How to Select the Right Network

Gathering Data from Everywhere

By Larry O'Brien

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I go to fieldbus seminars all over the world, and there are two things I hear from end users all the time: confusion about how to select the right network, and the difficulty of making sense out of all the diagnostic data that comes from intelligent devices. Although I work for the Fieldbus Foundation, I realize that Foundation fieldbus coexists in a world of multiple networks, and I will be the first to tell you that your choice of networks should be dictated by application requirements, not by what some marketing person tells you.

But what about managing the data from intelligent devices effectively? You can spend a lot of time and money integrating information from multiple networks. The world of wireless for process devices remains split into two camps. What if you want to try both ISA100.11a and WirelessHART devices in the same system? It would also be nice to get a little more horsepower out of Modbus networks and automation infrastructure assets such as remote I/O.

The Fieldbus Foundation has come up with a specification called Foundation for Remote Operations Management (ROM) that allows the Foundation fieldbus infrastructure to manage data from devices across a wide range of wired and wireless networks, from ISA100.11a to WirelessHART, wired HART, Modbus (coming soon) and conventional remote I/O.

Also Read "Petrobras Hosts FOUNDATION for ROM Demonstration in Brazil"

A Common Infrastructure

In the world of software, objects are building blocks of code that can be replicated and reused throughout the system. Objects can be used to represent a variety of things. In the world of Foundation fieldbus, we use objects called blocks to represent certain devices, control algorithms and more.

The Foundation fieldbus transducer block specification is used to represent wired HART, WirelessHART and ISA 100.11a devices, so they can be managed within the Foundation fieldbus infrastructure. What this means is that you don't have to lose existing diagnostic information you get out of your wireless devices.

It also means you can manage the diagnostic data in the Foundation fieldbus environment, and you can avail yourself of all the tools that Foundation fieldbus offers to help end users manage diagnostic data more effectively. These include things such as time stamping, alarm and alert reporting, and prioritization of diagnostic messages.

Diagnostic data and alerts can be provided instantly; status is constantly updated; information is constantly being recorded and time-stamped. This is also unique to Foundation fieldbus. Time stamping ensures that you'll know exactly when the diagnostic appeared, even if you get the actual diagnostic information at a later time.

The other major portion of the ROM spec is the wired and wireless backhaul network. That's the long-distance network connecting remote monitoring stations and assets to a central control room or monitoring center. The backhaul network runs on our high-speed Ethernet (HSE) network that incorporates standard IP technology. We're also working closely with the ISA100.15 committee to incorporate its wireless backhaul architecture model.

The Fieldbus Foundation and ISA began joint collaboration on wireless networks combining Fieldbus Foundation application protocol expertise with ISA100 communication networking resources to complete the backhaul network architecture model.

The Foundation fieldbus field diagnostics profile specification was defined to make it easier for end users to access and configure the diagnostics in fieldbus devices, regardless of which manufacturer's device or system is used. The diagnostic profile includes a standard and open interface for reporting all device alarm conditions, and provides a means of categorizing alert conditions by severity. The technology facilitates routing of alerts to appropriate consoles based on severity categories selected by the end user. In other words, it sends the right information to the right person at the right time without flooding the operator with alarms that are irrelevant to his specific duties.

The field diagnostic profile also provides recommended corrective actions and detailed help, as well as an indication of the overall health of the device. The field diagnostic profile specification puts all the mechanisms in place that are needed to provide context to diagnostic data and turn it into useful information.

Enabling the Next Generation of SCADA Solutions

The world of backhaul networks includes a grab bag of different technologies, and could benefit greatly from standardization efforts. Foundation for ROM addresses key backhaul issues, including cybersecurity and communication encryption. It also allows developers to embed powerful functionality into their existing controllers, RTUs, remote I/O and even wireless gateways. This has the potential to usher in a new class of highly compact intelligent RTUs that provide very tight connectivity to devices from a wide range of wired and wireless networks in remote locations to experts around the world in a secure manner.

Also Read "Modbus Integration Into FOUNDATION for ROM Announced"

Many end users see Foundation for ROM as a way to bring the market for RTUs and remote solutions forward in a significant way, not just because of the backhaul and network integration, but because Foundation fieldbus can manage the diagnostic information from all these devices on all these different networks, so they essentially look like Foundation fieldbus devices in your plant asset management system. This also means that you can get all the data management functions supported by Foundation fieldbus with your wireless devices and wired HART devices. This year, we also announced a project to support Modbus.

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