IOM Rrekindles User and Staff Enthusiasm

Invensys Operations Management (IOM)'s decision to once again schedule its North American Client Conference just a week before Emerson Process Management's Global Users Exchange was always going to invite comparisons, some of which have in the past been little better than odorous. Last year the same juxtaposition served only to highlight the growing disarray under then-president Paulett Eberhart at what was then called Invensys Process Systems, even when set against the background of the imminent collapse of the international financial system. This year, however, despite the anticipation generated by the widely trailed forthcoming launch of the DeltaV S-series, IOM seems to have succeeded in generating some real excitement of its own.

Energy

Automation World's Gary Mintchell, admittedly something of a cheer leader for the Invensys cause, blogged of an atmosphere "charged with energy" and of IOM employees "uniformly enthused with their new roles and outlook." True, he subsequently acknowledged at least one contradictory voice, and it has to be said that there have been any number of false dawns in recent years, but there does seem little doubt that the new regime under former Wonderware boss Sudipta Bhattacharya was well received by both clients and Invensys' own people.

With much of the new structure and many of the key roles only decided days before the event, it was perhaps not surprising that a significant proportion of the time was spent explaining the new organization and spelling out the long term strategy. For the journalists and analysts, that task was left to two ex-Wonderware beneficiaries of the new dispensation, Rashesh Mody, now vice president, portfolio and strategy, and Mark Davidson, now vice president, global marketing. They described IOM's new vision as centring on its ability to enable clients to optimize their operations. That however doesn't mean addressing the MES and enterprise levels at the expense of measurement and control. "We believe automation and controls are the foundation," said Davidson. "If you don't get those things right, you can't do optimization."

Clearly one objective will be the elimination of duplication and the exploitation of synergies. Hence the intention to create a single unified automation platform or, as Davidson put it, "a common platform from very small systems to the very large." How far that concept can extend across the combined Foxboro, Triconex, Wonderware, and Eurotherm portfolios remains to be seen. The vision, however, is of that common platform supporting "loosely coupled, but tightly aligned" applications, which in turn provide the basis for developing solutions for specific vertical markets. That, says Mody, "is where Invensys' domain expertise and that of our partners comes into play." Those markets cover the full spectrum targeted by the former constituent companies and brands, but Mody sees particular opportunities for exploiting IOM's InFusion technology in hybrid industries, which, he says, are currently "our strongest, fastest growth area."

Back to the Knitting?

Ever since InFusion was launched back in 2006 as the first "Enterprise Control System," there's been confusion over the implications for the Invensys DCS business. Perhaps to dispel any suspicion that it might be about to turn its back on the DCS, much of the technological focus was on I/A and, hence, on Betty Naylor-McDevitt, variously described as DCS business director and director of marketing. "We want to focus on being the best controls company," said Naylor-McDevitt, who explained that product line simplification would mean fewer products to support and fewer to maintain. Perhaps surprisingly, for those who recall the 2006 message that whatever InFusion was, it wasn't a DCS, she went on to explain that the ultimate objective, albeit some way off, was that "InFusion View will be our only HMI, InFusion Historian will be our only historian, InFusion System Manager will be our only system manager." All of which suggests that InFusion the brand, if not necessarily the original concept, is morphing into a generic brand for IOM systems, a development which, given that InFusion is essentially the process industry implementation of Wonderware System Platform, will be seen by some as further evidence of the "Wonderwarization" of Invensys.

Bundles of Functionality

Naylor-McDevitt envisages scalable product lines which will enable bundles of functionality to be matched to customers' needs at specific price points while partnering with other companies to provide additional capabilities. More immediately however I/A Series version 8.5, scheduled for release in January 2010, will include significant Foundation fieldbus and cyber security enhancements while, later in the year, IOM plans support for Windows 7 and Server 2008, leapfrogging Vista and providing multiprocessor, multicore support.

  • The Foundation fieldbus enhancements to I/A scheduled for release next January focus on Control In the Field (CIF) and build on the system's having passed the Foundation's Host Interoperability Support Test last August. New functionality to speed and simplify such operations as downloads and device commissioning, loop building and function block scheduling, and setting up devices for backup link active scheduling "eliminates the complexity which, for many, has been a barrier to making the most of control in the field, and for that matter, Foundation fieldbus," explained senior development program manager Charlie Piper.

    Specifically, the user can choose whether to implement function blocks in the field devices, in the DCS or both. Users interact with a consistent set of standard or custom blocks while standard and custom templates reduce engineering time. Delays in responding to operator changes when remoting PID function blocks to field devices are minimized by caching all standard parameters in the I/A Series control processor.

