The Fieldbus Foundation, conducting a press conference at Hannover Messe 2014, commemorated its 20th anniversary. As a not-for-profit trade organization dedicated to fieldbus technology, the foundation led the effort to develop an open, interoperable, international fieldbus protocol. The resulting technology—FOUNDATION fieldbus—changed the face of industrial automation.
Fieldbus Foundation President and CEO Richard Timoney reflected on the many significant fieldbus technology milestones since 1994: "The foundation and its members have made remarkable progress over the last two decades," said Timoney. "Each year, FOUNDATION fieldbus experiences an accelerating rate of global adoption, with major installations throughout the oil & gas, petrochemical, power, paper, pharmaceutical and consumer goods industries. Our members report sales of fieldbus-based products are now a significant portion of their overall business activity."
Timoney continued, "End users understand that FOUNDATION fieldbus is an automation infrastructure that makes it possible to view plant operations in high definition; manage information effectively; and optimize people, processes and technology. In particular, it enables a new level of asset management effectiveness that can reduce operating costs and support operational excellence."
To date, the Fieldbus Foundation has tested and registered 577 unique fieldbus products, with more than 150 communication stacks and 900 devices registered. Approximately two million field devices are now in service, with more than 20,000 systems installed worldwide. Device and host test tools evolve to reflect the ongoing technical developments to the FOUNDATION specifications.
Based on the most recent market data, compiled in 2011, FOUNDATION fieldbus accounted for approximately 74 percent of the total process fieldbus market. Total sales were $1.3 billion USD and growing faster than the overall total fieldbus market.
The Fieldbus Foundation recently unveiled an initiative to enhance the usability of FOUNDATION fieldbus, with the goal of making the digital fieldbus automation experience easier than conventional analog control systems in every conceivable way, from device setup to daily maintenance practices. One of the most important first steps in this effort is device replacement and backwards compatibility, which is already underway. Technical teams are involved in determining how FOUNDATION technology can best address the stereotypical "3 a.m. device replacement” scenario where the user needs to get the process back online as quickly and effectively as possible. The usability initiative also encompasses field diagnostics and alarm/alert integration.
The foundation's work on usability is intended to make FOUNDATION technology user-friendly for engineers, operators and technicians, as well as compatible with other technologies. They will enable plant owners to focus on what the technology can do for them and their business, versus how it is managed. The standards-based solutions will also simplify the tasks for automation suppliers to develop new fieldbus-based products and applications.
Other major developments by the Fieldbus Foundation in recent years have addressed key plant automation requirements such as field device integration, safety instrumented functions and remote operations management. The organization has also taken steps to standardize training curriculum for its technology around the world.
In April 2007, the Fieldbus Foundation joined other major automation industry foundations in establishing the EDDL Cooperation Team (ECT)—later renamed FDI Cooperation LLC—to accelerate deployment of a unified Field Device Integration (FDI) solution for both simple and advanced field devices, encompassing tasks such as configuration, commissioning, diagnostics and calibration. Now undergoing beta testing, the final FDI specification and developer toolkits are scheduled for release later this year.
The Fieldbus Foundation developed FOUNDATION for Safety Instrumented Functions (SIF) technology to extend fieldbus benefits into plant safety systems. FOUNDATION for SIF meets the requirements of IEC 61508 for functional safety of electrical, electronic and programmable electronic safety-related systems, up to, and including, Safety Integrity Level (SIL) 3; and allows end users to build systems per the IEC 61511 standard covering SIF functional safety in the process industries.
The organization also developed FOUNDATION for Remote Operations Management (ROM) to provide a unified digital infrastructure for asset management in remote applications. This development enables fieldbus connectivity to remote I/O and leading industrial wireless protocols, including WirelessHART® and ISA 100.11a, while providing an interface to these technologies using EDDL and function blocks to ensure interoperability with ROM devices.
The path to developing FOUNDATION fieldbus originally began in the 1970s with the first attempts to distribute control functionality to the field level. With the introduction of the Distributed Control System (DCS), processing plants were able to distribute intelligent control throughout the facility. Considerable effort then went into developing a digital communication standard for field devices to replace competing, proprietary protocols.
Under the Fieldbus Foundation's leadership, controls manufacturers, end users, academic institutions and other interested parties worked hand-in-hand to develop an open, non-proprietary fieldbus protocol enabling unprecedented levels of device and subsystem interoperability.
Late last year, the Fieldbus Foundation and HART Communication Foundation announced they had entered into discussions on the potential for merging the two organizations into a single industry foundation dedicated to the needs of intelligent device communications in the world of process automation. Study teams are currently evaluating the synergies and benefits that a merged foundation could offer both end users and suppliers, while considering due diligence for all legal and intellectual property aspects. Reports and recommendations will be made in mid-2014.
For more information, please visit the Fieldbus Foundation's website.