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What about Wireless HART?

April 21, 2006
Ron Helson, Executive Director of the HART Communications Foundation agrees that the HART Wireless Working Group has run aground, at least temporarily, and he said, during a discussion of the disfunctional Venice meeting,"There will be a Wireless HART Standard! It might a little longer than we had hoped to get draft specifications, but there is strong support among Foundation members for the Wireless HART development and this is too important for the industry. The comittee is working through s...
Ron Helson, Executive Director of the HART Communications Foundation agrees that the HART Wireless Working Group has run aground, at least temporarily, and he said, during a discussion of the disfunctional Venice meeting,"There will be a Wireless HART Standard! It might a little longer than we had hoped to get draft specifications, but there is strong support among Foundation members for the Wireless HART development and this is too important for the industry. The comittee is working through some issues right now as it typical for developments of this nature, but we will press forward." Right on, Ron! The participants in the working group need to buckle down and do their jobs. Unfortunately, the "issues" he refers to appear to have put back the development of a HART Wireless protocol roughly nine months to a year. Don't look for a vote before September, and a published protocol much before the end of the year. My personal bet is April of 2007, but I would love to be wrong. Getting HART Wireless into the hands of vendors and end-users is probably the most important issue facing plant-level automation at the moment. It has, because of its overwhelming user base (over 20 million HART devices, installed around the world) the unique ability among digital communications buses to be completely retrofitable without adding new hardware or wiring in any plant. It is critical to the profitability of process plants to have HART Wireless sooner rather than later. If the HART Wireless Working Group doesn't report out a voted standard by the end of the year, it will be well into 2007 or 2008 before HART Wireless products show up in plants. And what does this mean for Emerson, whose announcement of a HART Wireless system based on Dust Networks in February seems to have produced all the hooforaw in Venice? What does it mean for end-users who are brave enough to buy the products Emerson is selling, "based on HART Wireless?" Emerson, for one, has pledged publicly to provide a migration path, not just "well you gotta buy new ones" toward whatever finally emerges as a HART Wireless standard. I mentioned the other day that I had reports that Emerson's systems were not as robust as claimed. I want to re-iterate what I said. I have been told by both competitors and end-users at trial locations that the systems had problems, with the latest report coming just before I got sick the end of March. Emerson reports that they know of NO problems with their beta test sites: none. Dust reports the same. Emerson and others have suggested (see comments that these reports are being confused with other beta failures previous to Emerson's alliance with Dust. I find it hard to believe that Emerson and Dust are being less than straight with us all, so maybe if I keep yelling about this, I'll get to see applications that work-- that's the way to put paid to the rumors and FUD. Too much more FUD, people and end-users will get permanent cold feet-- that's what happened to SP50, and it is why the sales of Foundation fieldbus transmitters are embarassingly low; low enough in fact that if this was any other industry the people responsible would have been fired by now.
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