Wireless-- something interesting from Nivis! Or is it?

I've just received the following press release from Nivis. I'm going to let the release speak for itself, but after you've read it, read down for some commentary and some questions the release raises.

Nivis Releases World's First ISA100.11a Integration Kit

Atlanta, Ga -July 15, 2009 - Nivis LLC, the world's leading developer and integrator of wireless network technologies, is announcing the release of the world's first ISA100.11a Integration Kit. The ISA100.11a Integration Kit will start shipping immediately.

The ISA100.11a standard is designed to efficiently and effectively communicate to any legacy instrument or host system, including HART, FOUNDATION Fieldbus, Modbus, Profibus and others, making it truly the 4-20ma standard of the wireless world. It is also the one wireless standard with the built-in flexibility to address most wireless applications in a single, plant-wide industrial wireless system.

The ISA100.11a Integration Kit will act as a complete end-to-end system which includes a Backbone Router, Gateway, System Manager and Security Manager processes. The system will provide wireless monitoring and control over industrial and commercial applications with a standards based, highly reliable network.

The Nivis system architecture supports ISA100.11a, WirelessHART or both protocol stacks simultaneously.

Last year Nivis was the first to market with an Evaluation Kit based on the ISA100.11a 2008 draft standard. This year Nivis is once again the leader in the industry with the release of the ISA100.11a Integration Kit, which allows users, integrators, and OEMs to quickly integrate their application to the ISA100.11a standard.

The kit also provides customers the ability to evaluate the performance of the ISA100.11a stack. Nivis is also in the process of implementing a solution for existing WirelessHART standards. "We are eager to share with customers the exciting progress we've made toward implementing a joint solution for low-cost communication based on the ISA100.11a standard for 2009 as well as the WirelessHART standard," Marius Chilom, Nivis' Chief Executive Officer, declared. "The flexibility of the Nivis stacks allows integration with both WirelessHART and ISA100.11a devices. That's innovative and exactly what the marketplace is asking for. We have a system that will support two different protocols and our network integrates both types of devices wirelessly. The ISA100.11a Kit is available for purchase today, while the WirelessHART version should be available in late October of this year."

And now for some questions. The kit (which, if you read the fine print ONLY covers ISA100.11a devices) is shipping today. Does that mean it has passed WCI certification? If it did, how is that possible? WCI doesn't have a standard to certify to.

The ISA100.11a standard is still not approved.  In fact, the ISA Standards and Practices Board is hearing a challenge to the approval ballot that has not yet been resolved. There are many technical comments that must be still resolved, even though the majority of voting members voted to "approve with comments." Approve with comments didn't mean go right ahead-- it meant iron out the problems so we CAN move forward.

What this means is that there probably won't be ISA100.11a products that are Wireless Compliance Institute certified (which is the plan, and the standard was written to demand this) for another four to six months.

I would have asked if the WirelessHART portion of their product had passed HCF certification, but since they don't have that for sale, it is pointless to ask. WirelessHART, too, is hung up in certification and there are NO WirelessHART HCF-certified products for sale yet, although there are some getting close.

Folks, I'm not on anyone's side in this clusterdance, except the end users. And frankly, I'm getting really tired of getting puffery, flackery and vaporware from companies.  This isn't aimed at Nivis, who, heaven knows has worked hard to get to this point, but at the entire group of people making wireless field sensor networks.

Talk about what you have, and how to use it, folks. The end users are getting bored, and discount half of everything you say.

 My surveys indicate that close to 30% of end users say that they don't care anymore what standard, as long as it works when they turn it on. Proprietary standards are still tracking with higher sales by far than "consensus standards" like ISA100.11a and WirelessHART.