Over the past few years, industrial systems designers have enabled device integration via fieldbus technology with EDDL (electronic device description language) and FDT (field device tool) technologies. Despite the relative openness of these technologies compared to earlier integration tools, a variety of integration issues remain related to proprietary device and fieldbus specifications.
In response to an increase in system designer and end user frustration with persistent integration issues, most of the major field device manufacturers and fieldbus protocol organizations have come to an agreement on a new specification-FDI (field device integration)-which is reported to be a truly universal field device integration protocol with which to connect nearly any field device over any fieldbus network.
Device vendors supporting FDI are ABB, Emerson, Endress + Hauser, Honeywell, Invensys, Siemens and Yokogawa. Supporting industry groups are FDT, Foundation Fieldbus, HART Communication Foundation, OPC Foundation and Profibus/Profinet.
At ABB's 2010 Automation & Power World Event in Houston, TX, Achim Laubenstein, with ABB's Automation Products group in Minden, Germany, announced recent developments related to the group† (initially launched in response to industry demands in 2007). According to Laubenstein, FDI draft specifications are now available, with final protocol specifications, developments and a testing environment scheduled for arrival by the end of 2011. He expects FDI products to begin coming online in 2012.
The principal goals of the group in developing FDI are that the new technology:
- Can be used with all field device data and functions with no restriction on host systems;
- Will not impact control systems;
- Will allow version management over the device lifecycle;
- Provide for the ability to migrate a current solution to FDI;
- Can be proven compatible with standards according to independent conformance tests (with tests done by fieldbus organizations);
- Will have a single integration solution independent of protocols; and
- Will replace FDT/EDDL.
Laubenstein explains that FDI works by "harmonizing and simplifying Foundation Fieldbus, HART and Profibus plus features of FDT to provide a functional FDI device package containing the required device description and advanced optional features ."
Device vendors will deliver the FDI device package within their devices, which will contain all parameters, device structure information, functions, consistency rules, and both a descriptive user interface and programmed user interface. The FDI device package is sent from the device to an FDI server which is connected via OPC UA to a client, doing away with need for EDDL and DTM, says Laubenstein.
FDI will reportedly be able to be used in client-server systems and in stand-alone tools.
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