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First international standard for wireless communication in process automation

26 April 2010

At the Hannover Fair this month executives from ABB, Emerson, Endress+Hauser, Honeywell and Siemens voiced their support of HART technology. The HART Communication Foundation has announced that the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) has approved the WirelessHART specification as a full international standard (IEC 62591Ed. 1.0).

The unanimous vote on 26 March 2010 by the IEC National Committees of 28 countries confirms the broad global support for WirelessHART technology as the international standard for wireless communication in process automation.

“The overwhelming approval by IEC fulfills the request of users for a single international wireless communication standard that is supported by major automation suppliers,” said HART Communication Foundation Executive Director Ron Helson. “WirelessHART technology has been confirmed by both users and suppliers to be a technically sound, reliable and secure solution form wireless communication in process automation.”

A growing number of WirelessHART compatible products were available at Hannover from major global suppliers including ABB, Emerson, Endress+Hauser, Phoenix Contact, Siemens and others.

Phoenix Contact was exhibiting a WirelessHART gateway featuring an integrated WLAN transceiver.

The 45mm wide rail-mount gateway connects up to 250 WirelessHART field devices and converts HART data to Modbus TCP or HART UDP for easy integration into almost any host system. With WirelessHART, part of the HART 7 standard, new systems can be installed in a fraction of the time that a hard-wired network would require. Using WirelessHART allows wired HART systems to expand without replacing existing equipment.

The integrated WLAN can be used as the backhaul connection, allowing the gateway to be installed in the field closer to the monitored devices. This allows the user to create a "clustered" network topology, effectively creating several smaller WirelessHART networks with a wireless connection to the host system. Using the backhaul this way reduces the demand for routing data through the mesh and extends the battery life of the WirelessHART devices. It also reduces the number of required repeater nodes, effectively extending the range of WirelessHART.

To maintain a secure connection, the WLAN data is protected using the 802.11i (WPA2) standard with 128-bit AES encryption. The WLAN transceiver can also be disabled, and the host connection can be made via the wired Ethernet port.

All programming and diagnostics can be accessed via an embedded web server. The RAD-WHG/WLAN-XD can also be programmed using a HART handheld programmer.

The technology behind WirelessHART gives the standard its robustness and dependability. TSMP (Time Synchronized Mesh Protocol), the foundational technology originally pioneered by Dust networks, provides redundancy and fail-over in time, frequency and space, ensuring very high reliability even in the most challenging radio environments. Dust Networks SmartMesh provides the intelligence required for self-organizing, self-healing mesh routing. The result is a low power, reliable, wireless network that installs easily with no specialized expertise, automatically adapts to changing environments, and can be expanded as needed.

Released in September 2007, WirelessHART is an open and interoperable wireless communication standard designed to address the critical needs of industry for reliable, robust and secure wireless communication in real-time industrial process measurement and control applications.

WirelessHART is a backward compatible, evolutionary enhancement to the HART Communication Protocol, the leading communication technology for intelligent process measurement and control field devices and systems with more than 30 million devices installed and operating in process plant applications around the globe.

"The commission’s endorsement of this standard confirms what Emerson and many others have known: this technology is a reliable, versatile, and economical tool for improving process operations and enabling a significant return on investment," said Steve Sonnenberg, president of Emerson Process Management.

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