Standards FUD

While the SP100 committee (or those of us that could afford to take a week, and $10,000 to do it) meets in Chongqing, China, ISA today sent out a press release extolling something that may or may not have happened interoperability demonstration of ISA100.11a instruments in China. "Today, the ISA100 Wireless Compliance Institute, with the support of General Electric, Honeywell, and Nivis, demonstrated prototype ISA100.11a wireless standard-based products in the ISA100 booth at the 2008 International Industrial Wireless Conference." Since there isn't even a draft standard, I am puzzled how this could be prototype standards-based products. "This demonstration is the basis of our alpha test bed for the ISA100 Wireless Compliance Institute," said Andre Ristaino, Managing Director of the Automation Standards Compliance Institute in which the ISA100 Wireless Compliance Institute operates. We're thus to assume that ISA100 Wireless Compliance Institute has a test bed for a standard whose first draft hasn't emerged from the ISA100.11a Task Group, and won't even be voted on until later this week. Isn't that the cart before the horse? Now here's where this release goes off into serious flights of fantasy. "Since the design of the standard is nearly done, it was time to test in a live setting. Our discoveries from this effort will be used to further solidify the technology and ensure that users get a very robust standard." I find this more than a bit ingenuous, since, as I've said three times, there is NO standard that the ISA100 committee has voted on...not even a draft. We have a principles of operation document, about which there is some disagreement, still. We have a draft 1.0 version of ISA100.11a which is about to be voted out of the Task Group for comment-- and then it needs to go back into the Task Group for revision. After at least one trip around that wheel, it will be voted out of the Task Group and presented to the entire commitee as a final draft for comment...and at least once around _that_ wheel it will go. We are hoping that a final vote on the ISA100.11a standard will take place in October at the ISA Expo. It may be delayed further, depending on what happens in the comment review cycles. But to say that the design of the standard is nearly done just isn't so, and is just more FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) that is being pumped into the marketplace to confuse the end users. This is distressful, especially since I've spent 30 years as an ISA member and most of those as a volunteer leader with, among other Departments, the Standards and Practices Department. This ANSI-accredited standards making body is not well served by press releases that make statements that are, shall we say, just a little ahead of themselves. This is especially distressing since the men and women involved in creating the ISA100 standards are devoting substantial time and talent, and doing much good work. It is a shame that we can't talk about what we ARE doing, instead of FUD.