Fieldbus Foundation Puts Its Weight Behind PROLIST
The Fieldbus Foundation has become the latest organization to sign a copyright agreement with PROLIST International allowing PROLIST to publish parameter names and definitions in its standardized process control device/system specifications and database. Profibus and ProfiNET International (PI) announced a similar agreement in July of this year, providing PROLIST with agreed-upon elements of the Profibus specifications for use in the PROLIST feature lists.
Headquartered in Leverkusen, Germany, PROLIST International is the successor organization to the original "Lists of Properties" project group, a BASF inspired initiative backed by NAMUR and the German electrical and electronic manufacturers' association, ZVEI. It was established to define and record properties and Lists of Properties (LOPs) for process control and automation devices and systems with the objective of reducing engineering and transaction costs for procurement and sales. Its aims include integration of the workflows of all the parties involved in plant life-cycle management, based on machine-readable descriptions of the properties of process automation components that are relevant for engineering purposes.
These LOPs are published in the NAMUR Recommendation NE 100 "Use of Lists of Properties in Process Control Engineering Workflows, " which provides a method of standardizing equipment descriptions, thereby supporting data exchange between supplier and customer systems.
As well as creating lists of properties or "eSpec Sheets" covering all classes of process control devices, PROLIST has also developed a Web server for creating and maintaining the instrumentation eSpec Sheets together with tools for handling files and creating an XML-exchange format supported by SAP.
"This endeavour will help companies reduce transaction costs by an electronic data exchange format which vendors, owner/operators and EPC firms can use for communications," explained Fieldbus Foundation president and CEO Rich Timoney. "Ultimately, we believe this effort will result in the establishment of an international standard in cooperation with the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) and International Society of Automation (ISA)"
Despite the advanced stage of the project, it is not entirely clear to what degree the process automation industry as a whole is supporting the PROLIST initiative or indeed is aware of it. To that extent it has some similarities with earlier European or specifically German initiatives including Profibus and, more recently, FDT/DTM. Emerson, for example, in response to an enquiry from INSIDER, said it is "an active member ... and, as such, is very interested in the project. " However, it added that "At this stage, we are following the development and progress very closely. At the appropriate time, we will decide what the exact format of a longer term engagement will be that is in the best interest of our customers."
Process automation vendor members also include ABB, Endress+Hauser, Pepperl+Fuchs, Phoenix Contact and Siemens, but the list also has some notable absentees. User members include BASF, Bayer, DSM and Wacker. Another intriguing member is Intergraph, given the seeming similarity between PROLIST and its own Smartplant instrumentation model.