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What is HART?

The majority of smart field devices installed worldwide today are HART-enabled. But some new in the automation field may need a refresher on this powerful technology.

Simply put, the HART (Highway Addressable Remote Transducer) Protocol is the global standard for sending and receiving digital information across analog wires between smart devices and control or monitoring system.

More specifically, HART is a bi-directional communication protocol that provides data access between intelligent field instruments and host systems. A host can be any software application from technician's hand-held device or laptop to a plant's process control, asset management, safety or other system using any control platform.

HART technology offers a reliable, long-term solution for plant operators who seek the benefits of intelligent devices with digital communication – that is included in the majority of the devices being installed.  In many cases however, most applications cannot retrofit their existing automation systems with a system that can accept the digital data which is provided by the HART Protocol.

Because most automation networks in operation today are based on traditional 4-20mA analog wiring, HART technology serves a critical role because the digital information is simultaneously communicated with the 4-20mA signal. Without it, there would be no digital communication.

HART technology is easy to use and very reliable when used for commissioning and calibration of smart devices as well as for continuous online diagnostics.

There are several reasons to have a host communicate with smart devices. These include:

Years of success using these benefits explain why HART technology is the largest of all communication protocols, installed in more than 30 million devices worldwide.

If you've ever used a land-line telephone and noticed the Caller ID display to take note of who is calling, you already know half of what the HART Protocol does—it tells "who" is calling. In an industrial automation network "who" is a microprocessor-based smart field device. In addition to letting such smart field devices "phone home," HART Communication lets a host system send data to the smart instrument.

HART emerged in the late1980s based on the same technology that brought Caller ID to analog telephony. It has undergone continued development, up to and including automation products now shipping with built-in WirelessHART Communication.