Wireless Compliance Institute Gears Up for ISA100 Products

The commercialization of products based on the ISA100.11a wireless standard took several steps forward at the ARC World Industry Forum this week in Orlando. "ISA100.11a is unique," said GE's Justin Smith to a gathering of industry media, "because its requirements were determined by end users in an open consensus process, with 23 of 24 end-users voting to approve the standard."

"We wanted something that could be enhanced and customized to the needs of every site," said ExxonMobil's Pat Schweitzer and committee co-chair. "Some criticize its flexibility, but that's actually its strength."

"As major process automation product vendors, we are enthusiastically committed to the ISA100.11a industrial wireless standard," continued GE's Smith, reading an open letter to industry signed by a range of suppliers including Apprion, Fuji Electric, Honeywell, GE, Nivis, R3 Sensors, Yamatake and Yokogawa.

"We are making significant investments to develop ISA100.11a-based products that will be available in 2010," Smith said. "We are excited about implementing the ISA100.11a standard as a technology that works as designed, creating the foundation for an extensible, scalable and flexible industrial communications platform for the future."

An important milestone in the commercialization of ISA100.11a is the establishment of the ISA100 Wireless Compliance Institute (WCI), which is charged with ensuring that ISA100 products comply with the standard and interoperate as intended. "Integration kits are available now, and we've already sold 40 of them, indicating high supplier interest," said Andrew Ristaino, managing director of the Automation Standards Compliance Institute, the ISA umbrella organization that includes WCI.

It is expected that products compliant with the standard will be available from a range of suppliers in the second half of 2010.

Notably, ISA100.11a as approved does not accommodate the already commercialized WirelessHART protocol. "ISA100.11a is extensible--it has the hooks and handles for the WirelessHART protocol or other protocols such Profibus or Foundation fieldbus to run within a single ISA100.11a wireless network," Kaufman said.

Indeed, an ISA100.12 committee already has been formed to look at convergence issues between ISA100 and WirelessHART. And with key committee members and suppliers together in Orlando for the ARC Forum, "There will be a lot of work going on this week," Kaufman said.