Bracing for the Wireless Clash WirelessHART Versus ISA100.11a: a Serious Conflict Appears to Be Developing

Editor: Frank Jablonski

With WirelessHART and ISA100.11a, suppliers support two different, but very similar, industrial standards. In Asia a third standard is currently emerging. First came the fieldbus war — now we are bracing ourselves for the wireless clash. PROCESS interviewed Dr. Wolfgang Morr, General Manager of NAMUR, and Martin Schwibach, Chairman of the NAMUR working group “Wireless Automation”.

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PROCESS: Dr. Morr, Mr. Schwibach, NAMUR has vehemently declared its support of a single standard. Why, in your opinion, is it so important to reach agreement on a single standard?

Morr: NAMUR and its member companies have experience of similar situations. Competing standards also existed during the introduction of fieldbus technology in the process industry. The adverse effects related to this situation with regard to investment security discouraged users from introducing the fieldbus to the full extent this technical solution offered and, consequently, exploiting the potential associated with it. When it comes to products and solutions, standards are important mechanisms for supporting competition. Competition between standards, on the other hand, is counterproductive.

Schwibach: I would like to add that, for us end users, the additional benefits which can be obtained through the use of new technology in production processes are the main focus of attention. These additional advantages lie primarily in new, innovative process automation application fields. We expect first and foremost that our core requirements with regard to the sustainability of these technologies be fulfilled. We have fixed and communicated these requirements on many occasions. Different standards for process communications hamper this, as the success story of the standardised 4-20 mA signal demonstrates in a positive sense, with the drama along the fieldbus war providing a negative example.