Even organizations are not immune from the consolidation bug. It had been previously announced that, given a couple of transitions and the similarity of membership and technology, industrial networks organizations the Fieldbus Foundation and the HART Communication Foundation would investigate merger.
Here is the latest news. An unstated reason is significant along with emphasizing a statement within the press release. First, there are leadership changes. Ron Helson, the longtime leader of HART recently retired. I have to believe that Rich Timoney, the longtime Fieldbus leader, is preparing to retire (conjecture on my part, I dont want to rush him). This becomes convenient timing.
Further, look for the sentence “suppliers will also profit.” This is significant. The two organizations have significant overlap, yet basically the same set of suppliers support each. By combining, suppliers can get more return from less investment. Since both technologies are pretty mature and stable, this makes a lot of sense.
The Boards of Directors of the Fieldbus Foundation and the HART Communication Foundation have approved unifying the two Foundations into a new industry organization. The joint statement said the new organization would be “dedicated to the needs of intelligent devices and their integration in the world of Process Automation.”
The combined power of both organizations will serve to protect the investments that end users in Process Automation have made in HART and FOUNDATION fieldbus communication technologies. The mission of the combined organization will be to develop, manage, and promote global standards for integrating devices into automation-system architectures, providing functional solutions for process automation suppliers and end users. Suppliers will also profit from the increased efficiencies in resource utilization, procedure consistency, and member service and support improvements.
The Fieldbus Foundation and HART Communication Foundation have a long history of cooperation. For example, the two worked together to develop common international standards, such as Electronic Device Description Language (EDDL) specifications and Field Device Integration (FDI) technology. Combining the organizations offers significant potential for harmonizing the procedures and efforts supporting the two protocols, as well as simplifying each technology’s implementation while better delivering their full benefits in plant operation and maintenance.
The FOUNDATION fieldbus and HART specifications will continue to exist individually, and to evolve into the future. Each protocol will retain its own brand name, trademarks, patents, and copyrights.
The new organization will continue development, support, and promotion of the two existing protocols, and will direct the development, incorporation, and implementation of new and overlapping technologies. Thus, the new organization will eventually serve as the single source for FDI, the sole integration tool for HART and FOUNDATION fieldbus technologies. The name of the proposed organization is not yet finalized.
The next step will be to complete the membership ballot by the end of summer 2014. Following a successful membership vote, legal filings for the creation of a new not-for-profit entity will take place in September 2014. As a final step, it is expected that the new organization offices will be consolidated and located near Austin, Texas, in early 2015.
The leadership of Helson and Timoney cannot be overstated. Their contributions to industrial automation are significant. Many thanks are due them.
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.
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.
The ISA100 wireless sensor network standard work has undergone a tortuous journey to acceptance. Commercial acceptance has been slow, but growing. In the report, The Fieldbus Foundation has announced support.
The Fieldbus Foundation has released the final specification for integration of ISA100.11a wireless field devices into its FOUNDATION for Remote Operations Management (ROM) technology. Unlike solutions limited to a single network standard, this development allows automation end users to employ multiple wired and wireless protocols for greater flexibility and expandability.
FOUNDATION for ROM will extend the capabilities of FOUNDATION fieldbus to countless wired and wireless devices installed in some of the world’s harshest and most remote locations. This includes the implementation of a true predictive and proactive maintenance strategy for remote assets that could not previously support one. FOUNDATION for ROM provides a unified digital infrastructure for asset management in applications ranging from tank farms and terminals to pipelines, offshore platforms, and even OEM skids.
With this release, the Fieldbus Foundation has finalized the remote I/O, wired HART and WirelessHART, and ISA100.11a portions of the FOUNDATION for ROM specification. The technology integrates these protocols, along with H1 fieldbus, into the FOUNDATION fieldbus managed infrastructure. Specifications for Modbus communications are in development that will enable Modbus devices such as wellhead flow meters and submersible pump controllers to be integrated in a similar way.
The new FOUNDATION specification means that end users will be able to manage their ISA100.11a wireless devices just like FOUNDATION fieldbus devices within the FOUNDATION fieldbus infrastructure. The new specification includes parameters for ISA100.11a transducer blocks, providing the block application objects into which ISA100.11a variables may be mapped for access by other fieldbus devices. The transducer blocks also provide a mechanism to pass data to and from ISA100.11a devices directly from configuration or asset management hosts.
The Fieldbus Foundation’s director of technology development, Dave Glanzer, commented, “Our new specification will benefit end users who need to be able to interface ISA100.11a wireless devices to improve their integration with a control system and field devices. It also provides a networked method for an asset-managing host to access a large set of ISA100.11a devices for configuration and maintenance purposes.
“Experienced automation professionals in the process industries have taught us a lot about the implementation of fieldbus and how to make it better. We are driving the feedback from our dedicated end user customers, suppliers and engineering partners into a continuous improvement process to make the technology easier to use and implement in a wide range of applications.”
The Fieldbus Foundation’s ROM infrastructure provides a single source for data management, diagnostics, alarms and alerts, data quality control, control-in-the-field capability, and object-oriented block structure. Its High Speed Ethernet (HSE) TCP/IP protocol enables remote operations information to be communicated to the control system over any wired or wireless backhaul network utilizing the architecture model developed in a joint collaboration between the Fieldbus Foundation and the International Society for Automation (ISA) under the ISA100.15 Wireless Backhaul Networks Working Group.
To ensure interoperability, FOUNDATION for ROM devices from multiple suppliers utilize Electronic Device Description Language (EDDL) and interoperability testing. This is essential to improve integration of critical functional areas, including machinery health monitoring, safety interlocks, fire & gas detection systems, and video surveillance.
This is a merger that is not totally surprising, given that the two organizations have significant overlapping membership. Plus one organization is in the midst of a leadership change. On the other hand, there is little overlap in technology and application. So this, if it comes off, will be interesting.
The Fieldbus Foundation and the HART Communication Foundation announced Sept. 25 that they have entered into discussions on the potential for merging the two organizations into a single industry foundation dedicated to the needs of intelligent device communications in the world of process automation.
The chairmen of the two organizations—Dr. Gunther Kegel of the Fieldbus Foundation and Mr. Mark Schumacher of the HART Communication Foundation—issued the following statement on behalf of their Boards of Directors:
“We believe combining the resources and capabilities of each foundation into a single organization will provide significant benefits to both end users and suppliers. For end users, a single organization that combines the power of both Fieldbus Foundation and HART Communication Foundation would provide a full solution that addresses every conceivable aspect of field communications and intelligent device management for the process industries. For suppliers, a single organization would create efficiencies in resource utilization, consistency of processes and procedures, and would deliver significant improvements in member services and support.”
The Fieldbus Foundation and HART Communication Foundation have worked extensively together in the past and have a long history of cooperation. For example, the two organizations worked together on the development of common international standards such as Electronic Device Description Language (EDDL) and, most recently, the development of the Field Device Integration (FDI) specification. The merger offers potential to harmonize many aspects of the two protocols, making it easier for end users and suppliers to implement the technology and obtain the full benefits of each technology in plant operations and maintenance.
In preliminary discussions, the presidents of the two organizations, Richard J. Timoney of the Fieldbus Foundation and Ted Masters of the HART Communication Foundation, added that many synergies already exist and closed by commenting:
“We are both confident that today’s decision to investigate the merger of these two organizations provides momentum for a major step forward in the evolution of intelligent devices and the world of industrial communications.”