The high spot of Honeywell Process Solutions (HPS) recent User Group meeting in Phoenix was the release of what it claims is the process industries first mesh network with ISA100-ready hardware. Embodied in the latest release of its OneWireless offering, the network will, it is claimed, be easily upgraded to the ISA100.11a standard when it is completed, through an over-the-air software update.
Quite when that will be needed, and how it will affect vendors who have already backed the WirelessHART protocol, remains uncertain. The first letter ballot on ISA100.11a began on May 5 and closed on June 3, and the next full meeting of the committee was scheduled for the first week of August. The committees development schedule, as published on its website, anticipates final publication in November of this year.
Commenting on the new release of OneWireless, HPS vice president of strategy and global marketing, Harsh Chitale, said that Manufacturers have been asking for a secure and reliable multi-functional wireless network that can handle the thousands of devices they use within their plants. Until now, the only way to do so was with proprietary systems. The ISA100.11a standard will allow OneWireless users to achieve this vision using a standards-based network.
Whether Chitale is implying that WirelessHART, approved by the HART Foundation in September 2007, is a proprietary standard is unclear, although other Honeywell spokespersons have in the past said as much. However, there are signs of a softening of the position on HART, with the latest OneWireless release expanding the interface capabilities to support the HART protocol. In particular, it enables any of Honeywells XYR 6000 transmitters to communicate with existing HART-enabled applications, including asset management applications, such as Honeywells Field Device Manager, in the same manner as with a conventional wired HART device. At the same time the XYR 6000 range of wireless transmitters has been extended with the introduction of a new digital input device.
Meanwhile the WirelessHART camp is not resting on its laurels. Dust Networks Steve Toteda told INSIDER that the recent HCF meeting in Turin, Italy, officially released the 7.1 version of WirelessHART. Dust, says Toteda, plans to release a beta version of its production hardware and software compliant with this new version in the first week of August and to be in full production in early September.
That, he suggests, will enable a number of vendors to have WirelessHART products on their booths at the ISA show in October and By the time Interkama rolls around, I would expect the major vendors of the automation world each to have WirelessHART products in the market.
One of those will almost certainly be ABB which, according to a briefing it gave ARC, is initially planning to offer wireless adapters and gateways to connect its existing installed base of HART instruments to its AssetMaster asset management system and the 800xA DCS and, starting in 2009, to roll out field devices with embedded wireless modules.