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Field Device Tool selected as one of ten key technology trends in automation for 2004

Posted: 13 March 2004

ARC Advisory Group identifies FDT as one of ten trends and technologies that will have a direct impact on automation and provide a path to operational excellence

In a recent ARC INSIGHTS report, the ARC Advisory Group (Dedham, Massachusetts, USA) selected Field Device Tool (FDT) as one of the ten key technology trends in automation for 2004. According to ARC, each of these trends has a concrete value proposition for automation users.

In the section of the January 28, 2004 report entitled, “FDT Builds Momentum in Process, Discrete Industries,” ARC analysts state, “Since the emergence of the Field Device Tool (FDT) initiative in 2000, the growing support from over 20 suppliers is beginning to resemble a who’s who in the automation industry. FDT is also expanding from its process roots into the discrete and hybrid space, as discrete suppliers are joining the FDT Joint Interest Group (JIG). Despite the evolving nature of the yet to be finalized standard, both suppliers and manufacturers have forged ahead developing and adapting new interface drivers and visualization/configuration tools for virtually every class of field device. Look for FDT in 2004 to tackle problems such as revision control issues. Manufacturers are recognizing the value of standardized uniform access to data from field devices for asset management and other data intensive initiatives using the FDT approach.”

FDT Joint Interest Group comments
“We’re flattered and encouraged that an independent and knowledgeable source such as the ARC Advisory Group has selected FDT as a leading technology,” said Nick Zucchero, director of systems technology at Invensys, speaking on behalf of the FDT Joint Interest Group Steering Committee. “This helps to validate our own efforts and should also provide encouragement for the many end-users who have already adopted or are in the process of adopting FDT/DTM technology in their plants and factories as a means of obtaining maximum benefit from their HART, PROFIBUS, FOUNDATION fieldbus, and/or other fieldbus devices.”

“This recognition by the ARC Advisory Group, combined with the increasing acceptance of the technology in the industrial automation marketplace by users and vendors alike, should go a long way toward alleviating user concerns generated by a recent news release issued by a major automation vendor,” Zucchero continued. “The news release announced that this vendor intends to collaborate with standards groups to expand current structured text-based Device Description Language (DDL) technology, which they feel will be a better alternative than FDT/DTM.

“The fact of the matter is that while some functional overlap certainly exists between DDL and FDT/DTM, the two technologies are largely complementary. FDT does not replace DDL technology. Instead, it allows device manufacturers to easily convert their existing device descriptions into basic DTMs, which can then be enhanced with sophisticated device visualization and other capabilities. These device DTMs can then be plugged into FDT frame applications running on any vendors’ FDT-compliant host system. Furthermore, while DDL only applies to field devices (such as transmitters and valve positioners), FDT supports a much broader array of plant assets, including motor drives and remote I/O subsystems. The bottom line is that structured text-based DDL technology – even with the proposed extensions – can not meet the full spectrum of user requirements that FDT/DTM technology can deliver today.”

Other important facts that should further alleviate any uncertainty about FDT/DTM technology include:

  • FDT provides an open software interface approach that enables users to take full advantage of the powerful capabilities of their fieldbus devices regardless of instrument vendor, system vendor, or specific fieldbus protocol, without the need for custom interfaces
  • FDT offers proven support for both HART and PROFIBUS devices, is currently rolling out support for FOUNDATION fieldbus devices, and will soon offer support for DeviceNet
  • FDT enables the creation of a common engineering and support environment across all vendors’ products
  • Software-based FDT/DTM technology (unlike structured text-based DDL technology) provides device vendors with the capability needed to create advanced engineering functions for even the most complex field devices
  • Straightforward approaches are being created to smoothly migrate FDT/DTM interface software and applications from COM/DCOM to the emerging .NET environment
  • In conjunction with NAMUR, the FDT JIG has created and issued a DTM Style Guide for device visualization that ensures a common look and feel for all vendors’ DTMs, with the flexibility for advanced visualization of features unique to each device
  • FDT JIG is constructing a Test and Certification process under which all DTMs must be certified for conformance with the specification. Plans are also in place to implement procedures to test and certify FDT frame applications
  • Effective revision control is built into the FDT/DTM specification to provide end users with an efficient means of managing the life cycles of their field assets
  • Plans are in place to submit the FDT/DTM specification to the international standardization organizations (IEC, ISO) late in 2004

“Rather than proceed with an ambitious effort designed to provide possible future functionality that already exists today with FDT/DTM, the FDT Joint Interest Group Steering Committee invites all automation vendors to join and share their expertise with the FDT Joint Interest Group for the good of both end users and vendors. This would create a strong free market environment that encourages innovation. The FDT initiative is clearly designed to enable the entire industrial automation community – users and vendors alike – to finally realize the full promise of fieldbus technology,” Zucchero said.

About FDT Joint Interest Group
The not-for-profit FDT Joint Interest Group is a collaboration of international automation companies that support the proliferation of FDT/DTM technology. The group is open to all companies and organizations that wish to participate. Current FDT Joint Interest Group Steering Committee members include ABB, Endress+Hauser, Invensys (Foxboro), Metso Automation, and Siemens. Other current FDT Joint Interest Group companies include: AUMA Riester, Bartec, Ceag, CodeWrights, Hilscher Gesellshaft, ICS, ifak system, Infoteam Software, K-H Automation Projects, Krohne, Mesco Engineering, M&M Software, Moeller, MTL, Omron Europe, Pepperl & Fuchs, Phoenix Contact, Rockwell Automation, Sick, Smar, Softing, Stahl, Trebing & Himstedt, Turck, Tyco Valves & Controls, Vega, and Woodhead.

The FDT Joint Interest Group has the support of the OPC Foundation, Profibus Nutzeroorganisation e. V., PACTware Consortium, and ZVEI.

The mission of the FDT Joint Interest Group is to promote the acceptance and usage of FDT technology in the global factory automation, process automation, and hybrid manufacturing industries.


Posted by Richard Price, Editor

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