Open Up the Options

Oct. 1, 2016
FDI eases integration, supports full functionality, and opens the floor for IIoT

HART and FOUNDATION Fieldbus are highly effective, but sometimes it takes more to integrate sophisticated field devices with the multitude of networks, operating systems and control systems used in the process industries. The Field Device Integration (FDI) specification helps bring previously inaccessible data into commonly reported and displayed information, so it can be used to add value for applications and businesses.

Now administered by FieldComm Group, FDI technology was developed and is supported by leading foundations and suppliers. FDI combines the advantages of an FDT Device Type Manager (DTM) and Electronic Device Description (EDD) in a single, scalable solution to handle the entire lifecycles of both simple and complex devices, including configuration, commissioning, diagnosis and calibration. EDD continues to be supported, ensuring backward compatibility.

“The value of FDI is especially realized by end users, in that devices across the spectrum of industrial standards—HART, foundation Fieldbus and PROFIBUS—can be engineered and maintained with a common, system- and device-independent set of tools,” says Paul McLaughlin, director of architecture, Honeywell. “Equally important, FDI marries the simplicity and platform independence of EDD with the powerful functionality of FDT in a secure manner, providing end users with an open, future-proof standard for integration and superior user experience.”

Published as the IEC 62769 standard, the FDI Specification is available from four owner organizations: FieldComm Group, PROFIBUS & PROFINET INTERNATIONAL (PI), FDT Group and the OPC Foundation. It supports foundation Fieldbus, HART and WirelessHART, and PROFIBUS and PROFINET. ISA100.11a is under preparation, and FDI also specifies gateway packages that allow data mapping between different communication protocols (see sidebar, “Global Adoption Accelerating”).

“FDI brings field devices to the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT),” says Frank Fengler, head of device integration management, ABB. “FDI architecture foresees that each device type is represented by a device package. FDI specifies a Device Information Model, and uses OPC-UA communication to enable other applications to access it. This model is the single access point for external application, and can ensure security and protect the automation system against unwanted access.”

Put it to work

In practice, device vendors provide a package that virtually represents the device, and presents all the information needed by a host system. Running the FDI package provides all the device functionality, such as parameterization, diagnosis and maintenance.

For example, text-based EDD might be used to set up a device to measure physical properties like flow, pressure and temperature, but to calculate mass flow requires parameters from a database. FDI can combine text-based functions from the device and the database, then display parameters like mass flow. It can also support other functions such as valve diagnostics.

“EDD is text-based and independent of the Hosts and Operating Systems. However, in some cases it lacks the programmatic capability that may be needed for complex devices or diagnostics,” says Scott Hokeness, business development manager, Emerson. “DTMs provide the programmatic applications for advanced and complex operations, but come with potential compatibility and cybersecurity issues. FDI adds this programmatic capability to EDD, but only when it’s needed. FDI also addresses cybersecurity with manufacturer-signed packages that hosts validate to ensure they’re genuine and haven’t been altered. This reduces the maintenance costs and market confusion.”

FDI wraps all this functionality in a single file. “No more search for the ‘right’ integration software product or the ‘right’ device that comes with the required integration software (FDT/DTM, EDD) that’s supported by the control/asset management system,” says Alexander Kaiser, head of product management and marketing, CodeWrights GmbH. “No more search on websites for manuals, certificates, GSD files (PROFIBUS) or CFF (foundation Fieldbus), etc. Everything you need to work with a device can be contained in the FDI Device Package—a single *fdix file.”

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Combining the benefits of EDD and FDT/DTM in one file means simple devices that can be presented with EDD technology can be represented with FDI User Interface Descriptor (UID), while complex devices that need DTMs to present the functionality completely can be presented with FDI UID+FDI User Interface Plugins (UIP).

“Process industries thus need to deal with one technology instead of two,” says Chris Schneider, senior product marketing manager, Honeywell Process Solutions. “Moreover, the FDI package the device vendor delivers can include attachments like calibration certificate, user manuals, images, etc., which can be opened in the FDI host without additional applications.”

Device vendors use the same development software to create HART, foundation Fieldbus, PROFIBUS and PROFINET FDI packages. This simplifies their work effort, reduces engineering hours, and speeds time-to-market, allowing for a more agile supplier better able to support users’ evolving requirements. Similarly, process control engineers can use the same Host for devices supporting these protocols with transparency of the protocol underneath. And offline configuration brings in the benefits of both EDD and DTM.

