November 2008

Wireless compliance demos real thing

The ISA100 Wireless Compliance Institute successfully demonstrated the ISA100.11a wireless industrial automation network at ISA EXPO 2008, employing technology based on the latest draft of the ISA100.11a industrial wireless communications standard. The demonstration highlighted the mesh and interoperability capabilities of the proposed ISA100.11a standard by showing different vendors' ISA100.11a field routers formed into a self-healing and dynamically adaptive mesh network.

Devices from 14 instrumentation vendors formed the wireless network of interoperable devices all seamlessly working together using the ISA100.11a draft technology. These devices included wireless platforms from fully integrated devices to devices with attached wireless adaptors. The demonstration included wired HART devices and used the wireless adaptors to communicate HART information like stranded diagnostics over the ISA100.11a network to a host system.

The wireless demonstration system was comprised of three separate yet integrated ISA100.11a networks with devices sending process control data to a simulated, centralized plant-wide host monitoring system, where the data was collected and displayed. The console operator at the host system could configure devices to periodically send data or could issue on-demand reads of the data from devices in the wireless network. More advanced capabilities exhibited by the ISA100.11a demo system included live process control loops, remote configurability, as well as simple over-the-air upgrades of the entire ISA100.11a system, including the wireless field devices. The wireless sensor networks also communicated to a distributed control system via a gateway developed according to the ISA100.11a draft.

The demonstration included protocol stacks from two different developers to prove the ISA100.11a draft standard document included sufficient detail to allow multiple developers from various nationalities across the globe to develop a fully functioning ISA100.11a system.

The first stack supplier was Nivis, LLC, based in Atlanta. Nivis also developed an evaluation kit for vendors who need development support for devices that will use protocol stacks in their products based on the ISA100.11a wireless standard. The evaluation kit is a friendly assessment tool that allows developers to swiftly build an ISA100.11a network and evaluate its performance.

The second stack was part of a research project by over 40 college students and eight different teachers at China's Chongqing University of Posts and Telecommunications (CQUPT). They all worked from the same ISA100.11a draft document. The WCI booth exhibited the CQUPT stack as a standalone network with wireless devices from multiple vendors communicating with each other and using the draft ISA100.11a standard technology.