As Supporters of WirelessHart and ISA 100.11a battle it out, Are Users Sitting it out on the Sidelines?
There was a couple of different articles recently which discussed some of the issues inhibiting even greater wireless adoption (our networking research shows it already enjoys robust growth) in the industrial automation space. One article that really caught my eye discussed the impact that competition between Wireless HART and ISA 100.11a over which standard will be the dominant enabler of smart instrumentation is potentially having on user adoption rates.
Another reason the article was of interest was because it discussed many of the same hurdles which have previously been holding back greater wireless adoption and also the new technologies are also eliminating many of these same obstacles.
Although our recently published research only covered industrial wireless networking infrastructure products, which represents only a AMll share of products relying on Wireless HART and ISA 100.11a networks, our user survey respondents (comprised of end users, OEMs and channel) indicated a strong demand for networking products using both of these networks.
|Expected Trend in Types of Wireless Infrastructure Networks Being Used in Industrial Facilities (Percent of Respondents)|
|Proprietary in 900 MHz Band||37%||36%|
|Proprietary in 2.4 GHz Band||33%||35%|
|Proprietary in 400 MHz Band||4%||6%|
|Proprietary in 800 MHz Band||4%||4%|
|Note: Percentages sum to over 100% due to multiple responses|
The reason why the article really caught my eye was because it reminded me back in the day in 2001/2002 when I was covering the nascent markets for wearable technology and smart textiles. I remember speaking to some people over dinner, after a conference at which I presented on smart textiles, and I told them not to worry fighting over share position of a small, emerging market, and to focus on growing the pie (i.e. market) until it is big enough to be worth fighting over.
The arcane analogy is somewhat relevant since based on extensive discussions with 50 wireless networking suppliers the global share of wireless industrial networking infrastructure products for use in industrial facilities relying on Wireless HART and ISA 100.11a was 1.6% and 1.3%, respectively. In addition, this situation is frighteningly familiar to the wireline fieldbus network wars that I first covered back in 1997; some of those same wars are still being fought today at the Ethernet-based application layer network protocols in the wireline networking products market.
I am not going to debate the technical or commercial merits of either wireless network in this blog as the article in question does a decent job in covering the basics. I am also not going to publicly state which of the two networks I believe will eventually win out as we have clients in both camps.
Rather I am raising the question as to whether customers really are waiting on the sidelines for an eventual winner to emerge and what the potential impact will be on overall wireless adoption in industrial automation today and into the future. I welcome any thoughts or opinions you may have on the matter.