FDT technology provides a new level of interoperability for the process automation industry by standardizing the communication and configuration interface between field devices and host systems. Most "smart" devices that are in the field today have FDT-capable device type managers (DTMs) available, but if the consumer is not using FDT tested and certified DTMs in their control systems, they may not be using their devices to their full potential.
So What Is FDT Certification Testing?
Testing DTMs for certification to the FDT specification is a process by which the DTM is put through rigorous compliance testing to ensure such things as viability of the DTM state machine, correct installation and de-installation of the DTM, multi-user environment capability, mandatory and optional interface functionality, robustness of the DTM, network scanning communication performance, ability to import and export the topology, and audit trail capability. The FDT specification is an open standard in compliance with IEC 62453 and ISA 103 and is independent of any network protocol. DTMs that are compliant with the FDT standard allow you open access to your intelligent devices and the myriad of information available from that device and about your process.
Why Do I Need It?
Using FDT technology over your network will enhance the usability of the information available in your smart devices without having to go into the field to access that information directly from the device. Access to your device information provides you with benefits such as preventing unplanned shutdowns and reducing downtime; lowering maintenance and installation cost; ensuring that all of your installed assets are used to the best of their ability; allowing you to choose the devices that best fit your needs; and providing access to all data available in the device with a common look and feel, regardless of the device manufacturer.
How Do I Get It?
FDT technology has been available for several years and is probably already in your plant. Getting FDT-certified DTMs is easy. You can look up your devices on the FDT Group website to find out if your devices are FDT-tested and -certified, then go to the device manufacturer website to download the certified DTM and install it for use with your Frame. That's all there is to it! Three easy steps to access all the information that your intelligent devices have to offer!
If you don't have FDT-capable devices already installed in your plant, here are some things to include in your purchasing specifications: Demand that suppliers support FDT technology and preferably be a FDT Group member; insist on FDT-certified DTMs and Frame applications; require that products comply with IEC 62453 and ISA 103 standards; require that control systems and host applications be DTM-enabled or support a platform-independent Frame.1
Where Is My Local FDT Testing Center?
The Sensor Integration & Technology Testing Center (SITT) is located in the heart of Northern Ohio about 20 minutes west of Cleveland on the campus Lorain County Community College in Elyria. It is conveniently located in the Midwest and is presently available and accredited for FDT certification testing. The center is in the midst of building an integration testing facility for the purpose of testing process automation devices, Frames and DTMs on working networks for interoperability with other manufacturer's devices and software.
1 White Paper, "Specifying FDT Technology, Putting Your Assets to Work!"; FDT Group, AISBL; Copyright 2011