    Implemented in parallel with InFusion Field Device Manager, which handles both FDT and EDDL based devices, Invensys CIF is seen as creating a common device configuration, commissioning and maintenance environment.
  • IOM's virtual reality Immersive Training Simulator or ITS, previewed as a prototype in Abu Dhabi in 2008 and launched in Paris in January 2009, made its North American debut at last month's Houston Client Conference. In the interim it has acquired a new name, EYESim, whose derivation remains unclear. At the time of the Paris launch IPS, as it then was, talked of having four major global clients for the system in addition to the pioneering implementation at Total's Normandy refinery and another 15 or 20 in the pipeline. 
  • IOM has confirmed that it has signed an agreement to provide its clients with system documentation and configuration management tools and services using on Houston based PAS' newly introduced Integrity software. "A back-documentation and 'where-used' facility for our Foxboro I/A Series, InFusion and Triconex systems is a high priority for our customers," explained Betty Naylor-McDevitt. "Integrity allows us to provide a scope of offerings from simple system documentation to robust configuration management and full mapping of the breadth of systems installed in our customers' plants."

ISA-100.11a Wins Formal ISA Approval

The ISA-100.11a wireless standard, "Wireless Systems for Industrial Automation: Process Control and Related Applications," has become an official ISA Standard, following a vote of the ISA Standards & Practices Board (S&P). The vote endorses the final approval of the ISA-100 committee in July of this year and clears the way for the standard to be submitted to the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) for approval as an ANSI standard, and to the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) for consideration as an international standard.

The ISA approval comes almost exactly two years after the official release of the HART 7 specification, which included the rival WirelessHART. However ISA-100.11a has a significantly wider scope than WirelessHART and aims to provide reliable and secure wireless operation for non-critical monitoring, alerting, supervisory control, open- loop control and closed-loop control applications. It defines the protocol suite, system management, gateway and security specifications for low-data-rate wireless connectivity with fixed, portable, and moving devices, addressing the performance needs of applications such as monitoring and process control with latencies of the order of 100ms or, optionally, less.

Coexistence

As ISA-100 co-chair Pat Schweitzer of ExxonMobil stressed, particular attention has also been paid to the issue of coexistence with other wireless devices. "... the ISA-100.11a standard provides robustness in the presence of interference found in harsh industrial environments and with legacy non-ISA-100 compliant wireless systems," he explained, citing the potential threats posed by devices such as cell phones and devices based on other standards.

Approval of the standard was followed closely by the announcement of the election of Dan Sheflin of Honeywell and Dr. Penny Chen of Yokogawa as, respectively, chairman and vice-chairman of the ISA100 Wireless Compliance Institute. Sheflin is vice president of Advanced Technology at Honeywell Automation and Control Solutions (ACS) while Chen is a principal systems architect at the Yokogawa Industry Automation Global Strategic Technology Marketing Center in the US. She is also currently co-chair of the ISA100.15 Wireless Backhaul Backbone Network Working Group.

Honeywell has been arguably the most vociferous supporter of ISA 100.11a, and most active opponent of WirelessHART, its former president Jack Bolick having actively canvassed in an attempt to prevent release of the WirelessHART specification. Yokogawa, by contrast, had tended to steer a middle course supporting both contenders, but appeared to come down firmly on the ISA100 side last year when Yokogawa Europe's field networks marketing manager Henk van der Bent described the Yokogawa position as being that there should only be one standard. "On the system side we will have to support both, but on the product side we will only support ISA 100," he said at last year's Yokogawa European User Conference.

Convergence

Meanwhile, what of the prospects of eventual convergence of WirelessHART and ISA 100.11a, as envisaged back in 2007 when the ISA and the HART Communications Foundation (HCF) agreed to collaborate on investigating ways to incorporate WirelessHART into the ISA standard? As it happened, Chen was one of three presenters participating in last month's webinar from WINA (Wireless Industrial Networking Alliance) entitled ,"Wireless and Your DCS - Are You Ready?" her fellow presenters being Hesh Kagan, director of technology for new business development at Invensys Operations Management, and Jeff Becker, global wireless business director at Honeywell Process Solutions. Asked by a subscriber what they believed were the prospects for convergence between the two standards, Chen responded that she thought that ,"Convergence will be very hard," while Becker, stressing that it was a personal view, said that ,"I don't think it makes sense to do that even if you could." Kagan, more pragmatically, said that, "I do believe in meeting your customer's needs," and predicted the rapid emergence of a multitude of gateways and other devices to enable networks based on the two standards to coexist within the same environment. That said, his own preference was clearly for ISA 100.11 which, he said, in contrast to WirelessHART, provides "a lot of headroom," for the development of a much wider range of potential applications.

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