I have business related to an angel investment and too much other travel to attend this week’s Honeywell User Group in San Antonio and Siemens Summit in Las Vegas. Trying to get to both events was both expensive and too exhausting to attempt. I had one friend, at least, who was going to both. More power to Greg.
I’ll analyze from reports I see from those there and from press releases. I know that Honeywell Process Solutions anticipated one major security announcement at HUG, but I would have been gone had I decided to attend anyway.
Meanwhile, I’ve been writing about the Internet of Things, fieldbuses, and networks for some time. The ODVA reached out asking if I’d like an update on its process industry work with EtherNet/IP. Of course, was the reply. It has a stand at ACHEMA in Frankfurt (another place I could have gone…) and sent me this update that would be the centerpiece of its press conference there.
Along with Rockwell Automation’s entry into the process industry automation market, EtherNet/IP usage now must incorporate process industry standards to go along with factory automation (discrete industry) usage. Partner Endress + Hauser has been building out devices that are EtherNet/IP enabled. This is an interesting addition to process industry “fieldbus” market (I know, perhaps EtherNet/IP is not a “real” fieldbus, but it will be used like one).
This was ODVA’s first appearance at ACHEMA, where ODVA members and EtherNet/IP suppliers Endress+Hauser, Hirschmann, Krone, Rockwell Automation, Rosemount, Schneider Electric and Yokogawa have assembled a demonstration of EtherNet/IP to explain to visitors ODVA’s approach to the optimization of process integration. Illustrating typical process applications, such as clean-in-place, highlights of the demonstration include:
- Use of EtherNet/IP to connect best-in-class solutions and devices for process applications;
- Integration of traditional process networks, such as HART, Profibus PA and Fieldbus Foundation, into an EtherNet/IP network; and
- Movement of data between field devices, such as pressure sensors and flow meter, and plant asset management systems.
ODVA’s process initiative, launched in 2013, is intended to proliferate the adoption of EtherNet/IP in the process industries. Initial focus has been on the integration of field devices with industrial control systems and related diagnostic services, leading to a road map for adapting the technology to the full spectrum of process automation needs, including safety, explosion protection, long distances and comprehensive device management.
“EtherNet/IP is at the forefront of trends in convergence of information and communication technologies used in industrial automation. Although industrial Ethernet was first adopted in the discrete industries, today EtherNet/IP is widely adopted in hybrid industries and is spreading into process industries, said Katherine Voss, president and executive director of ODVA. “Because ACHEMA is an international forum for users in chemical engineering and the process industries as a whole, ODVA felt it would be helpful to the ACHEMA’s audience to broadly showcase to process users the opportunities for integration improvements, optimized network architecture and increased ROI that EtherNet/IP can afford.”
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 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.
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.”