“Walt? Ed Ladd here.” The voice sounded a little strained. “Um,” he continued, “how many people do you think will show up for Tuesday night’s meeting? I mean, I don’t want to come all they way up there if there’s only going to be five people show up.”
Ed Ladd, of the HART Communications Foundation, was agreeing at the last minute to fill a speaking slot for his boss, Ron Helson, at the Will-Dupage ISA Section meeting this past Tuesday.
I assured him that there would be at least 30 people in attendance, not including he or I. In fact there were close to 40, most of them end-users.
“That’s what I set out to do when I started the section,” says Jim Hopkins, former section president. “I wanted a section that was mostly end-users, run by end-users, and didn’t spend a whole lot of time getting the other vendors to be involved. They come to the occasional meeting, and they exhibit at the tabletop show, but that’s it.”
For twenty years now, the section has operated the way Hopkins designed it to. “We provide value to the end-users,” Hopkins goes on, “and I get to spend an evening with 30 or 40 of my best customers. It works.”
The section drags in the big fish, too. Not just me, for the occasional program by the “Heap Big Chief Editor”…after all, it’s my home section now, but people like Bill Goble, Bob Sherman, and Ed Ladd.
If you wanted to know about the state of HART, you couldn’t get any closer to the fount than Ed. Formerly in sales with companies like FlowData and Brandt, Ed served for several years as a member of ISA’s staff, before joining the HART Communications Foundation as one of their technical experts.
One of the most interesting parts of Ed’s talk, too, was its duration. He kept a usually restive crowd glued to their chairs for over two hours, instead of the 45 minutes, with quick questions and answers that usually happens. He started with an overview. “So you think you know all about HART?” he asked, and proceeded to talk about what we really didn’t know…like HART 6’s capabilities and why end-users should start specifying it instead of old fashioned HART when they ask for sensors and control elements with HART.
He also talked about HART wireless, which is, like most other nascent industrial networks, based on IEEE 802.15.4. Using the now-ubiqitous mesh networking principles embodied in the physical layer described by “15.4” the HART Wireless Working Group has done an end-run around the ISA SP100 committee, by having the HART “standard” ready for adoption in the next three to four months, and, potentially, products available meeting this standard by years’ end.
When I left, well past 9 pm, there was still a lively discussion going on between Ed and about ten die-hard end-users about various things HART.
This is how an ISA section is supposed to work.