Update and History of Field Device Integration (FDI) Effort

Standards are an essential part of technology advancement. They provide a way for users to choose from multiple suppliers, and suppliers to create solutions with multiple suppliers’ technologies.

In areas where competing standards emerge, it’s great when a path to a unified standard emerges. Such is the case with smart instrumentation device integration. The Field Device Integration (FDI) initiative provides a path to a common solution for device management. It brings Electronic Device Description Language (EDDL) and Field Device Tool (FDT) standards together. The purpose of these standards are to bring the information from the devices to common applications such as asset management applications and handheld devices, as I highlighted in an earlier post, A Single Dashboard into Digital Field Devices with EDDL.

There was a great presentation from the 2012 Emerson Exchange conference in Anaheim by the Fieldbus Foundation’s Stephen Mitschke, Field Device Integration (FDI) – Evolution in Asset Integration. In it, he shared some of the history of the fieldbus standards wars and the device integration technology wars. You can also find a copy of a variation of this presentation in the Foundation Fieldbus Slideshare area.

On the device integration front, EDDL grew out the HART Foundation‘s Device Descriptions in 1992. It was adopted by the Fieldbus Foundation in 1994 and the Profibus International Organization in 2000. It became an IEC standard, IEC 61804-2 in 2004. The Fieldbus Foundation, HART Communications Foundation and Profibus Organization collectively maintain the EDDL standard through the IEC.

FDT began with an association by the automation suppliers ABB, Endress+Hauser, Invensys, Metso, and Siemens. It became FDT Group in 2005. It includes profiles for several communication networks including HART, Profibus, Foundation fieldbus, DeviceNet, Interbus, AS-Interface, and Profinet IO. It became an IEC standard, IEC 62453 in 2009. FDT Group maintains FDT through the IEC.

Without going into the strengths and weaknesses of the two approaches, they had elements of uniqueness and overlap. The FDI Project was announced in 2007 where the FDT Group joined with the EDDL Cooperation Team to have broad support among automation suppliers. Here’s a description of the history from FDI-Cooperation.com:

FDI Cooperation, LLC originated from efforts at the EDDL Cooperation Team (ECT) to accelerate deployment of the FDI solution, which was kicked-off at 2007 Hanover Fair. Since then, the project has carefully shaped the technology direction for the converged FDI solution. FDI is a unified solution for simple as well as the most advanced field devices, for the various tasks associated with all phases of their life cycle such as configuration, commissioning, diagnostics, and calibration. In October 2009, ECT broadened the scope of the FDI project to harmonize EDDL across communication protocols and provide FDI Design and Test Tools including a common EDD Interpreter. Implementation of the extended scope was supported by seven major supplier companies: ABB, Emerson Process Management, Endress+Hauser, Honeywell, Invensys, Siemens, and Yokogawa.

Stephen described the process for the integration effort. It began with receiving input from many industry organizations including AIDA, NAMUR, WIB, and PNO for use case development. These use cases were based on the plant lifecycle model—planning, engineering, commissioning, operations and maintenance.

Key principals to the effort include host system independence, support for the major digital buses and open to other industrial networks, and backward compatibility with the existing EDDL and FDT-2 based systems.

FDI is a convergent point for both current systems, regardless if they are native EDDL or native FDT. There is a path for both system approaches to use FDI, and the new “Device Package” is the key enabler. The Device Package has a lot of capabilities for automation suppliers that will make it easier to integrate digital devices.

If you follow the Slideshare link, you can see more about aspects of Device Package, backward compatibility, simplified deployment, integrity & authenticity, lifecycle management, conformity assessment, registration and certification.

Since the effort began, version 1.0 of the FDI specifications and development tools will soon be available for automation suppliers for their technology development efforts. Prototype tools have been available to get these efforts in motion. Here’s more about the FDI technology and contact information for more information on these prototyping tools.

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