Walt, wireless and the curate’s egg

03/10/2011

Earlier this month we published a release which, at first glance, appeared to be the approval of the ISA 100.11a 2011 Industrial Wireless Standard by the IEC. We entitled it ISA100 receives IEC approval – yes and no!. What it was in fact was an announcement of recognition of the standard by the IEC “as a publicly available specification, or PAS.”

The release was carefully worded and indeed further down it quoted the chair of IEC’s SC656 Committee, which would in fact oversee the actual approval of the standard, as saying “An IEC PAS allows the early publication of a standard that has obtained consensus in a professional society such as ISA, and will further promote the use of this standard throughout the world!”

As we published our article a commentary was published by the well respected Editor in Chief of Control, Walt Boyes, who is in fact a voting member of the ISA 100 Wireless Systems for Automation Committee. This was critical of the release and of the procedure adopted to get this approval. His article, Truthiness is next to Godliness, in effect stated that the release was, if I may quote the old English expression, “like the curate’s egg.” We quoted from this as a sidebox on our blog. His beef was that the procedure adopted was irregular for the obtaining of full IEC approval and in that it did not follow the usual ISA rubrics in obtaining this approval. In this case the approach to IEC was through a Canadian standards body. He also maintained that the release implied that the standard had in fact full ANSI approval, which it hadn’t, and that as an ANSI approved body it was obliged to process all standards through this, the US standards authority. He also challenged the “openess” of the standard. (Truthiness,” is an Americanism for shading the truth in your favour!)

See also the British based Industrial Automation Insider’s comment in their October issue reproduced below! There is an interesting discussion on this as well on the LinkedIn Industrial Wireless Group.

It now appears that he was tackled by somebody in ISA, in what he thinks were fairly intemperate terms. He has not felt free to divulge the actual correspondance without the agreement of the other party but from a blog he wrote the other day, Truthiness Clarified! we may perhaps make certain broad assumptions.

This person apparantly felt that there were significant errors and misinformation in what he had written about the press release and what it really meant. In the course of this dialogue Boyes believed his integrity was impugned and that, in essence, he was accused of being in the pocket of certain vested interests. Now I have known Walt Boyes for over forty years and somebody less likely to be in anybody’s pocket it would be difficult to imagine. Indeed he says, and I have no difficulty believing it “…as Editor in Chief, I think it is pretty clear that I am an equal opportunity offender,” when it comes to anything he writes. He takes few hostages!

It is more than likely at some stage that ISA100.11a will in fact be approved as an IEC and ANSI standard but perhaps this might happen more quickly if a more unified and regular procedure were adopted by the committee as is the case in the multitude of other ISA standards used throughout the world.

• We had hardly published the above piece when the latest Industrial Automation Insider hit our post box and Nick Denbow corroborated and agreed with a lot of what Boyes wrote in his original piece. We append Nick’s piece here:

Liars, damned liars and manipulative PR writers

One of the main functions of the INSIDER is to read a press release, then sit back and ask how it relates to any other press releases, or even known information about the same subject. The title above is a variation on Mark Twain’sreported comment about “statistics” being worse than even “damned lies” (but no-one knows whether it was a phrase from Mark Twain, or Disraeli, in around 1890). A similar phrase was used in the journal ‘Nature’ in 1885, in the context of describing witnesses as: “Simple liars, damned liars and experts”. But then they had never met a PR agent, because they had not been conceived in 1885 – propaganda, and public relations, was really invented in WW1, probably by the US Government (employing Edward Bernays, nephew of psychoanalysis pioneer Sigmund Freud, and Ivy Lee).

Publish: it must be true!
These days, there are so many websites available that merely reproduce any press releases submitted to them, as submitted, that the word-manipulations of the PR agent can sail through to “officially endorsed” publication. Not many of the regular ISA releases reach the INSIDER, because most advertise their future events, rather than present useful information. However their latest release promoting the actions taken over ISA100 with the IEC stretches to the lower depths of the PR art.

ISA finds new route into the IEC The title of this ISA release claims that the ISA100 Wireless Standard Receives IEC Approval: even the capitals imply that the words are formal. But the ISA100 wireless specification is not yet a standard with a capital “S”, in IEC terms, and their approval, with a small “a”, is maybe ‘approval, but not as we know it’, in the words of Star-Trek: in other words, actually, the IEC has agreed to a proposed course of action by the ISA. That course of action is to publish the specification, presumably the one called ISA100.11a-2011, as a “Publicly Available Specification (PAS)”, and that has to be an excellent idea. It is just a pity it has taken what seems to be three years for the queries raised by the participation of a user [Shell Global Solutions] – about the identified problems in ISA100.11a in the “Nice Use Case
Analysis Project” – to be answered (See the background published on www.iainsider.com and in the INSIDER, dated March 2010). This puts a new light on the oft repeated claim that the ISA100 specification is developed with “direct enduser participation and support”.

