Missing the bus...PTO vs FF: just how does this help end users?

In the latest edition of "Profinews" (North American Edition) dated 19 March 2008, but published last night, editor Carl Henning awarded what he called the "2008 Golden Polly Award" to Rich Timoney, president and CEO of the Fieldbus Foundation. In the article, Henning referred to a document that the Fieldbus Foundation published, called "Choosing the Right Technology for a Digital Automation Architecture" by Rich Timoney himself. Both documents say really nasty things about each other's technology, while applying a liberal layer of FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt). Many of the things both documents claim are absolutely true, which makes it even harder for the poor, simple end users who only want to make their plants run better, to figure out what's foam and what's liquid in the mix. This has, truly unfortunately, been going on for the better part of two decades (!!!) now, and has left a terrible and lasting bad taste in the mouths of end users worldwide. Many of them have decided long ago to invest in neither technology, and stick with the venerable 4-20 mADC wired technology, with a HART overlay. How do I know this? Frankly, the market does not lie. There are at least 26 million HART devices installed and shipping right now. Using the most liberal counts, there are, respectively, 800,000 Foundation Fieldbus devices installed and shipping, and somewhere between 16 and 18 million Profibus/Profinet devices that have shipped. This kind of disparity, over a very long time base, simply says that the users aren't convinced. I assert that the major reason for this is infighting between the bus purveyors. It would be nice if PTO and the Foundation would call a truce in the mudslinging-- and mean it. The salutory lesson is clear for the emerging wireless standard, too. If, as seems likely at this writing, the ISA100 standard that will be released sometime between the end of this year and the middle of next year, does not clearly provide for incorporation of the existing WirelessHART standard, we'll be right back in the middle of the bus wars-- except this time it will be the wireless bus. Many leading end user companies have already decided to do the same thing with wireless that they've done with fieldbus. They've decided to ignore the war, and continue with older, tried and true technology. In many cases, this means they won't use wireless field devices at all, regardless of the obvious benefits. In most cases, if they are going to use wireless at all, they've decided to go with WirelessHART for their field devices, because of its complete backward compatibility with their existing device base, and use 802.11x and WiMAX for their other wireless connectivity needs on the plant floor. George Santayana was right. "Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

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  • In this one end-user's opinion, you have hit the nail on the head Walt.

    The only thing I might add to your assessment is this: the 4-20 mA standard is an old, fundamental standard. It is based upon very simple things which are easy to diagnose. The problem with either Profibus, Fieldbus, ISA-100 or what have you is that they're not easy to explain to a technician, nor is testing a straightforward thing you can do with a mere DVM.

    People often use the digital nature of these protocols as an excuse to add on features and complexity.

    Keep It Simple, Stupid!

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