Recently completed enhancements to the Electronic Device Description Language (EDDL) promise to enable standardized device configuration, allowing easy visualization and configuration of installed HART-enabled intelligent devices. "The standardization of device configuration is as significant to the process industry as the creation of Windows was for PCs," says Ed Ladd, Director of Technology Programs for the HART Communication Foundation (HCF, www.hartcomm.org). "One DD to work everywhere—that's our goal. And we expect this technology to be available to users by the first of the year." 
These developments are the result of collaboration between the HCF, other international fieldbus organizations, and automation system and device suppliers. Specifications have been submitted to the IEC for approval and manufacturers have begun implementation of the new EDDL.
According to HCF 70% of all smart process measurement and control instruments installed worldwide each year use HART. In another development affecting the process arena, Sabeus Inc. (www.sabeus.com), manufacturer of acoustic sensing and telecommunications sub-systems (including rugged fiber-optic distributed temperature and pressure sensing systems for the oil and gas industry), has acquired laser developer, Aragon Technologies, Inc. Aragon was founded in 2002 to create a narrow line width, low phase noise laser immune to the frequency output instability inherent to operation in harsh environments.
"Unstable, expensive laser sources have long been a hindrance to the development of cost-effective sensing solutions for oil field and military applications," said André de Fusco, Sabeus' president and CEO. "We will tightly integrate Aragon's technology with our surface readout units which are deployed to interrogate Sabeus' fiber-optic towed arrays, perimeter security, and subsurface sensing systems."
While many process industries have long embraced automation and control technologies, tight profit margins have historically discouraged food and beverage companies from investing in equipment that cannot rapidly boost profitability. But according to Frost & Sullivan (http://industrialautomation.frost.com), a number of factors—including technological innovation, legislation, sprawling production facilities, and complex supply chains requiring improved efficiencies—are stimulating investments in automation and control solutions among food and beverage producers.
In Europe, investments have also been driven by consolidation in the retail sector and among food and beverage producers. At the retail level, large supermarket groups have been expanding their market presence.
With large-scale distribution networks and just-in-time production, the need for efficient and transparent production processes is gaining impetus. Similarly, the need to monitor specific ingredients used in food products is becoming significant. And as multinationals further dominate by acquiring smaller rivals, they are likely to push for greater harmonization and higher efficiency levels across diverse global facilities.