05/28/2010 | Author / Editor: Gerrit Lohmann and Xenia Meyer / Jörg Kempf
In the late fall of 2009, Namur and the Hart Communication Foundation (HCF) began a field test of WirelessHart technology at BASF in Ludwigshafen/Germany, which was actively supported by Pepperl+Fuchs. This test clearly demonstrated that WirelessHart has great potential, and is ready for mobile and flexible applications. By now, the company has introduced the first products featuring this new wireless technology.
For some time, wireless communication for process automation has been the subject of countless press reports. The early stages of development saw the installation of a number of proprietary systems, which in turn quickly produced the demand for a standard. Namur showed interest in this subject at an early stage, and at the beginning of 2009 published recommendation NE124 describing the organization’s requirements for wireless communication for the worldwide process industries. Three years ago, WirelessHart was introduced as the first wireless standard for process automation. However, until now, no products have been available on the market — for good reason.
One major reason for this delay was the need to guarantee interoperability between different WirelessHart devices. The goal is to ensure the seamless combination of devices from multiple manufacturers, so as to avoid dependency on any single manufacturer.
The importance of compatibility has appeared before, during the introduction of fieldbus systems. At that time, fieldbus components that did not conform fully to the standard resulted in unstable systems or even stopped systems operating completely. Clearly, WirelessHart would have to do better.
In cable-based communication systems, every information packet is available for inspection by diagnostic tools. With wireless systems, diagnosing errors is more difficult, since it is not possible to trace the communications path using conventional tools. For this reason, wireless systems must be tested with extra care before they reach the market.
To ensure that all WirelessHart devices are interoperable, the Hart Communication Foundation (HCF), Namur, and BASF teamed up with leading manufacturers of WirelessHart products, including Pepperl+Fuchs, for a field test. With the help of BASF, Namur examined WirelessHart in terms of NE124.
Pepperl+Fuchs took advantage of the test to determine how well its products conformed to the specification. The company submitted its WirelessHart Gateway and WirelessHart Temperature Converter for the test. The WirelessHart Adapter, which also will be offered by Pepperl+Fuchs, was provided by Endress+Hauser.
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