FieldComm Group's Usability Initiative, originally launched by the Fieldbus Foundation in May 2013, was envisioned as a way to make the digital fieldbus automation experience easier than conventional analog control systems in every conceivable way, from device setup and replacement to daily maintenance practices.
The project's goal was to provide a managed infrastructure for process automation that allows end users to focus on their processes and their plants, not the technology tying everything together behind the scenes.
The Usability Initiative began with a number of key objectives for FOUNDATION Fieldbus H1 networks. With the establishment of FieldComm Group in January 2015, the project was expanded to address input on the usability of HART and WirelessHART technologies.
Today, the Usability Initiative continues to gain momentum, with recent activities aimed at important fieldbus enhancements such as simplified PV integration, electronic device description (EDD) template-based configuration, one-button device replacement, and scalable integration.
According to Stephen Mitschke, FieldComm Group's FOUNDATION Fieldbus technology director, there are ongoing efforts to help industrial organizations begin realizing the benefits of digital automation technology without having to immediately proceed to more sophisticated strategies like control in the field.
"Our vision is to provide a pathway that starts with core process variable integration and a simple I/O interface, and then advances to asset management applications and more complex tasks like control in field devices—all implemented at the user's own pace," Mitschke said. "In particular, we are eliminating the need to utilize EDDs for basic PV integration. This requirement has been shown to complicate device replacement. Our intent is to enable PV device interchangeability so users can easily swap out different vendors' products at their own discretion."
He added, "By simplifying PV integration with a solution we refer to internally as ‘EZ-PV,' we will help do away with confusion and overlapping functions that often exist in engineering, operations and maintenance departments when it comes to deploying fieldbus devices. Our approach no longer requires that a system engineer be available to access DD files when a device replacement scenario occurs at 2 a.m. This is particularly crucial in remote environments like pipelines and well sites. Instead, users just program the new instrument according to its specification sheet and attach it to the network, where the device is immediately recognized and put into operation.
"With this enhanced capability, enabling a simpler host interface, the use cases for FOUNDATION fieldbus become much broader in PLC, RTU and SCADA applications. It takes conventional automation practices and applies them to fieldbus technology."
Mitschke indicated the Usability Initiative would ultimately define a distributed set of network configuration rules enabling control systems and field devices to be integrated without the need for laborious download routines and configuration steps. This heightened level of "plug and play" performance will be on par with the analog user experience.
For more information, visit the FOUNDATION Fieldbus Technology page.