The Fieldbus Foundation has announced a new initiative to enhance its open, non-proprietary FOUNDATION fieldbus technical specifications. As part of the Fieldbus Foundation Usability Initiative, new features to the technical specifications will improve the usability of FOUNDATION technology, with the ultimate goal of making the digital fieldbus automation experience easier than conventional analog control systems.
Fieldbus Foundation technical teams have been determining how FOUNDATION technology can best address the stereotypical "3:00 am device replacement" scenario where the user needs to get the process back online as quickly and effectively as possible. Just as 4-20mA analog devices are essentially process variable (PV) interchangeable, the new Fieldbus Foundation initiative aims to offer users direct access to the PV in FOUNDATION devices and reduce any potential complexities in device replacement. A simple device set-up that has no need for Device Description (DD) files will allow the easy replacement of one device with an alternative device – not even from the same vendor—to ensure an efficient and fully flexible device replacement in all planned and unplanned situations. Once complete, the PV interchangeability development will be incorporated into an upgrade of the FOUNDATION H1 Interoperability Test Kit – ITK 7.
Fieldbus Foundation Director-Fieldbus Products Stephen Mitschke commented, "As an end user-driven organization, we are listening to our fieldbus user community, suppliers and engineering partners, and employing their feedback in a continuous improvement process to make FOUNDATION technology easier to use in a wide range of applications."
Mitschke continued, "The enhanced usability features in our updated technical specification will make it easier for both automation suppliers and end users to realize the full value of FOUNDATION technology. By introducing PV interchangeability we will be one step nearer to reaching our goal of improved interoperable device management and making FOUNDATION H1 easier to use than conventional 4-20 mA. Fieldbus implementation, operation and maintenance are further simplified—24/7!"
Recent updates of the FOUNDATION specification include additional advanced support for fieldbus device replacement and backwards compatibility, Device Description (DD) templates, field diagnostics and alarm/alert integration. The ability to utilize these enhanced features is included in the foundation's new Host Profile C, released in November 2013.
FOUNDATION technical specifications now enable host and device suppliers to offer backwards compatibility to their users in order to simplify device replacement. The incorporation of DD templates also provides an interoperable way for instrumentation companies to offer a variety of application settings for devices. Suppliers can embed the templates in their DDs from the factory floor. This will make it quicker and easier for end users to access a correct offline configuration. They also gain the freedom to utilize a newer device with an existing device configuration without the need for new DDs.
With the new device diagnostics alarm management feature, hosts tested under Host Profile C must integrate field diagnostics into alarm management systems, rather than just provide access to the information in a device view.
Application time support is also mandatory under Host Profile C. This feature requires a time stamp capability in the host system, which will start on an actual calendar date and time. Additionally, a new standard dictionary update feature requires that fieldbus end users have the ability to install a new dictionary update on their host system to support the latest DDs. This will further improve the simplicity of device replacement.