It’s now time to upgrade to a new HART communicator. Your old handheld HART communicator is obsolete and receives limited support. You shop around and find that it costs between $7,000 and $10,000 for a new handheld HART communicator. A Google search reveals mobile-based app alternatives. Will the mobile app perform as required? What should you look for?
The PC-based HART communicator has been around for many years, but until recently it has not been a true “handheld” HART communicator. The main reason is that Windows devices are large, power hungry, and no Windows-based mobile phone exists. The mobile device app revolution has taken care of those problems and now is a good time to review the capabilities of a mobile app-based HART communicator.
A key advantage of a mobile app solution over traditional handheld HART communicator is that you can use the mobile device you already own. In addition to already owning the main piece of hardware required, it is typically upgraded every couple of years for a very low cost (if not for free). You are continuously getting more features and more processing power without any effort.
Today’s mobile devices are cheap enough that spares are easily available. Even if a device replacement is required, same day turns are often possible. Damaging a special hardware device like a traditional HART communicator could take days or even weeks to replace.
Hardened mobile devices are available for extra protection. There are even mobile devices rated for hazardous areas.
Device Descriptions (DD’s)
The key criterion is that the mobile app must be “DD based.” This means the mobile app uses the HART device’s DD binary file to present menus, variables, and methods. The HART device manufacturer spent a considerable amount of time developing the DD so that the full functionality of the device is available to the user. The DD was tested extensively before release to the FieldComm Group DD Library. This DD is the only approved way to interface for HART communication protocol.
Unless you have full DD access to the HART device, you may be stuck in the field without the ability to change a necessary parameter or perform a calibration on the HART device.
Ease of Updating Your HART Communicator
Once you have established that the candidate mobile app-based HART communicator is DD based, you can look deeper into other criteria. One is the DD Library itself. The registered DD Library is updated four times per year by the FieldComm Group (FCG).
Does the mobile app contain all devices released by the FCG? Is it easy (and inexpensive) to update the library? Some handheld HART communicators are extremely difficult and expensive to update. Mobile app-based HART communicators can take advantage of push notifications and automatic updates to maintain the library.
Single Function vs. Multi-function
Traditional handheld HART communicators can only perform one function – HART communications. A mobile app-based solution offers the advantage of having all your needs met with one tool: Email, user manuals, operating procedures, reports, contact database, and more are all available on your mobile device.
In fact, HART communications on your mobile device allow integrating the HART information easily into your report database, contact management, and email. This results in higher productivity for the user, and also eliminates extra pieces of equipment.
Documenting and managing device configurations are other important criteria. Some handheld HART communicators have memory limitations that limit the number of configurations you can save.
Also, it may be difficult or impossible to transfer the configurations to the PC for archiving or viewing. Mobile app-based communicators using the cloud have no practical memory limits. Configurations can be saved and viewed using standard apps.
In a mobile app-based communicator, make sure the saved configurations can be viewed in a user-friendly way and can be easily shared. PDF files make great looking reports possible. Customizable reports are also a nice touch.
Size and Mobility, Bluetooth as a Solution
In the past it was difficult to use a handheld or even a PC-based HART communicator in hard-to-reach places. Carrying a laptop up a ladder is dangerous. However, now there are Bluetooth-based HART modems that provide great convenience.
Connect the Bluetooth HART modem in the hard-to-reach location, and then climb back down to safety and use your mobile app-based HART communicator safely from the ground.
With the advent of the mobile app revolution, truly “handheld” HART communicators are now a reality. Make sure the mobile app is DD-based, easy to update, and can save and write device configurations.
Additional Benefits of DevCom HART Mobile Communicators
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