Analysis of Wireless Industrial Automation Standards: ISA-100.11a and WirelessHART

This is an excerpt from the November/December 2012 InTech Web Exclusive feature by Márcio S. Costa and Jorge L. M. Amaral. For the entire article, please see the link at the bottom of this post.

ISA-100.11a network

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.

To read Márcio Costa and Jorge Amaral’s full article, click here.

ISA Communications Division to host Wireless Factory Automation Workshop

This is an excerpt from the March 2012 ISA Insights member newsletter. For the entire article, please see the link at the bottom of this post.

Market developments form the foundation of the premier ISA Wireless Factory Automation Workshop, with a focus of “The Last Meter – Leveraging economies of scale of mass market technologies to meet factory automation wireless communication needs at the edge of the architecture.”

The ISA Communications Division will host this workshop on 16-17 April at the Rockwell Automation Training Center in Troy, Mich. The workshop is an excellent opportunity for experts in the field of wireless automation to exchange ideas with experts in the field of discrete and hybrid manufacturing. Technical topics will include:

  •     Trends in wireless technology in the market
  •     Current and future look at wireless use cases for factory automation
  •     Challenges and opportunities of specific wireless applications

“I’m looking forward to validating the work performed by the ISA100 Factory Automation Working Group (WG16) through listening to and learning from attendees and my fellow presenters,” said ISA100 Factory Automation Working Group Chairman Cliff Whitehead.

For more information on ISA’s new awards program and to see the full list, click here.

Wireless Systems and Gas Turbine Engines

Peter Fuhr, a distinguished scientist with Oak Ridge National Laboratories comments on the ISA Communication Division’s participation in ISA Symposia.  The 57th International Instrumentation Symposia was held in St. Louis, Missouri on 20-24 June 2011 at the Chase Park Plaza Hotel.   Dr. Fuhr shares his comments on Wireless Standard 107.4 and technical presentations that covered wireless systems & gas turbine engine measurements and other instrumentation topics.  Peter says, groups from industry, academia and government have come together to discuss these topics and increase their technical knowledge.


To find out more about the instrumentation focused presentations and topics covered at the 57th IIS Symposium, please visit or

Thoughts from the 57th IIS Symposium

ISA Staff talks with Grant Patterson, ISA Test Measurement Division Director regarding his thoughts on the valuable technical content presented at the 57th International Instrumentation Symposium in St. Louis, MO this past June 2011. Listen to Mr. Patterson’s thoughts on the technical content presented by Keynote Speakers and Instrumentation Experts.

Face to Face: The Flip Side of Office eCommunication

Face to Face: The Flip Side of Office eCommunication

Peggie KoonThis article by Peggie Ward Koon, Ph.D., originally appeared in ISA’s Management Division newsletter. Dr. Koon is Deputy COO of Morris Digital Works and is VP of Industries & Sciences, Past Director of the Management Division, and Chair of the Honors & Awards Program task force.[/dropshadowbox]


Did you know that the first spam in computer history was sent on May 3, 1978 by a Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) employee? Over 400 people received a promotional mwall-of-spamessage sent via the company’s ARPANET network.  Yes, email and spam and many of the other collaborative technologies used today are datedpre-PC.

In fact eons ago, (I have to be careful not to reveal my age…), I remember using VMS-Mail to send messages to colleagues in the office down the hall, in another building, or at another site.  The text editor was called EVE – and no one spoke of her predecessor. And before Microsoft Office™ there was DEC’s All-In-One. Yes, believe it or not, we had software that included a calendar, a calculator, a word processor, task manager, mail boxes, contacts, etc. Sound familiar?

As I recall, not everyone had DEC CRT’s on their desktops, so communications with the folks who were using BIG BLUE was by phone, snail mail, or face-to-face.  But for those of us who were on the corporate DEC network, communications between each other and across the company’s WAN (from plant to plant) was a breeze!

Back then, being able to use electronic mail was limited. It was definitely not one of the main methods of inter-office communications.  In fact, in manufacturing it was often only used when engaged with someone interactively either in plant floor communications, problem solving, or to expedite delivery of reports or report details to another person (usually a higher-up) in the organization. It was definitely not used to send an email from work to my sister in California or my friends in Kowloon!

My how times have changed!  Take a quantum leap from then to now! Today, email, SMS, distribution lists, blogs, Twitter, forums, discussion boards – are all integral parts of our every day lives at work and at home.  So much so, that many people in the same office never speak to each other to collaborate on a problem, exchange ideas, or even just to say “Hello.”  Whatever happened to the old “get up from your desk and walk to the cubicle right in front of you or the office next door to get a question answered” mentality?  It’s gone baby gone!

The Changing Nature of Communications

So what does all this interconnectivity mean for communications at work? First, we must recognize that the Internet has changed the concept of inter-personal and inter-office communications.  By that I mean, people in the office use this new e-set of communications tools to interact more often – anytime, anywhere, any place.  And while we claim we are more interactive, for some folks these tools make the workplace much less personal.  People can communicate, old-telephonecollaborate, participate in meetings, exchange ideas, etc. without ever seeing each other.  Really, I work with folks who have been seated in side-by-side cubicles but have rarely engaged in a good old-fashioned conversation with each other.

To add to this dilemma, we are now challenged with managing communications.  I read an article in the New York Times about five time management tricks.  Can you name the #1 trick?  You guessed it! Taming the e-mail beast! Remember what I said earlier about spam? Well, with all this interconnectivity, spam is alive and well!

Seriously, do you know who sits next to you? Do you feel comfortable asking the person for a lift home when your car breaks down?  And what happens when e-mail communications break down? How much time do you spend trying to make sure that an email you sent in haste is not accidentally misunderstood? Or responding to a thread that includes 10 people with misinformation that was propagated from one email? Not to mention, the back-and-forth that can occur when the tone of an email is misunderstood… (What the heck is tone of an email anyway?)  This same anomaly can happen in blogs, forums, etc.  I guess that’s why “tweets” are so popular – they’re short and to the point – and there’s no need for a tweet management system – at least not yet.

Please don’t mistake my concern for the evolving, fast-paced, fully web-enabled but impersonal office atmosphere that we call “the workplace” as a lack of endorsement for email, Twitter, blogs, forums, or the like.  Not so! I am glad that the Internet and all its multi-faceted mechanisms of communications have arrived and are a part of the fabric of this new generation of e-workers. I would not ever want to return to the era where interaction with my co-workers, professional colleagues, friends, and family is limited by space, distance, or time.

But, I also like the idea of taking the time to sit with a colleague face-to-face to discuss an issue or a plan – to look him or her in the eyes to see true feelings — to feel their energy when they are passionate about a project.  And I enjoy not having to be an interpreter – at least some of the time.  Over the years, I’ve found technology-driven collaboration to be both fascinating and frustrating – especially when conflict occurs.

Take a Day Off from eCommunications

around-the-tableHere’s a thought: What would happen if you made a conscious effort to take a day off from electronic communications?  Take a moratorium from e-communications one day a week (okay, maybe half a day)!  When you need to talk to someone, try picking up the phone or better yet walking over to their cubicle or office.  See if your productivity improves. My bet is that not only will you actually see an improvement in personal productivity, but you’ll also improve personal relationships.  Isn’t that what we’re after with all this communications technology and social interaction anyway – building relationships?

So what are you waiting for? Don’t just sit there. Go chat with somebody – face to face!

Questions? Dr. Peggie Koon can  be reached at


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