HART and Fieldbus Foundations Agree to Discuss Merger in Memo of Understanding

Sept. 24, 2013

It’s not a done deal, but the two Foundations are talking about joining forces

After years of unofficial and informal discussions, it’s real, sort of. The HART Communications Foundation and the Fieldbus Foundation issued a joint communiqué this morning announcing that they had officially agreed to discuss merging the two organizations. 

Assuming this comes to pass, and there’s nothing to indicate that it will not, this leaves the Profibus Organization as the odd man out in process automation fieldbuses. Besides Profibus, there are quite a few other standards foundations that might be brought into such an organization.  But first, the HART and Fieldbus Foundations have to merge and prove that it can be done.

 Here’s the text of the press release:

Leading Industrial Communication Foundations Discuss Potential Merger

 Single industry foundation would be dedicated to needs of intelligent device communications in the world of process automation 

 AUSTIN, Texas, Sept. 16, 2013 — The Fieldbus Foundation and the HART Communication Foundation announced today that they have entered into discussions on the potential for merging the two organizations into a single industry foundation dedicated to the needs of intelligent device communications in the world of process automation. 

The chairmen of the two organizations—Dr. Gunther Kegel of the Fieldbus Foundation and Mr. Mark Schumacher of the HART Communication Foundation—issued the following statement on behalf of their Boards of Directors:

“We believe combining the resources and capabilities of each foundation into a single organization will provide significant benefits to both end users and suppliers.  For end users, a single organization that combines the power of both Fieldbus Foundation and HART Communication Foundation would provide a full solution that addresses every conceivable aspect of field communications and intelligent device management for the process industries. For suppliers, a single organization would create efficiencies in resource utilization, consistency of processes and procedures, and would deliver significant improvements in member services and support.” 

The Fieldbus Foundation and HART Communication Foundation have worked extensively together in the past and have a long history of cooperation. For example, the two organizations worked together on the development of common international standards such as Electronic Device Description Language (EDDL) and, most recently, the development of the Field Device Integration (FDI) specification. The merger offers significant potential to harmonize many aspects of the two protocols, making it easier for end users and suppliers to implement the technology and obtain the full benefits of each technology in plant operations and maintenance.

In preliminary discussions, the presidents of the two organizations, Richard J. Timoney of the Fieldbus Foundation and Ted Masters of the HART Communication Foundation, added that many synergies already exist and closed by commenting:

“We are both confident that today’s decision to investigate the merger of these two organizations provides momentum for a major step forward in the evolution of intelligent devices and the world of industrial communications.”

To make sure that everybody understands the state of negotiations, the Fieldbus Foundation prepared a FAQ document about the Memorandum of Understanding both Foundations have signed:

 The Fieldbus Foundation and HART Communication Foundation have signed a memorandum of understanding for a possible merger of the two organizations. This proposed merger is still in the exploratory phase and is not yet guaranteed. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about the merger.

Q: Is the merger a foregone conclusion, with an agreement to merge the two organizations that has been approved by the Boards of Directors?

A: No. What has been agreed is that each organization will appoint a study team to review the possibility of merging the organizations based on an increased value of a single organization, as well as significant benefits to their respective memberships and the automation industry in general.

Q: Would this be a true merger or an acquisition of one organization by another?

A: The merger would be a true merger of equals and not an acquisition of any one organization by another. A combined organization of Fieldbus Foundation and HART technologies could better leverage the complementary benefits of the technologies. The new combined organization would create more cooperation and collaboration. In addition, improved economies of scale would be realized through merging training and education; seminars; testing and registration; participation at trade shows, conferences, and events; online presence; and social media strategies.

Q: I am a member of only one of the Foundations. How would a merger affect my future membership?

A: Membership in either one of the existing foundations would carry over into the new proposed organization with the same rights and benefits that members enjoy today.

Q: If I were a member of both Foundations, how would this affect my membership costs?

 A: While we have begun an analysis of our respective memberships, we have not yet defined the membership model as it relates to membership dues. Members of both foundations should see increased efficiencies and reduced total costs as more and more standards, processes and procedures are harmonized. Over time, we anticipate suppliers recognizing more efficiency compared to membership in both organizations.

Q: If the investigation were successful, when would a merger likely happen?

A: There is still a lot of exploratory work to do in regard to due diligence in the financial and legal arenas. Everything we do must meet strict criteria in terms of benefitting our membership and the broader automation market, including our mutual end users. Once that is done, there are board and membership votes and, if successful, legal filings. Our target is to have everything completed by mid-2014.

Q: Who will decide if the merger is to proceed?

A: The decision to proceed with the merger will flow through three steps. First, the study team will prepare a report and recommendation for each board of directors. Once that is completed, the boards will individually vote to proceed or not. Finally, if both boards vote to proceed with the merger, the proposal will go to a member vote in both organizations.

Q: What are some of the goals of the proposed new merged organization?

 A: There are a number of goals:

  • Collaboration on new and existing technologies.
  • Fully integrated marketing strategy to advance the extensive use of digital devices.
  • Improved products and services.
  • Increased market share of digital field devices in total device market.

Q: Would the technologies and protocols of both Foundations continue to exist and evolve on their own?

A: Both the FOUNDATION fieldbus and HART specifications would continue to exist separately and evolve. Each protocol would retain and maintain its own brand name, trademarks, patents and copyrights. The proposed organization would continue to seek areas of logical harmonization just as we have with EDDL and FDI.

Q: How would the proposed organization deal with the different wireless strategies that exist?

A: The proposed organization would continue to support the wireless strategies that exist today within each organization.

Q: How would the proposed merger affect the current activities regarding FDI?

A: Both organizations are totally committed to the FDI project and would continue to support FDI as the sole integration technique for smart devices.

Q: Would the two organizations move to a single location?

 A: Pending approval of the merger, the plan is to co-locate both organizations into a single facility as soon as it is practical.

 Q: How would the merger affect host system, and device testing and registration?

A: Both the Fieldbus Foundation and HART Communication Foundation are currently working on common device and host testing procedures under the FDI Cooperation initiative. That is one of the major benefits of the FDI project. Although elements of those tests may differ based on the structure of the protocols, there are many elements that the two organizations share in common. We anticipate that we will move toward a common set of procedures for both device and host testing, and a common registration process.