Hopefully the publicly available version of the specification will be posted soon on the ISA website, for public consumption. Regrettably it will probably, in reality, be available only for an exorbitant fee, via the Wireless Compliance Institute, one of the money-making commercial arms of the ISA, and probably will not encourage or enable the easier design of products meeting ISA100 by smaller companies. We should maybe remain alert and look out for a continuing closed shop.

False claims and knocking copy
The ISA release also makes comments about how their procedures have followed an “open consensus process as accredited by ANSI”. This claim is covered and dismissed very effectively by Walt Boyes in his weblog for September 16.

Boyes also highlights the traditional ISA slap made in their press release against the WirelessHART standard, which was accepted as an IEC Standard, IEC62591, over 18 months ago. ISA says “Unlike non-accredited processes typically used by vendors’ consortia to develop specifications, ISA’s [claimed as] ‘ANSI approved’ procedures call for direct participation and voting by experts from end-user companies”. Boyes asks how long the ISA is going to “continue flogging this really dead horse”, which does appear to reflect poorly back on the ISA themselves. But there is a more general comment to be made: how long is the vendor and user community expected to wait for these venerated, very slow moving standards committees to catch up with the faster strides of technology? The ISA is three years late.

Satisfying market demands
In that time, the dynamic engineers and marketing people in the vendors, using the market knowledge gained from customers, i.e. end-users, have developed the products that these users wanted, and to a standard that works
in practice, WirelessHART. The experts in the enduser companies have participated, and voted, by investing in testing these WirelessHART products and systems, and then installing them in ever-increasing numbers. Not only is WirelessHART an IEC standard, it is the de facto market standard. ISA100 has to do something positive to gain more than their existing toehold it has in this market, rather than keeping on talking about what happened years ago. A PAS is only the first step, and a very small step, forward. It is time for the ISA to look to the future, and that future might well have been in a back-haul standard. But maybe that is now too late.

Postscript:
The ISA saga continues on the Walt Boyes SoundOff blog, where Walt continues to try to present his logical reasoned views, while not being allowed to quote the critcs from the ISA directly.
Any similar communications or corrections to the INSIDER viewpoint will be published, as they happen, on the INSIDER blog,

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#SPS Largest automation event in 2010

09/12/2010

We missed (again) the biggest automation event of the year in Nuremberg (D) this year. There are only so many things one can do and with the proliferation of user group or company sponsored events in the final four months of the year it is difficult to spread the limited resources – both fiscal and physical – to cover everything. That is why we try to use the social media resources to cover so many of these events.

An unbroken rush of visitors!

Products Releases:

  • Operator panels for demanding visualization tasks in harsh industrial environments (Siemens)
  • Key panels for use in tough and safety-related industrial applications (Siemens)
  • Customized HMI unit fronts in industrial quality (Siemens)
  • Fail-safe distributed I/O modules for use up to Ex Zone 1/21 (Siemens)
  • Efficient and uniform handling of operator control and monitoring tasks (Siemens)
  • Efficient engineering system for all Simatic controllers (Siemens)
  • A new age in modern engineering with the TIA Portal (Siemens)
  • Measuring technology and communication come together (Krohne)
  • 1st Industrial PC with MS Windows XP Pro operating system (Schneider)
  • Cables for automation applications (Nexans)
  • IO-Link starter kit simplifies the development of automation solutions (Fujitsu)
  • Connecting networks (HMS Industrial Networks)
  • Programmable automation controller (Aerotech)
  • Complete servo drive in a compact EtherCAT Terminal (Beckhoff)
  • Beckhoff elevates Motion division
  • Cost-effective EtherNet/IP Bus Coupler in a compact design (Beckhoff)
  • Machine safety in harsh conditions (Beckhoff)
  • Bus Terminals for extreme climates (Beckhoff)
  • Slide-in Industrial PC features extremely flat design (Beckhoff)
  • Quick evaluation with extremely flexible I/O (Kontron)
  • Unified middleware for simplified access and control of hardware resources (Kontron)
  • Extremely high I/O flexibility off the shelf (Kontron)
  • Successful show (Contemporary Controls)
  • The SPS/IPC/Drives has been consistant in delivering a very useful and practical showcase for the European and Global automation market for many years. This year was no exception.

    52,028 trade visitors poured into  Nuremberg and chose this exhibition as their highlight of the year for the electric automation industry. During the three days of the show the industry showed its condensed ability and its optimism which it will use to profit from the positive economic situation. Indeed the boyancy of the show belied the gloom and doom of the mass media predictions of the economic state of Europe. Especially the increase in visitors  from abroad was significant. 10,147 (+34%) came to inform themselves about the offers of 1,323 exhibitors.