Ready for IIoT

FDI will play a critical role in the realization of IIoT and Industrie 4.0. “Multiple communication protocols exist and that’s not going to change. However, FDI has the potential to be the single integration technology that can translate the binary data delivered by any communication protocol into tangible information that can be displayed and used by the end user on systems at varying levels throughout the enterprise,” says Hokeness. “The major process automation host system suppliers are already behind FDI; we’ve all helped to develop it. We believe NAMUR has a similar vision for FDI.”

Wilhelm Otten, chairman of the board, NAMUR, agrees that standardized, intelligent interfaces are the key success factor to achieve the benefits of Industrie 4.0 in the process industries. “They’re the basis to make our core processes, supply chain and asset lifecycle, as well as vertical integration, more transparent and efficient,” Otten says. “FDI is a big step to integrate field devices into automation systems automatically with standardized, vendor-independent tools and procedures.

“To achieve a long-term benefit, certifications of host systems and device packages and implementation of an open, vendor-neutral interface (OPC UA) are the important steps. NAMUR as a user association of automation technology has driven this activity to merge existing standards and tools and will consequently promote and implement FDI.”

If the control system or asset management tool supports the OPC UA interfaces, “Device health and topology data can be accessed via OPC UA mechanisms for further use in higher-level systems,” says Kaiser. “We believe that FDI is the future standard for device integration and management for the process industry, but also beyond because the flexibility and scalability of the technology and FDI-based solutions will allow us to describe almost every device type available, in any automation context. We also see a big potential for IIoT and Industrie 4.0 applications because of the open and very well specified data model.”

Thoralf Schulz, global technology manager, process automation, ABB, says, “FDI is the key technology to overcome the ever-repeating efforts for integrating field devices into control systems and asset optimization tools. In addition, FDI is the migration path for traditional field instruments into the Internet of Things, Services and People.”

Next steps

Leading vendors are pressing on with additional FDI-enabled field devices, controllers and hosts. “The Process Device Manager Simatic PDM was the first Siemens prototype utilizing FDI functionality,” says Axel Lorenz, vice president, process automation, Siemens. “This universal parametrize and service tool could already import FDI packages in November 2013. Siemens will release the first host system with FDI, as well as corresponding FDI packages to the field devices in 2017. We consider FDI as a decisive step towards less complexity and optimized customer service, and we’ll continue to strengthen the joint activities accordingly.”

Hokeness adds that Emerson’s Instrument Inspector application configuration tool is the first HART and foundation Fieldbus host based on the FDI standard. “We’ll also support FDI with our premier intelligent device management package, AMS Device Manager. This will deliver support for any connected host system. Emerson field devices will also support FDI in the near future.”

According to McLaughlin, Honeywell actively plans uniform adoption of FDI technologies in its SmartLine instruments, its Experion DCS, and its Field Device Manager asset management suite.

At Endress+Hauser, “Seamless interoperability and data transparency on all levels are key factors in customer acceptance of upcoming technologies,” says Rolf Birkhofer, managing director, process solutions. “Through its simplicity and ease of use, FDI enables customers to exceed their needs and requirements.”

Also, a second version of ABB Field Information Manager FDI-based host software adds functions for easy device management and supporting use on handhelds. Generic Device Packages for ABB devices are now available for HART 5 and HART 7, as well as for pressure, level, temperature, flow and positioners. 

Global Adoption Accelerating: FieldComm Group recently completed contracts between it and PROFIBUS & PROFINET INTERNATIONAL (PI) to manage the IP rights, roadmap and distribution of FDI technology, tools and host components; and between it and FDI technology partners PI, the OPC Foundation and the FDT Group to govern the process of tion Working Group as the venue of collaboration. FieldComm Group also completed a Memorandum of Understanding with the ISA100 Wireless Compliance Institute (WCI) to engage in technology discussions to incorporate ISA100 Wireless support into FDI Technology. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) approved the FDI Technology standard in Plenary SC65E, “Device and Integration in enterprise systems,” and NAMUR endorsed FDI Technology in its WG 2.6 Fieldbus Position Paper, “Requirements on an Ethernet Communication System for the Process Industry.”