Fieldbus Is Easy With Portable, Wireless Tools

Why Use Portable Tools? Find Out Its Benefits

By Larry O'Brien

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Handheld Tools. There is also a wide range of handheld tools available for use with Foundation fieldbus and other intelligent devices. These tools have been around for a long time, and the recent wave of innovation in handheld tools has resulted in some interesting new functions, interfaces and enhanced uses. Portable diagnostic tools assist in troubleshooting specific problems, and may present additional data not available with permanent diagnostic tools. Functions of portable diagnostic tools include voltage per segment, segment noise, max/min fieldbus signal (communications) level, low resistance between shield, and negative/positive signal pole, segment jitter and retransmissions.

Read Also: Portable Fieldbus Segment Commissioning

Some of these tools are fully functioning configuration tools that can operate with multiple protocols—not just Foundation fieldbus, but also HART, Profibus, etc. The more sophisticated include products such as the Emerson 475 field communicator (and its predecessor the 375) and the MC6 from Beamex. The 475 is ubiquitous in the process industries, and includes a nice full-color LCD display. Beamex's MC6 also sports a full-color LCD display, and is a full fieldbus communicator for HART, Foundation Fieldbus and Profibus PA instruments. MC6 also offers significant calibration capabilities for pressure, temperature and myriad electrical signals.

There is also a class of portable tools designed more for physical layer diagnostic tasks. These include the FBT-6 fieldbus monitor from Relcom or the Mobile Advanced Diagnostics Module (ADM) from Pepperl+Fuchs. These tools can help diagnose most physical-layer problems fast, and typically they have a simpler interface. Pepperl+Fuchs' ADM has the added feature of a built-in oscilloscope, which can come in handy when one wants to see a visual representation of the quality of fieldbus pulses or frames.

Remote Wireless Clients. Remote wireless clients can include laptops, notebooks or other wireless workstations that  have a wireless connection to the control network, and can serve as clients with direct access to the plant asset management system or a field application. Such wireless clients can allow changes to be tracked immediately in audit software available in many operating systems. Many end users are employing just such an approach to do in-the-field commissioning of fieldbus devices. Having a wirelessly connected client allows the technician to fully commission a fieldbus device in the field without the requirement of having an engineer in the control room. Of course, this approach also requires an in-plant WiFi or other wireless connection.

Fieldbus Foundation Testing and Registration

Portable tools that perform host functions such as device commissioning are classified under the Host Profile Registration process at the Fieldbus Foundation. We classify these task-specific hosts as either Visitor Hosts or Bench Hosts, and we have an entire testing and registration process for these hosts—just as we do for DCS Integrated Hosts and Foundation fieldbus H1 devices.

The Fieldbus Foundation "Class 62 Visitor Hosts" reside in portable tools such as the Emerson 475 that are used for maintenance, and have a temporary connection to the network. Visitor Hosts can also reside in specialized device applications such as online control valve diagnostic applications.

Class 63 Bench Hosts may set the network configuration for off-process testing. Primary users include maintenance and instrumentation personnel. Bench hosts can be used for several applications, including testing of skid operations and setting up a new device for service. Class 64 Bench Hosts are primarily off-process hosts for access to a previously commissioned device. Primary users of Class 64 Bench Hosts include instrumentation and maintenance personnel. The Class 64 Bench Host usually resides in a portable tool that is connected to an off-process segment or a specialized device application such as off-line valve diagnostics.
The Fieldbus Foundation Registered Products page has a complete list of tested and registered hosts, devices and other products. We also offer resources for developers, including developer training and tools. You can check out the Fieldbus Foundation web page at, and go to our End-User Resources section for a list of registered products, or email us at

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