This news is a welcome bit of progress. The Fieldbus Foundation has announced the latest updates to its open Foundation fieldbus technical specifications. The new features will enhance the usability of Foundation technology, with the ultimate goal of making the digital fieldbus automation experience easier than conventional analog control systems.
The updated version of the specification includes additional advanced support for fieldbus device replacement and backwards compatibility, Device Description (DD) templates, field diagnostics and alarm/alert integration. The ability to utilize these enhanced features is included in the foundation’s new Host Profile C, which will be available for registration in early 2014. Fieldbus Foundation Director-Fieldbus Products Stephen Mitschke commented, “The usability features in our updated technical specification will make it easier for both automation suppliers and end users to realize the full value of Foundation technology. They are aimed at simplifying fieldbus implementation, operation and maintenance. As an end user-driven organization, we are listening to our fieldbus user community, suppliers and engineering partners, and employing their feedback in a continuous improvement process to make Foundation technology easier to use in a wide range of applications.”
The latest features in the Foundation technical specification enable host and device suppliers to offer backwards compatibility to their users in order to further simplify device replacement. The incorporation of DD templates also provides an interoperable way for instrumentation companies to offer a variety of application settings for devices. Suppliers can embed the templates in their DDs from the factory floor. This will make it quicker and easier for end users to access a correct offline configuration. They also gain the freedom to utilize a newer device with an existing device configuration without the need for new DDs.
With the new device diagnostics alarm management feature, hosts tested under Host Profile C must integrate field diagnostics into alarm management systems, rather than just provide access to the information in a device view.
Application time support is also mandatory under Host Profile C. This feature requires a time stamp capability in the host system, which will start on an actual calendar date and time. Additionally, a new standard dictionary update feature requires that fieldbus end users have the ability to install a new dictionary update on their host system to support the latest DDs. This will further improve the simplicity of device replacement.