HART 7: and what do _I_ think?

This is a most distressing development. It is, however, not unexpected. As I blogged back in June at Honeywell User Group, Honeywell clearly had decided to be in non-support of WirelessHART, even though Tom Phinney, the recently retired Honeywell Fellow, was one of the principal authors. For me, what matters is what is good for the end users. I have great difficulty understanding how what I firmly believe to be an unnecessary public conflict is going to do anything but delay and reduce the adoption of wireless technologies by the process industries. I have spoken to several major end users... and they echo my sentiments. I want to be crystal clear about this: it is essential that WirelessHART be compatible with ISA100.11a, when that standard is written. TO THE BEST OF MY KNOWLEDGE AND BELIEF, THERE IS NO INHERENT REASON AS EACH STANDARD CURRENTLY STANDS, FOR THIS NOT TO HAPPEN EASILY. Jack Bolick's letter indicates that the ISA100 standard and the WirelessHART standard will be coming out at approximately the same time. As a member of SP100, and having just completed editing the Control HART Supplement, I am reasonably sure that the ISA standard will be at least 6-10 months behind the HART standard, not "in a similar time frame," as Jack's letter noted. Does this mean I'm coming out AGAINST SP100? Of course not. Does this mean I'm coming out FOR WirelessHART? Well, no to that, too. What I DO know, after 35+ years of mostly marketing and sales experience in this industry is that while the end-users want a standards based approach to wireless, they all understand that HART is also a standard...and they have a huge investment in HART. What I know is that the end-user community is incredibly risk-averse, and highly resistant to overarching grand plans... like the SP100 "one big network." I know this, even though intellectually, I agree wholeheartedly that the future of wireless in the plant demands the kind of architecture that SP100 is designing. As I said in a recent editorial, whether I like it or not, the likely behavior of the end-user community is to try out WirelessHART in order to get their feet wet. It is up to the HART Foundation and the SP100 committee to get their collective act together while this happens, so that we CAN move forward to the kind of network architecture we really need for the future. I feel compelled to note that the membership of the HART Foundation reflects most of the same people who are writing the SP100 standard... so it ought not to be hard to get the left-brain to talk to the right-brain. Or is it? If Honeywell feels strongly enough for Jack Bolick to have taken this unprecedented step, we probably ought to discuss things. And finally, I sincerely hope that everyone sees Jack's letter as an attempt to encourage that discussion, not as a FUD bomb.