HART Network Ecosystem

Wired or wireless HART Communication protocols are designed to enable users to  connect to the valuable information in their intelligent measurement and control devices, including real-time diagnostics, performance and status alerts, and device configuration data.

Ted Master, President, HART Communication Foundation
Ted Masters, President, HART Communication Foundation

Ted Masters is president and CEO of the HART Communication Foundation, an international, not-for-profit organization that manages the HART Protocol standards and provides worldwide support technologies that leverage the HART Protocol. Ted has held leadership roles in the process industry for about 25 years, including work in a variety of technical companies delivering product, software, and service solutions to industrial markets. His career has been centered on gaining access to operational data and turning it into business intelligence, enabling value-based decisions for end-users. This includes large and small instrumentation, systems and controls companies, as well as a predictive analytic enterprise software company now a part of GE Intelligent Platforms.

Q: You recently replaced long-time HART Communication Foundation President, Ron Helson. How do you feel about being Mr. Helson’s successor and the role of building upon the work he did in establishing the HART Communication Foundation as a leading provider of protocols for industrial communications?

A: Ron has built the Foundation around solid principals that will last. He has also set the direction to maximize value for the members and open markets to drive the sale of their products. It is functioning quite well, yet there is still plenty of opportunity to optimize the performance of the Foundation and its processes.

Also, a tremendous upside can be achieved in growing our global footprint both in geographical areas and with many technologies that are in their infancy. We can leverage the groundwork Ron has put in place to scale the membership and grow adoption in many markets. Our strategic planning will align with these goals and put the proper initiatives in place to enable further growth.

Finally, I am excited about taking the Foundation to the next technological level and making HART even more relevant in the age of the “Internet of Things.” This needs to be carefully executed to preserve the fundamental principles our users count on and keeping HART reliable and secure in the cyber age.

Q: What was your relationship with the HART Communication Foundation prior to taking over as president?

A: Although I had been in the instrumentation and control world most of my career, I only began working closely with the Foundation when I became president of Elcon, a small member company (now part of Pepperl+Fuchs) similar to many of our member companies today.

From my background in sales and marketing I have stomped around many plants and view the business from the user’s perspective. I understand the large control system, data acquisition, and instrumentation companies; however, only when I worked with Elcon did I get to see the value a relationship with HART can yield.
At Elcon I worked closely with the Foundation to develop products, partnered with other member companies, and enjoyed tremendous growth by sharing the solutions we developed within the HART ecosystem.

Q: What do you see as some of the key accomplishments of the HART Communication Foundation since its inception in 1993?

A: Well, that’s difficult to put a box around, yet it is encapsulated in the fact that the HART Protocol is the recognized global leader for process automation communication. Over 20 years, the Foundation accomplished this by demonstrating how to enable value to end-users through the use of HART data. With nearly 300 members composed of the most innovative technology companies in the world, we now have the critical mass to drive member solutions into the marketplace to connect and enable the HART data to be utilized by any system imaginable.

Q: From your perspective, what were some of the more challenging aspects of HART’s path to where it stands today?   

A: I would have to say getting over the perception that HART is an analog protocol that measures a 4-20mA current across a wire. Digital communications run across many media, and it just so happens in the case of HART that this media is the most reliable, secure, and prevalent form of communication in the process industry. Now that the market recognizes that this is a digital protocol that can reliably bring the intelligence of their devices to connect with hosts, it opens up the value without being disruptive to their operations.

Q: In the future, where do you see the HART Communication Foundation going under your leadership? What are your goals for the organization over the next 5-10 years?
A: It all starts with the ultimate goal of improving our end-users’ operations and delivering a value proposition at the plant level that is compelling for utilizing HART data in real time. It’s all downhill from there.

Many new ways to connect will drive member solutions and keep HART on the cutting edge of digital communications. Growing wirelessly enables options to cost-effectively bring in data that would otherwise not be considered. We will grow in our ability to integrate with decision-support systems and software to leverage analytics and improve asset management.

Delivering the HART data enterprise-wide is the next step to maximizing its use in all operations and management functions of the modern plant today. This integration is also fueled by standardization at the host level, which will be a key focus for the Foundation.
Finally, more can be done on a worldwide basis to work cooperatively with other countries and standards and make it easier for users and members to gain access to their data, and to register and support HART devices and hosts.

Q: It was recently announced that the HART Communication Foundation and the Fieldbus Foundation are discussing a possible merger. What can you tell us about the status of the merger?  

We have formed a study group to investigate all the ways that such a merger would provide additional value and make it easier for our members and users. We have been working hard at this task for months with the goal of optimizing a proposed new Foundation to ensure it provides benefits to members of all types. As you may imagine, there are many moving parts and so much work to be done to cover all the bases before we deliver a well thought out plan and benefits to the members, who will ultimately decide. Thus far the results are very encouraging, and we are making good progress toward a new Foundation that benefits all.

Q: Looking ahead 10 years, how will industrial communication be different than it is today? What do you see as the key accomplishments going forward?
A: I believe the data delivered will be smarter and have more inherent intelligence. We will take further steps to system-wide interoperability, standardizing both devices and various hosts. Many process automation technologies will work together to deliver ways to connect to this valuable data.

Data will be more accessible enterprise-wide in the modern day plant and available in the context needed to help people in various departments make better decisions to optimize their operation. Plants will get much smarter and integrated, but the people will still make the decisions of financial value that impact their operation and livelihood—and they will have far greater intelligence to make those decisions.


Interview conducted by Matt Migliore, director of content for Flow Control magazine and FlowControlNetwork.com. You can reach Matt at Matt@GrandViewMedia.com. Follow Matt on Google+. Connect with Matt on LinkedIn.