    The concurrent conference showed a growth as well. 302 (previous year: 281) participants took part in the event to discuss new trends, exchange knowledge and network intensively

    Last year we reported on this show too – Major show in the heart of Europe – and this year topped it in size with nine halls full of automation and having to fight your way through the crowds to see what you wanted to see.

    One of the most complete reports is from Leo Poner’s Industrial Ethernet Book in their SPS/IPC/DRIVES 2010 Show Report published on 7th December 2010. They report that the shopw emphasised green issues and security.

    Microsoft listed Windows Embedded Partner Innovations Showcased at the show.

    Carl Henning, the ever-active ProfiBus US guy, put two contemporaneous reports on their stand on his ProfiBlog.  Both offer a pictorial guide to the stand entitled “Technologies in the PI Booth” and the next one “Welcome to the PI booth” They are good pen pictures support with generous pictures and videos of what one stand’s experience was. He also alludes to the US automation journals who sacrificed time so close to their beloved Thanksgiving festival to report on this event.

    He may have another report. This and some of their reports will appear below appear below, newest at the top.

    Other reports

    Innovation abounds at a record-breaking SPS event (Control Engineering EME 13/12/2010)

    ProfiBlog SPS/IPC/Drices ReCap (10/12/2010)

    Walt Boyes tells How I Spent My Thanksgiving Vacation! (9/12/2010)

    HBI Table talk says SPS / IPC / Drives – really all pure automation? (Google translation – 8/12/2010)

    On Windows wrote Microsoft partners at SPS/IPC/Drives (8/12/2010)

    Around the show (Carl Henning 7/12/2010)

    Automation World’s Gary Mintchell’s Mintchell Report comments in living colour on his way home from the show on key trends and new products from Siemens and Beckhoff are highlighted. He also has a few pictures on his Flikr page: SPS-Drives Trade Fair Nuremberg.

    ProfiBlog ProfiBus & ProfiNet News (ProfiBlog 1/12/2010)

    Highest hopes exceeded – more than 52,000 came (Organiser’s release 25/11/2010)

    EPN Industrial Automation Blog reports on Box IPC with Core-Processor (23/11/2010)

    The next SPS/IPC/Drives 2011 show is scheduled for 22 – 24 November 2011, so mark your diary.


    Power, Energy and er Automation? #APW10

    24/05/2010


    Last week the ABB Users’ Conference, Automation & Power World, descended on the oil city of Houston with something over 4000 participants.

    ABB Automation & Power World 2010 Blog Spot

    APW10 Blogspot

    YouTube Presentations

    on Facebook

    LinkedIn

    on Twitter #APW10


    ARC’s Forum at APW10
    IBM Workshop Sessions at APW10

    As we learn of other reports and comments we will add them!

    Read-out’s resources have never been sufficient to attend many of the user-group meetings of the various “big boy” automation companies but of late we have been able to get a flavour of them vicariously through the tweets and other online sharings of the attendees with active thumbs and a friendly mobile phone or Blackberry. The ABB event was no exception. As the different talks and presentations occured so tweets were being sent on twitter using the hashtag #APW10 so although people who were not among the throngs present they could eavesdrop while at their desks or on their mobile devices!

    “Automation & Power World,” according to ABB, “was designed with a specific focus – to provide engineers and business leaders with a single event where they can experience and learn the latest in Automation and Power technology, and more importantly how it can benefit their business’ profitability.”

    Malcolm Shearmur of ABB in Zurich (CH), reported from this ABB’s largest customer event for ABB in a special blog, (though his views, as he points out, are his own rather than those of ABB!). The exhibit area was some 9000 squre metres and opened on the 17th May. Some idea of the exhibits and the venue may be gained from the limited number of pictures on their picasa album and also from presentations which may be found of YouTube (See box on right for links to these and other reports!)

    ControlGlobal’s Walt Boyes was among those tweeting and his publisher also provided a daily update of the talks and presentations suplemented by additional “in-depth” clarifications from Walt’s own “Sound Off” blog. For instance his “Peter Terwiesch Explains It All to Us!” and “Who Says the single loop controller is dead?” (Incidentally, and compl;etely of the point, Walt, always looking for information, recounts an encounter while he  was waiting for his plane at Houston airport with a guy who’s product sounds like the answer to a maiden’s prayer post the catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico – take a look!)

