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The final shape of the actual unified FDI model has yet to be determined, but it is clear that it will draw heavily on the itm proposals, using a subset of the OPC UA technology within a client-server architecture. One of the EDDL supporters’ key objections to FDT was its operating system dependence, while the FDT camp objected to the control over how information is displayed which EDDL conferred on the host system. As a result, the agreement specifies that the eventual solution should be operating system-, platform- and host-independent. Device vendors will have complete freedom to define the content of device pages to ensure that access is available to all the functionality of their devices. However, the look and feel will come from the host, although the device vendor will have the freedom to write applications for specific functionality.
FDI will also be compatible with existing EDDL and DTM based device descriptions, thereby preserving users’ existing investments, although it will be the responsibility of the separate ECT and FDT groups to develop migration strategies for their respective installed bases and to ensure backward compatibility with existing EDDs and DTMs.
The agreement also requires that the technology is applicable to any field device communication technology and to both hierarchical and heterogeneous network topologies, which effectively means all existing fieldbus technologies including, most importantly, HART, Profibus, Foundation fieldbus and the ODVA’s CIP-based networks. The aim is to develop an open specification which will, in the fullness of time become an international standard. The current time scale calls for draft specifications and prototypes to be in place no later than the end of 2008.
Major Step Forward
Kumpfmueller himself described the agreement as “a major step forward for device integration in several areas. It eliminates double efforts for customers and vendors, and preserves backward-compatibility and operating system independence … Our agreement is more than a compromise; it is the natural technical evolution based on the most up-to-date, open and flexible technologies.”
FDT group managing director Flavio Tolfo was equally enthusiastic. “This new cooperation follows our targets of openness and freedom of choice for the benefit of end users and is strongly supported by our members. After much discussion, we reached commitment to work together and protect the investment of each technology for the benefit of end users.”
So who has won? Well, this is certainly not another IEC 61158 and it’s difficult to avoid the conclusion that the EDDL camp has got pretty much everything it could possibly hope for. FDT becomes a member of ECT, rather than the other way round, and the eventual solution will maintain operating system independence, while look and feel will be largely determined by the host rather than the device supplier. So while Emerson and Siemens have had to concede that FDT may have some role to play, the 59 members of the FDT group are having to dance to a strongly EDDL-harmonized tune.
That is perhaps why, in its own announcement, the FDT Group goes out of its way to say that “It must be emphasized that the existing technology development programs in the FDT Group are not affected at all. We have set up separate joint technical and marketing teams to manage this common project. Furthermore, all ECT member organizations, FDT Group, FF, HCF, OPCF, and PNO remain separate organizations, each with their own missions, objectives, membership, and organization structures.” Again, it’s hard to see how long that would survive acceptance of an eventual unified FDI.
Given the proven ability of the automation industry to snatch failure from the jaws of success, it’s still a long road from here to an eventual FDI standard. We suspect that Hans-Georg Kumpfmueller is going to need all of his proven diplomatic skills if the embryonic FDI is make it to full term.
Honeywell’s latest contribution to the Safety Instrumented Systems (SIS) debate is the introduction of a set of technologies and services designed to help users monitor the health and reliability of their SISs. It quotes certain unspecified studies showing that companies can save up to $100,000 or even $1millon per year though correct engineering and maintenance of SISs and their associated Safety Instrumented Functions (SIFs).
Honeywell SIS-Health Monitoring was codeveloped with industry professionals in the maintenance, instrumentation and test engineering fields and is designed to reduce unnecessary maintenance and engineering and minimize failures that can lead to safety incidents and unexpected plant downtime. It’s also claimed to enable better work practices, which can lead to savings of between 20% and 30% on installation and operating costs. “Experience has shown that a poorly maintained SIS can be costly for any plant in any industry,” explained Systems marketing manager Jason Urso. “SIS-Health Monitoring helps facility managers keep tabs on their safety systems, which makes for more efficient and effective maintenance, increased process availability and decreased production losses.”
If it Ain’t Broke . . .
Honeywell’s aim is to address the 20% or more of plant incidents that it believes are caused by SIS maintenance and testing errors. Problems identified include too-frequent maintenance and testing of SISs because system status cannot be accurately monitored. Such unnecessary maintenance can, it argues, increase the possibility of human error and consequent failure, while lack of reliability data can result in unnecessary engineering of SIS which can again result in system failure.
SIS-Health Monitoring can be customized to meet specific plant requirements, conditions and process demands. It currently comprises two modules that can be operated as stand-alones or as an integrated system and applied to any type or brand of safety instrumentation. The SISHealth Monitoring Local Reliability Database stores all inventory information regarding a site’s safety instrumentation and, based on its failure behavior, helps determine reliability and safety performance characteristics, such as trends, demand rates and time-dependent failure rates. Meanwhile the SIS-Health Monitoring Analysis Tool enables operators to analyze, validate and optimize the SIF reliability and Safety Integrity Level (SIL).
“Many existing tools … are not capable of automatically monitoring the actual performance of an SIS,” claims Urso. “Honeywell’s SIS-Health Monitoring solution addresses that weakness by collecting necessary, meaningful data and giving engineers the tools they need to act on it.”
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