of malicious code and services. ISTR Volume XII, which covers the six months from January 1 to June 30, 2007, specifically reports an increase in cyber criminals leveraging sophisticated toolkits to carry out malicious attacks. It quotes the example of MPack, which is described as “a professionally developed toolkit sold in the underground economy.” Purchasers of MPack are able to deploy a collection of software components to install malicious code on computers around the world and then monitor the success of the attack through various metrics on its online, password-protected control and management console.

Symantec also cites MPack as an example of the previously reported growing trend towards coordinated attacks in which cyber criminals deploy a combination of malicious activities.

ISTR highlights an increase in the number of multi-staged attacks over the reporting period. These consist of an initial attack that is not itself intended to perform malicious activities immediately, but is used to deploy subsequent attacks. One such example is a “staged downloader” that allows attackers to change the downloadable component to any type of threat that suits their objective.

A total of 28 of the top 50 malicious code samples observed in the period were staged downloaders, one example being Peacomm Trojan, which is mostly known as Storm Worm. This staged downloader was also the most widely reported new malicious code family during the reporting period.

“In the last several Internet Security Threat Reports, Symantec discussed a significant shift in attackers motivated from fame to fortune,” said Symantec Security Response and Managed Services senior vice president Arthur Wong. “The Internet threats and malicious activity we are currently tracking demonstrate that hackers are taking this trend to the next level bymaking cyber crime their actual profession, and they are employing businesslike practices to successfully accomplish this goal.”

The ISTR data comes from more than 40,000 sensors deployed in more than 180 countries as well as a database of more than 22,000 vulnerabilities affecting more than 50,000 technologies from more than 8,000 vendors.


Avery Weigh-Tronix Exits Retail to Focus on Industry

Birmingham, U.K.-based industrial and retail weighing specialist Avery Weigh-Tronix has sold its food retail weighing business, Avery Berkel, to Glenview, Ill.-based ITW (Illinois Tool Works) Inc. The sale comes almost exactly a year after Avery Weigh-Tronix itself was the subject of a management-buyout backed with Euro 123m of funding from private equity fund European Capital.

The divested company will continue to trade as Avery Berkel and will continue to be based at the same headquarters as Avery Weigh-Tronix in Smethwick near Birmingham. Heading up the new entity is John Watson, formerly the head of Avery Berkel U.K. and Avery Berkel North America. Some 300 people in the U.K. and a further 150 worldwide have transferred to the new company, which has operations in Ireland, France, Germany, Austria and the U.S., as well as selling its products through distributors in other parts of the world.

Divesting the retail operation will allow “Avery Weigh-Tronix to focus on manufacturing, selling and servicing weighing technology for our key customers,” explained Avery Weigh-Tronix CEO Jerry Bowe. “We have always worked in partnership with our industrial customers, but now we can now focus solely on their needs and gear our research and development to helping them become more efficient.”

The divestment comes at a time when the company is introducing a number of new products and solutions including onboard weighing technology using digital load cells and new software solutions. Avery Weigh-Tronix has manufacturing facilities in the U.K., U.S., Canada, Malaysia,
India and China and counts Heinz, Premier Foods, Glaxo Smithkline, Tarmac, Aggregate Industries and UPS among its customers.


ARC Monopoly on Automation Space May Be Waning

A quote from an ARC analyst has long been mandatory for any press release announcing a new automation product, solution or service. Now however, it’s beginning to look as if ARC’s monopoly of this sector might be under threat. With the convergence of the IT and automation worlds in the MES space, some vendors are beginning to look elsewhere for their endorsements. Californian MES specialist Incuity, for example, quotes not just one, but two AMR Research analysts in the press release announcing the latest versionof its IncuityEMI business intelligence product.

Version 2.5 now offers point and click configuration of the Unified Production Model, SQL Server Stored Procedure access to all connected control and business data sources and enhanced internal “Incuity” tags to simplify integration of manually entered data. Commenting on the new release, Alison Smith, senior research analyst at AMR Research, says, “Traditional BI systems are good at contextualizing summary transaction data, but fall short with high-resolution, real-time data. Adding intelligence in manufacturing involves higher resolution data, which requires data/object models that can accurately reflect each manufacturing operation within the enterprise.”