    The event kicked off with a wide-ranging address from ABB Group CEO Joe Hogan. He seems to have covered virtually everything from the Greek failure inside the Euro-zone, to the future for e-mobility; the fact that ABB robots polish the back of iPads and Carbon Dioxide emission (“60% of CO2 reduction solution will come from energy efficiency!”). He said “Smart Grids are where Power and Automation will merge!”

    “Much of Hogan’s talk, as well as many sessions and exhibits in the 100,000 square foot exhibition hall, focused on power and energy efficiency. The theme begun last year at the merged “Power World” and “Automation World” conferences continued this year–the confluence of power and process automation.” reports Automation World’s Gary Mintchel in his Feed Forward blog. He goes on, “This fact was backed up by Chief Technology Officer Peter Terwisch’s presentation at the press briefing where he threw in one process automation comment at the end of an otherwise power and energy focused talk.”

    So what new products impressed from afar? The new ABB Fieldkey device is a loop powered small footprint WirelessHART adaptor. Also a new generation of Swirlmeters. And Gary mentions an as yet un-launched producy “cpmPlus History – a new historian that not only is capable of acquiring tremendous quantities of data, but also has built-in tools for analysis and scripting capability for development custom analysis built on more complex math and algorithms if required by the customer application.”

    Also highlighted was ABB’s recent acquisition of Ventyx an Atlanta (GA US) based software provider to global energy, utility, communications etc enterprises. They increase ABB’s offering with a broad range of solutions including: asset management, mobile workforce management, energy trading and risk management, energy operations and energy analytics. The company also provides software solutions for planning and forecasting electricity needs, including renewables.

    All in all it appears to have been an interesting event, well attended and hopefully indicating the start of a slow climb into optimism!

    It is hoped that  Automation & Power World will return to Orlando (FL US) April 19-21, 2011 where the 2009 event was held!

    Automation & Power World Brazil – 17/19 Aug 2010

    Large attendance at ABB's biggest customer event!


    ANSI wireless rejection

    13/01/2010

    Wireless ball back in ISA’s court

    This is an extract from the January 2010 issue of Industrial Automation Insider

    Britain's only independent subscription newsletter providing industrial measurement and control systems users and suppliers with a monthly update on the continuing evolution and convergence of systems technologies.

    The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) confirmed to ISA shortly before Christmas that it must hear the appeal filed by CONTROL magazine editor in chief Walt Boyes and others against the ratification of the ISA 100.11a wireless standard back in August 2009. It was ISA’s handling of what is now widely referred to as “the Boyes appeal” which resulted in ANSI failing to accept ISA 100.11a at its regular meeting in November (INSIDER, December 2009, page 1).

    In a letter to ISA’s Industrial Automation Standards manager Charles Robinson dated December 15th, Anne Caldas, the secretary of ANSI’s Board of Standards Review (BSR), said that, in BSR’s view, ISA had failed to follow due process as set out in ANSI’s own Essential Requirements which requires that anyone with a legitimate interest should be able to express a view, have that view considered and have a right to appeal.

    As had been reported earlier, the Boyes appeal, which, ironically relates to whether the ISA had followed its own procedures correctly, was lodged with ISA either one or two days before the expiry of the 30 day appeal period but ISA’s James Tatera did not respond, indicating that the appeal lacked the necessary detail for consideration, until two days after the expiry date, thereby rendering it impossible for the detail to be supplied before the deadline.

    Misleading
    Caldas’ letter not only questions ISA’s implementation of its own appeals procedure, pointing out that there doesn’t appear to be any provision for an appeal not being valid, but it raps ISA’s collective knuckles for misleading the appellants over ANSI’s procedures as well. ISA had, apparently, attempted to wash its hands of the Boyes appeal by suggesting that that it could be taken direct to ANSI whereas, in fact, as Caldas explained, it is only possible to make a procedural appeal to ANSI once the appeal has been concluded at the standards developer, in this case the ISA, level.

    Sweeping aside both the suggestion that there is any such thing as a guaranteed route to approval as an ANSI standard and what appear to be hints of misconduct on the part of those making the appeal, the BSR offers ISA a stark choice. Either address the BSR’s concerns and hear the Boyes appeal or have the BSR consider the existing submittal with the obvious implications that, with its concerns unaddressed, it will vote it down. ISA would then have the right to appeal first to the BSR and then to the ANSI Appeal Broad but it’s clear the process would be lengthy and the outcome uncertain. It looks as if the ball and the Boyes appeal are firmly back in ISA’s court.

    ● Readers may recall that the concerns of Boyes and his colleagues go back not just to last summer but to June 2008 when the first draft of ISA 100.11a was approved by a narrow margin, in part because, they argued, of ISA’s procedures permitting those balloted to vote ‘Yes with comments’. In all more than 2000 comments were received and part of the concern related to whether those comments had been fully and adequately addressed.