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HART Communication

Published on Nov 30, 2023


For many years, the field communication standard for process automation equipment has been a milliamp (mA) analog current signal. The milliamp current signal varies within a range of 4-2OmA in proportion to the process variable being represented. Li typical applications a signal of 4mA will correspond to the lower limit (0%) of the calibrated range and 2OmA will correspond to the upper limit (100%) of the calibrated range.

Virtually all installed systems use this international standard for communicating process variable information between process automation equipment.

HART Field Communications Protocol extends this 4- 2OmA standard to enhance communication with smart field instruments. The HART protocol was designed specifically for use with intelligent measurement and control instruments which traditionally communicate using 4-2OmA analog signals. HART preserves the 4- signal and enables two way digital communications to occur without disturbing the integrity of the 4-2OmA signal.

Unlike other digital communication technologies, the HART protocol maintains compatibility with existing 4-2OmA systems, and in doing so, provides users with a uniquely backward compatible solution. HART Communication Protocol is well-established as the existing industry standard for digitally enhanced 4- 2OmA field communication.


HART is an acronym for "Highway Addressable Remote Transducer". The HART protocol makes use of the Bell 202 Frequency Shift Keying (FSK) standard to superimpose digital communication signals at a low level on top of the 4-2OmA. This enables two-way field communication to take place and makes it possible for additional information beyond just the normal process variable to be communicated to/from a smart field instrument. The HART protocol communicates at 1200 bps without interrupting the 4-2OmA signal and allows a host application (master) to get two or more digital updates per second from a field device. As the digital FSK signal is phase continuous, there is no interference with the 4- 2OrnA signal.

HART is a master/slave protocol which means that a field (slave) device only speaks when spoken to by a master. The HART protocol can be used in various modes for communicating information to/from smart field in3truments and central control or monitor systems. HART provides for up to two masters (primary and secondary). This allows secondary masters such as handheld communicators to be used without interfering with communications to/from the primary master, i.e. control/monitoring system.

The most commonly employed HART communication mode is master/slave communication of digital information simultaneous with transmission of the 4-2OmA signal. The HART protocol permits all digital communication with field devices in either point-to-point or multidrop network configuration. There is an optional "burst" communication mode where single slave device can continuously broadcast a standard HART reply message.


The HART protocol utilizes the OSI reference model. As is the case for most of the communication systems on the field level, the HART protocol implements only the Layers 1, 2 and 7 of the OSI model. The layers 3 to 6 remain empty since their services are either not required or provided by the application layer 7

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