June 2008

Goal: One frequency, global wireless standard

The ISA100 standards committee, Wireless Systems for Automation, met in Chongqing, China, in April-a first for the committee, and a big step in proving global standardization intentions from the U.S. base.

The meeting was co-located with the Chinese wireless factory forum meeting and a WINA industrial wireless meeting, which attracted experts from industry, academia, and government.  "This was a good way to get outside U.S. and representatives worldwide as well as quite a few Asia-specific located end users," said Peter Fuhr, chief technology officer at Apprion.

One of the outcomes of the co-located meeting was a true recognition that what is going on in China is dictating what is going on in wireless for the world, Fuhr said. "Most of the large system integrators-Yokogawa, Honeywell, Siemens-have large projects in which bidding on electric power, distribution, factory automation is taking place in China.

"That's why we had individuals from various departments within the Chinese government give presentations to a worldwide audience brought from ISA100," he said. 

Some specific benefits that might come out of the co-located meeting are the overall concept of wireless coexistence. "It's timed from what's going on in regulatory perspective. There are specific frequencies available worldwide for manufacturers to target," Fuhr said. The only real frequencies universally adopted include a small segment inside 2.4 gigahertz. A small percentage of vendors are going to make wireless devices that work at 2.4 gigahertz. "Manufacturers don't want to make a radio they can't sell in Europe," he said. "China is allowing some frequencies in the country that are not consistent with others on the planet."

ISA100 wants to make sure there is one frequency range everyone can use worldwide. Having just one means a common radio module. "Then you can tune all the circuits," Fuhr said. "You can concentrate all your expertise on making your radio module optimal for that specific frequency band, knowing you'll be able to sell it worldwide."

During the week, the ISA100 Wireless Compliance Institute held a wireless demonstration using pre-release ISA100.11a technologies as they appear in the current draft, confirming functionality with multiple vendor products in a mesh sensor network. The ISA100.11.a standard is looking toward a release at the end of this year.

Wireless compliance update

The ISA100 Wireless Compliance Institute now has an interim technical director, Jay Werb, to support the development of ISA100 wireless compliant test specifications and provide related technical support functions. The Institute's membership includes nine companies: Shell, Chevron, Procter & Gamble, Airsprite, Apprion, Invensys, Nivis, Shenyang Institute of Automation, and Yokogawa. These early supporters are in the midst of the development phase of the ISA100 Wireless Compliance Institute, and plans are in the works to formally launch the Institute this summer.

The Institute is identifying ISA100.11a draft standard test points for use as a basis for conformance requirements. This test-points document is scheduled for June completion, concurrent with the ISA100.11a working group ballots on the draft standard.

Also under development is a wireless device test kit to measure how devices are compliant with the ISA100.11a standard. A demonstration will take place at the ISA EXPO 2008 in Houston in October, and the kit should be available in the second half of 2008.  The Institute plans to test devices for compliance to profiles ISA100 defines, and it will collaborate with ISA100 to define key profiles needed in the marketplace.

With an initial demonstration at the ISA100 meeting in Chongquing, China, an alpha test bed from the Institute is using device stack and management software based on the preliminary draft ISA100.11a document. Beta sites are under development for field testing of devices based on the ISA100.11a standard in early 2009.