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Dueling Wireless

May 13, 2009
As ISA100.11a passes, the end-user jury is still out on which standard will come out on top.
This article was printed in CONTROL's May 2009 edition.

As ISA100.11a passes, the end-user jury is still out on which standard will come out on top.

Breaking News: On April 23, the ISA100 Committee approved a draft standard for ISA100.11a, which must now be submitted to the Standards and  Practices Board and ANSI for final approval as a standard.

In the contest between WirelessHART and the ISA100.11a standard for wireless networking in automation, there is no clear winner at the moment. Our latest survey puts WirelessHART ahead by a nose in the number of users who intend to implement a wireless field sensor network in the next 18 months, and, recent news coming out of Hannover Fair suggests that at least some vendors are betting that both standards will be in play for some time to come.

Figure 1. The “Wireless War” is far from over. When Control asked which field sensor protocol users were most likely to choose for temperature transmitters, almost one-third each picked one of the two major contenders, WirelessHART and ISA100.11a, while another 26% selected some proprietary protocol.

Wireless firmware vendor Nivis has published a list of companies that have committed to or are evaluating its ISA100.11a-based solutions, even before the standard has been officially approved. The companies include Access Wireless Solutions, Apprion, Banner Engineering, Cameron, ConocoPhillips, Dresser Masoneilan, Freescale, Flowserve, Honeywell, Krohne, Machine Talker, Magnetrol, NASA, ProSoft, Texas Instruments, Yokogawa, Western Research and Williamson.

At the same time, Nivis is covering its bets with a pre-release of a WirelessHART-based system, as well as its NISA System based on ISA100.11a.

Meanwhile, Dust Networks used Hannover Fair to showcase products enabled by its WirelessHART SmartMesh IA-510. Elpro, Emerson, Endress+Hauser and MACTek are all using the Dust technology, as are ABB, Siemens, Pepperl+Fuchs and other members of the HART Communication Foundation.

In a separate news release, MACTek announced that it has completed the development of its wireless adapter, named “The Bullet.” for use with HART-enabled devices.  The Bullet WirelessHART adapter will be available in a general purpose non-certified model for use in non-hazardous areas in October 2009. The certified IS and Ex-proof model will be available after obtaining HART Device Registration and international agency approvals, with shipment in early first quarter of 2010.

Profibus and Profinet International (PI) say they are going to use WISA (IEEE 802.15.1) for manufacturing automation and WirelessHART (IEEE 802.15.4). Their research indicates that a series of different requirements exist for coupling sensors and actuators in factory and process automation. Performance requirements in the two spaces differ, and the standardized protocols for HART sensors and actuators (for process automation) and IO-Link (for manufacturing automation) are optimized to the respective requirements.

PI decided for WirelessHART a year ago. To be able to offer an optimum solution for factory automation, PI decided to develop the specification for wireless sensors and actuators for factory automation based on WISA technology (IEEE 802.15.1).

It appears that it will be some time before the fat lady’s aria in this show.