Fanning the flames

With the main fires of the fieldbus wars largely extinguished following the formation last February of an international cooperative team consisting of the three main fieldbus organizations (Fieldbus Foundation, HART Communication Foundation, and Profibus User Organization) and the OPC Foundation to extend electronic device description language (EDDL) for communication from the device level to t...

05/01/2005


With the main fires of the fieldbus wars largely extinguished following the formation last February of an international cooperative team consisting of the three main fieldbus organizations (Fieldbus Foundation, HART Communication Foundation, and Profibus User Organization) and the OPC Foundation to extend electronic device description language (EDDL) for communication from the device level to the enterprise, it seemed that the market might be entering a calmer period of growth.

Apparently, this was not to be. When you stop to notice how quickly the dissipation of one fire is followed by the stirrings of another, it certainly seems to prove the point that nature abhors a vacuum. In this case, lag time was just two months between the fieldbus announcement and a press conference at Hannover Fair re-igniting a different debate—best-of-breed versus single-source provider.

Of course, this debate is not new to the automation sector by any means. Giving the debate new life is the maturation and application of open standards across a number of prominent industry players.

Endress+Hauser, Festo, and Turck held the press conference at Hannover Fair to which I refer. The three companies presented the work they had recently completed at the Rothaus brewery in Germany. For the brewery's fermenting tanks, Festo supplied CPV fieldbus valve terminals, which control stainless steel ball valve drives; Turck provided inductive sensors for monitoring the drives' end positions; and Endress+Hauser supplied measuring instruments and hygienically designed sensors used in automation of the brewing process. Profibus-PA/-DP integrates control system components.

Each company said its work on this project does not signal the start of an official alliance between the companies for integrated automation delivery. Rather, it is more of an example of what's now possible on an ad hoc basis due to the open nature of each company's products.

The success of projects like these certainly gives more options to automation buyers. Broad open standards adoption and the increasing willingness of companies to work together certainly make this option appealing.

If the best-of-breed versus single source debate doesn't hold particular interest for you, a number of companies at Hannover Fair were also stirring up the old distributed versus centralized control pot—with specific focus on the increasing adoption of advanced PC technologies in newer controllers.

2005 certainly seems to be shaping up as the year for some high stakes market positioning by numerous automation vendors. We promise to keep you posted on the developments.

David Greenfield, Editorial Director

dgreenfield@reedbusiness.com





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