September 2008

Wireless working out

The ISA100 committee on wireless systems for automation is making progress in getting the first wireless standard in shape for committee balloting. During the June meeting in Nice, France, the committee continued to work out the kinks in the ISA100.11a draft standard for process applications.

The new WirelessHART Convergence subcommittee, ISA100.12, met to define membership guidelines, review and revise subcommittee scope, assign tasks to subcommittee task groups, and discuss preliminary deliverables. The subcommittee will address convergence of the ISA100.11a standard and the WirelessHART specification. Initial deliverables will include organization of the recently released WirelessHART portion of the HART 7.1 specification into a format suitable for convergence discussions with ISA100.11a as well as providing a framework for evaluating convergence options.  Paul Sereiko of Airsprite and Dick Caro of CMC Associates are the subcommittee co-chairs, and an initial group of voting members has been approved by the ISA100 committee.

The ISA100.21 working group on people and asset tracking and identification reviewed the latest draft of a proposed ISA Technical Report. The document describes real-time location service or system technologies vendors as optimal for industrial asset tracking. The ISA100 committee expects the document to go out for committee ballot soon.

The user guide working group discussed a draft document, which is intended to give users a common vocabulary to describe terminology associated with wireless technology and implementation in industrial automation. It will also give users a framework for specifying wireless systems to maximize the probability of successful implementations by providing a method for comparing options in applying wireless technology.

Chairman Wayne Manges of Oak Ridge National Laboratory said the committee is broadening its goal to investigate how to accommodate existing protocols that may not be especially developed for industrial environments, but may find use there. A new interest group will begin to evaluate applying ZigBee with the ISA100 family of standards.

"Many industrial sites have other wireless networks they're using for softer applications like PDAs, bar-code readers, badge readers, asset tracking, environmental monitoring, building automation, etc.," Manges said. "End users have expressed interest in integrating some of these into the ISA100 wireless infrastructure. We are creating these interest groups to investigate how to do this without compromising the critical performance issues associated with the installations-latency, throughput, security, and reliability. This is critical since many suppliers (including Bill Gates and Microsoft) are preparing to enter the wireless-sensor market. These will be available at very low cost for very soft parts of the industrial automation facilities. If we (ISA100) don't figure out how to integrate them, they will never be part of the overall enterprise visibility vision that we profess."

Manges looks forward to opportunities to integrate other protocols, "including WiFi, Bluetooth, and Bacnet to name a few," he said. "The goal is to create a mechanism that minimizes the effort required for integration with the ISA100 infrastructure so ISA100 becomes the wireless network of choice for industrial automation from the ground up."

The factory automation study group continued working on the scope for discrete and hybrid applications. Discussion with IEC officials at a recent meeting in Ottawa is expected to lead to IEC coordination with ISA on industrial wireless activities.

The committee also discussed creating a working group to develop a standard to address one or more dedicated or shared wireless backhaul/backbone networks to support one or more technologies, running multiple applications. Such a standard would define network common interfaces to enable interoperability between the backhaul/backbone transport wireless networks and different field wireless networks.  This group has been formally established as ISA100 Backhaul Backbone Working Group 15 with co-chairs David Glanzer of Fieldbus Foundation and Penny Chen of Yokogawa.

Building on prior work, the committee discussed formalizing a working group to develop and maintain policies, guidelines, and recommendations suitable for ISA100 standards developers to address the issues of trustworthiness (including security, reliability, and resiliency) with respect to other standards. Other wired and wireless devices are anticipated in the industrial work space. The ISA100 committee recently approved formation of the ISA100 Trustworthy Wireless Working Group 14 with the co-chairs Manges and Scott Mix of North American Electric Reliability Corporation.

Upcoming ISA100 meetings include: 13-17 October at ISA EXPO 2008 in Houston; a first-quarter 2009 meeting 13-15 January, hosted by Apprion in Bay Area, Calif.; 19-22 May 2009, hosted by Yokogawa in Kyoto, Japan; and 5-9 October 2009 at ISA EXPO 2009 in Houston.

Ellen Fussell Policastro ( writes and edits Association News.