While each of Invensys Operations Management's Tricon, Trident and Triconex General Purpose (Tri-GP) safety system platforms exists to satisfy a particular niche in the safety landscape, the future points to increased convergence among these platforms, even as investments are made to boost software and hardware performance across the family, said Michael Chmilewski, vice president, DCS and safety solutions for Invensys Operations Management, in his roadmap address to the recent Triconex User Group meeting in Galveston, Texas.
Key areas of focus include process safety management performance applications, common configuration tools, single database and single tag entry capabilities, common enhanced main processors, Triconex "on the control network," harmonized I/O and smaller footprint hardware. "These are the overarching functional strategies driving the roadmap going forward," Chmilewski said.
But before discussing this long-term vision in greater detail, Chmilewski listed some of the specific development efforts currently underway for near-term release. These include system certification to the latest version of the IEC's 61508 standard, issued in 2010; version 3.0 of the Tri-GP system, which features enhanced peer-to-peer performance; and a new, soon-to-be-released communications interface module (CIM). New software releases pending include version 4.10 of the TriStation programming environment, and enhancements to Diagnostic Monitor (version 2.7), which features automatic discovery and configuration of controllers on the network. Also in the works is a wireless link for peer-to-peer communication among Trident and Tri-GP systems. Designed to be easy to deploy and manage, "it costs 50-70% less than a wired solution," Chmilewski said.
Vigilance plus Visibility
New needs within the industry to provide not just safety vigilance, but safety visibility, also are recognized within the Triconex roadmap, Chmilewski said. "The new emphasis is on ‘How are my safety systems working today?'" As an example, he cited the desire to report how many times an SIS valve has been bypassed and for how long each time, together with an audit trail of operator actions. "Bypasses, not just incidents, need to be more proactively managed." Next up will be key performance indicators (KPIs) to improve operational integrity, Chmilewski said. "We have a plan going forward to display real-time safety integrity level (SIL), including dynamics."
Virtualization technology, too, is on the roadmap for Triconex application servers, workstations and thin clients in order to realize the same benefits that users of Invensys Operations Management's Foxboro I/A Series distributed control systems (DCS) have found: reduced costs, space and energy requirements as well as system maintenance effort over the long haul.
On the hardware side, Invensys is looking to reduce equipment footprint of its safety systems by offering the optional elimination of hot spare base plates. This early-phase effort would allow users to specify a hot spare only for those safety instrument functions (SIFs) where one's needed, Chmilewski said.
A more powerful, common main processor across the Tricon, Trident and Tri-GP families is in the works and provides a 4x improvement in performance, Chmilewski continued. Featuring more memory and faster scan times, this converged processor will protect existing Triconex SIS investments and provide superior performance for critical control applications. A unified control processor will also allow the company to establish a more frequent cadence for processor updates going forward.
Also on the drawing board is tighter integration of Triconex safety systems with the I/A Series DCS, starting with a unified configuration environment and connectivity of Triconex systems to the Foxboro Mesh network. "The goal is to provide the improved usability inherent in an integrated system without compromising safety and security," Chmilewski said.
Further out on the 10-year horizon is harmonization of the safety I/O family as well as communication alternatives. "We're working on determining priorities," Chmilewski said. "What are the commonalities of function, and how can we drive convergence going forward?"