Meanwhile, presumably with a weather eye on existing and potential investors, Laura McCaughey, who is managing director of something called the AMR Research Investment Research Strategies Group, says “Manufacturing operations intelligence is a critical decision support tool that is rapidly becoming a necessity for global companies trying to balance profitable manufacturing practices against variability in their supply base and in their target markets. Incuity is going after the operations intelligence market, which is just starting to heat up, and it has early mover advantage. The company understands the problems that its clients are trying to solve and can speak the language of the space they’re going after.” Which, presumably means, when translated, “Don’t just buy the product; buy the company.”

Come on ARC, time to look to your laurels!


Invensys’ Sees First Fruits of Its Cimnet Acquisition

The first fruits of Invensys’ acquisition of MES software developer Cimnet have emerged in the form of a new release of Wonderware’s Equipment Performance Module (EPM) or, for those who can cast their minds back to pre System Platform days, what used to be called DT Analyst.

This latest version, EPM 2.0, is built on Cimnet’s Factelligence technology and is said to combine “ArchestrA industrial service-oriented architecture technology with the latest InTouch 10.0 Human Machine Interface (HMI) and System Platform 3.0 software.” If that sounds something of a tautology that’s probably because we were being told at last month’s launch that both InTouch 10.0 and System Platform 3.0 were themselves based on ArchestrA.

Be that as it may, the results are claimed to be significantly enhanced capabilities, including the ability to correlate equipment performance metrics, such as downtime or OEE, with broader MES functions including formula management, process history, product traceability and genealogy and statistical process control. Other claimed benefits include “vivid graphical visualization of equipment performance” and expanded capabilities for localization and internationalization. Integration with System Platform 3.0 is also claimed to allow the combination of a flexible plant application model with the Factelligence production model.

One result of the launch of System Platform 3.0 and InTouch 10.0 had seemed to be a clarification of the relationship between them. That new clarity doesn’t seem to have filtered through to the marketing team, however. Witness the following from marketing program manager Claus Abildgren: “Within a few short months, Wonderware has been able to integrate Factelligence technology from the recent Cimnet acquisition, proven ArchestrA technology and the newest generation of InTouch 10.0 HMI visualization software to create a superior performance management solution for our customers.”

If that doesn’t confuse you over what is or is not the difference between InTouch and System
Platform and of their relationship to ArchestrA then the next part of the release, which says “Wonderware is offering complete software solution bundles that include EPM 2.0, System Platform 3.0 and InTouch 10.0 HMI,” probably will—surely that “and” should be an “or.” Still, confused or otherwise, current Wonderware Factelligence, DT Analyst and EPM 1.0 customers will be relieved to hear that they will continue to be supported on their current software releases and will be able to expand their solutions with future versions of both Factelligence and EPM.

Also newly announced by Wonderware are four new DA Servers, designed and tested to support the Omron FINS Serial, FINS Ethernet, HostLink Serial and E5 Series protocols for communicating with a variety of Omron PLCs and temperature controllers.


Invensys on the Move

Word reaches us that Invensys Process Systems is moving its headquarters from the eponymous Foxboro, Massachusetts, to Texas. In doing so IPS is following in the footsteps of fellow process automation vendors Yokogawa and most recently ABB. However, whereas they have both transferred their HQs to the heart of the U.S. oil and gas, petrochem and contracting industries, Houston, IPS is moving to Dallas. That seemingly perverse decision becomes less so when one recalls that IPS president Paulett Eberhart spent more than 25 years with Dallas-based EDS before joining IPS and, according to JimPinto’s Invensys weblog, allegedly still owns property close by. Mike Caliel, whose resignation as IPS president was attributed in part to the strain placed on his family by his regular weekly commute from Houston to Foxboro, must be wondering why he didn’t think of that.

Further news on the Pinto grapevine is of Lance Vandenbrook, managing director of APV Americas, who is said also to be on his way to Dallas to become vice president of sales for IPS. Vandenbrook is credited in some quarters with having turned things around for APV in the U.S. but, to judge by the Pinto blog, is not exactly universally admired!

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