This is a significant advance for interoperability between EDDL and FDT (finally!) announced at the ARC Forum last week in Orlando. FDI Cooperation LLC announced the first public release of the FDI Usability Style Guide and a preview release of the Field Device Integration (FDI) developer toolkit. This release of the developer tools and style guide comes close on the heels of the first release of the overall FDI specification at the NAMUR annual meeting in Germany in November of 2013. Both of these preview releases will make it possible for automation suppliers to prepare for developing FDI-compatible products and host systems.

The common cross protocol Integrated Development Environment (IDE) will help device manufacturers create FDI Device Packages for FOUNDATION fieldbus, HART, and PROFIBUS devices. The purpose of standard developer tools is to ensure that automation suppliers can develop high quality, reliable FDI-based solutions in a consistent manner. A standard set of developer tools also significantly reduces development costs and time to market for both device and system developers. The IDE includes a reference host that allows device developers to execute and test FDI Device Package against a standard implementation to ensure product quality. With the release of a beta version, FDI Cooperation offers device and system vendors the possibility to become familiar with the FDI Tools and Components before the first release. The vendors benefit from the early access because they get familiar with the tools and can prepare their own product development. FDI Cooperation benefits from the feedback from the beta users, which helps to improve the robustness of the tools and components.

Developers interested in obtaining the FDI IDE or Common Host Components should contact the respective foundations supporting FDI, including Fieldbus Foundation, HART Communication Foundation, and Profibus International.

Demo of FDI Developer Tools

Stephen Mitschke, director of fieldbus products at the Fieldbus Foundation, demonstrated the current release of the FDI developer tools. Mr. Mitschke showed the functionality of the IDE and how it can be used to develop devices. The functionality of device packages was also demonstrated, in addition to the reference host, which can be used by developers to access the functionality of FDI compliant devices.

The demo of the developer tools was based on the protocol independent FDI Common Host Components. Host system manufacturers implement FDI Common Host Components for device management tools, asset management tools, and process automation systems. FDI Common Host Components will allow for rapid development and ensure FDI Device Packages behave consistently across different systems. FDI Host Components fully support legacy EDD libraries to protect end user investments.

FDI Style Guide

The first release of the FDI Usability Style Guide gives developers best practices and guidelines for building products according to the FDI specification. By following the recommendations in the style guide, suppliers can develop devices with a common look and feel under the FDI specification. The style guide provides additional information related to the technical specifications given in IEC 62769 and IEC 61804 and supports FDI Device Package designers to achieve uniform user guidance and uniform behavior independent of the implementation technology (UID, UIP). The FDI Style Guide will be available for download from the FDI web site.

FDI Specification

At the core of the FDI specification is the FDI Device Package that includes everything a host system needs to integrate an intelligent device. With FDI, each device is represented by a single FDI Device Package that can scale according to the complexities and requirements of each device.

Each FDI Device Package contains a mandatory Device Description (EDD) that provides parameter definitions, structure of the parameters for context specific views, and automated work processes for device procedures such as calibration. FDI Device Packages may also include User Interface Plug-Ins, software components that support advanced device setup and diagnostic functions. Product manuals, documentation, images, electronic certifications and other attachments may also be delivered in the FDI Device Package.

FDI Device Packages make it easier for automation suppliers to develop and integrate intelligent devices because they only need to create a single, unified FDI Device Package for each intelligent device that can work with all host systems and tools, reducing overall development costs while preserving and expanding existing functionality. Users will also find it easier to manage information from intelligent devices with a single device package, instead of juggling different technologies and investing significant capital in custom integration efforts to connect multiple technology platforms.

The five major automation foundations, including the FDT Group, Fieldbus Foundation, HART Communication Foundation, PROFIBUS & PROFINET International, and OPC Foundation have developed a single common solution for Field Device Integration (FDI). These foundations have combined their efforts to form a joint company named FDI Cooperation, LLC (a limited liability company under US law). FDI Cooperation, LLC is headed by a “Board of Managers”, which is composed of the representatives of the involved organizations, as well as managers of global automation suppliers including ABB, Emerson, Endress+Hauser, Honeywell, Invensys, Siemens and Yokogawa. FDI’s mandate is to develop a single technology for the management of information that comes from all intelligent devices throughout all areas of the plant.

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