The use of wireless transmission is part of everyone’s life. Every day, companies develop and update products with wireless capabilities. The benefits of mobility make the use of wireless equipment almost a necessity.
The online life is now possible not only through computer desktops but also through cell phones, tablets, notebooks, and TVs, which makes wireless transmission the first choice of the communication interface.
When one looks to the industrial environment, it is natural to ask if the “wireless wave” will reach industrial applications to be used in automation and instrumentation projects. This question will only be answered in the future. However, when one looks to the near past, very few people could have imagined a scenario in which wireless communication took over the world. So, it is reasonable to assume a similar speed of change will occur within a few years in industrial automation.
The use of wireless networks in industrial automation has increased in the past few years. It can be explained due to several advantages wireless technology presents, such as the reduction of time and cost to install new devices, since there is no need to provide a cabling infrastructure, along with the possibility of installing new devices in hard-to-reach or hazardous areas and the flexibility to alter existing designs.
With adopting wireless technology, many important requirements should be considered regarding the solutions presented by the new standards, protocols, methodologies, and support tools. The most important requirements are: reliability, security, robustness, determinism, quality of service (QoS), interoperability, integration with existing systems, networks with large amount of devices (scalability), and support tools for designing the network layout, process information, and monitoring.
Various solutions (proprietary or not) exist in the market to issues with using wireless transmission in an industrial environment. ISA-100.11a and WirelessHART are two of the most important standards available focused on applications of wireless networks in process automation. This article describes the main features and the solutions adopted, in order to facilitate the comparison between them. The article also briefly discusses some open issues that will have to be addressed in future versions of these standards.