From the department of "The Yellow Brick Road..."

Dec. 5, 2006
Today was Foxboro day for me in the morning. I sat in on the Foxboro General Session and listened to the details of the Foxboro upgrade path. You can tell when you sit in on a class devoted to migration paths when the blue smoke and mirrors come out. That's clearly not the case here at the 2006 Invensys Process Systems Customer Conference. In several discussions by Invensys managers like Betty Naylor-McDevitt, Grant LeSueur, Thad Frost, Matt DeAthos, Rick McGuire and Ed Piltzecker, it was clear...
Today was Foxboro day for me in the morning. I sat in on the Foxboro General Session and listened to the details of the Foxboro upgrade path. You can tell when you sit in on a class devoted to migration paths when the blue smoke and mirrors come out. That's clearly not the case here at the 2006 Invensys Process Systems Customer Conference. In several discussions by Invensys managers like Betty Naylor-McDevitt, Grant LeSueur, Thad Frost, Matt DeAthos, Rick McGuire and Ed Piltzecker, it was clear that not only are the upgrade paths clear, but they are swept, tidy, and have flower planted borders. In fact, unless you are a deeply committed Foxboro I/A user, you can be swept away by the continuous detail, three-letter-acronyms, and even more detail that is presented at these sessions. Beginning in 2004 with the introduction of The Mesh Network (not to be confused with the mesh networking architecture of TCP/IP and IEEE 802.15.4 wireless standards) Foxboro began an inexorable march toward the future for the I/A Series. In 2005, they introduced the ATS (address translation station) which allows the Mesh system to coexist and interoperate with the older Nodebus architecture. Earlier this year, Foxboro introduced I/A Version 8.1.1 and the FCP270 field controller module, and a detailed migration path for Bailey, Fisher, Honeywell, and other competitive DCS systems. Now they've introduced a product called FDSI (field device systems integrator) which permits the easy integration of plant device data from a variety of communications busses into the I/A database. FDSI works with Foundation Fieldbus, Profibus, HART, FoxCom, and has drivers for OPC, Modbus, ControlLogix OPC, DNP3 (the power industry SCADA bus) and, coming soon, drivers for Triconex's native TSAA bus, and Allen/Bradley Ethernet/IP and Ethernet TCP/IP and CIP. The new controllers are self-hosting, backward compatible with dual baud rates, and have improved usability of function block configuration. There are expanded versions of the FBM (field bus module) coming, with new FEMs (fieldbus expansion modules) that will reduce the cost per point dramatically for I/A I/O. The Foxboro name for all of this is "Continuously Current" and this was demonstrated quite dramatically by a video that was shown in the morning Foxboro General Session. Shot at PPG Lake Charles, La., with the help of Rob Brooks and his instrumentation and automation crew, the video showed Brooks' team moving 13 control rooms filled with I/A from Nodebus to Mesh fiber in something less than 2 hours elapsed time. What is a little less clear is the upgrade path from I/A to InFusion. According to Product Marketing Manager Grant LeSueur, the existing generation of InFusion is best for new users, with greenfield plants, who want bus intellignence, enterprise control and to integrate SCADA, process control and safety systems. Existing I/A users have much more limited upgrade opportunities at the moment, but LeSueur assured his audience that this is a temporary thing, and it will change. "InFusion has some capability to interface with existing I/A, if the system is already at version 8.2 or higher, and on the Mesh," he said, "but it is at the moment most ideally suited to grass roots. There will be no direct connectivity to Nodebus." So, as Invensys is forging ahead with InFusion, Foxboro continues to broaden the reach of I/A into flexible communication with many types of field devices from sensors to PLCs to SCADA RTUs.

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