Truthiness Clarified! More on ISA100.11a #pauto #ISA #wireless

Sept. 28, 2011

On Friday, 9/16, I posted a blog critical of ISA’s press release issued that day about ISA100.11a. You can read the blog post here:

On Friday, 9/16, I posted a blog critical of ISA’s press release issued that day about ISA100.11a. You can read the blog post here:

I have been contacted privately by an ISA staff member, who pointed out what that staff member felt were significant errors and misinformation that I had provided to my readers about the press release and what it really means.

The staff member asked me to post what that person considered the “correct information.”

I will not disclose who that staff member is since the ISA staff member declined to let me post their comment. But since the staff member appeared to not be clear on some of the points I made, I’ve decided to write this clarification.

So here we go.

Frankly, I don’t think I posted any misinformation, but in the interest of scrupulous fairness, I am going to try to clarify some issues.

1. IEC PAS vs. IEC Standard

In my opinion, the ISA press release deliberately conflated two IEC processes. In general, the first step in the approval of a standard by IEC is to publish the standard as a PAS (publicly available specification). The approval process for publishing a PAS is generally a rubber stamp. The ISA100.11a standard was approved unanimously for publication as a PAS.

This is a far cry from being approved by IEC as a standard, such as IEC62591-WirelessHART, or others. The ISA press release sought to imply that ISA100.11a was now an IEC standard. I stand by my statement that it is not. Not yet. It may likely be an IEC Standard one day, and when it is, I will post that information.

2. ANSI-accredited open consensus standard

The ISA press release makes use of that term repeatedly to differentiate the ISA100 standard making process from the HART, Profibus, Foundation Fieldbus, etc. standard making processes.

ISA is an ANSI-accredited standards body, and is supposed to follow ANSI-accredited procedures. I, along with several other voting members of ISA100 have been repeatedly challenging ISA that they are not following those processes. ISA has denied our challenges repeatedly, and in increasingly strong language. In my opinion, ISA is wrong.

The ISA staff member noted that these challenges seem to be emanating from a small group of vendors. This is not true. For one thing, I am not a vendor. The heart of the open consensus standards process is that voting members are expected to do more than echo the desires of their management. Every one of the voting members of ISA100 has done that, over and over. It is only the ones who are unhappy with the way the rules have been manipulated who are bad.

And just because ISA denies wrongdoing doesn’t make the challengers wrong.

But more importantly, the entire ISA100 process isn’t open. There is a private company, wholly owned by ISA, called the Wireless Compliance Institute. This company produces the testing protocols and conducts the testing of devices to make sure they are in compliance with the standard.  By itself, this isn’t bad or strange. Except that while you can buy the testing protocols from most other standards bodies without joining the club, WCI has decided that their testing protocols and their refinements to the ISA100 standard are not available to anyone except members of WCI.

That’s not open.

Furthermore, it isn’t even how other ISA-owned compliance institutes are run. ISCI, the security compliance institute that has produced the much-honored ISASECURE designation and test modalities reports back to the ISA99 committee at regular intervals and has made requests for changes to the standard based on their efforts, through the standard ANSI-accredited open process.

WCI doesn’t do that.

So, the point I made about the ISA100 process being just as open as HCF or Profibus User Organization, or BACnet, or others is quite valid. It should be open, but it isn’t.

I made a point about the fact that the ISA standard has not yet been submitted to ANSI, and that it was submitted to the IEC through Canada. I questioned why ISA hadn’t gone through the open process at ANSI. The ISA staff member replied by saying that ANSI had given ISA permission to do that. Perhaps that’s true, but it still doesn’t answer the question I raised: why not go through the normal channels at ANSI?

The staff member pointed out that the HCF had submitted WirelessHART to the IEC through Switzerland, as if that was an excuse for ISA to do it through Canada. However, HCF isn’t an ANSI-accredited standards body, and isn’t obligated to submit through ASCI. My opinion is that ISA is obligated to do that.  I’d be happy to have ANSI tell me I’m wrong.

3. Integrity

The ISA staff member stated that I was taking the positions I have on the ISA100 committee because a particular vendor was a large advertiser. Since a vendor on the other side of this issue is an even larger advertiser, and every single one of the five largest vendors in this space have asked for me to get fired at least once in my tenure here as Editor in Chief, I think it is pretty clear that I am an equal opportunity offender, and I “calls ‘em as I sees ‘em.”

The ISA staff member said that it appeared that the “small group of vendors” was somehow exploiting the open consensus process to delay the approval of ISA100 for competitive advantage. Again, the integrity of anybody who dares to criticize ISA is called into question.

This kind of thing has been going on for years now, not only about my stance on ISA100.

When they gave me this bully pulpit, they told me my mission was to speak on behalf of the end-user community. I have not deviated from my mission. I will not deviate from my mission.

I think my integrity stands on its own.

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