Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Control Magazine Coverage of General Assembly

The Fieldbus Foundation was very fortunate to have our media partner Control attend our General Assembly in Shanghai, China.  You can read some excellent coverage of the event, courtesy of Control Group Publisher Keith Larson.  Here is a brief roundup of some of the key stories related to the General Assembly:

Interview with Walt Boyes of Control about Project Gemstone

If you look back over the past couple of years it seems clear that FOUNDATION fieldbus is entering a new era.  Many efforts are underway that are improving our technology to make it easier for end users to deploy and utilize FOUNDATION fieldbus in new and existing plants.  Recent updates to our Interoperability Test Kit (ITK), for example, are making it easier to replace devices.  Our new Host Profile registration process provides a greater level of interoperability between devices and different supplier hosts.  FOUNDATION for ROM gives users the ability to manage information from devices on different wired and wireless networks in a single infrastructure.

At the same time, many of our "power" users who have had fieldbus installed for a long time now are providing us with valuable insights into how we can continue to improve the technology.  Our goal at Fieldbus Foundation is to make fieldbus the easiest to use and most effective technology in the world of process automation.

It only makes sense then, that we should have a continuous improvement project that takes a holistic view of many of the things we are already doing, such as FOUNDATION for ROM, FDI, ISA108, ongoing revisions to our ITK, and ongoing efforts to improve the usability experience with FOUNDATION fieldbus, which we are collectively calling Project Gemstone.

You can read more about Project Gemstone in this interview I had with Walt Boyes of Control magazine.  

Fieldbus Foundation Project Gemstone Designed to Aid End Users

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

New Paper on Endress+Hauser Approach to Fieldbus Diagnostics

FOUNDATION fieldbus has a unique approach to management of device diagnostics. The publish/subscribe structure of FOUNDATION fieldbus means that diagnostic information is available immediately to a wide range of workers in the plant. The challenge is to organize that data in a way that turns it into useful information for the right people at the right time. That’s why the Fieldbus Foundation created the Fieldbus Diagnostic Profile addition to our specification. The Field Diagnostic Profile incorporates the NAMUR NE 107 recommendations, which state the diagnostic data should be presented in a standard manner, with standard coloring and symbology, so it is easily understandable by the different worker roles that must have access to the information.

As with all our technology specifications, Fieldbus Foundation provides a standard framework on how data should be handled and provided to those that need it. The suppliers in turn have the ability to add their own competitive advantage by providing ways to manage an even wider range of diagnostic information within our standard structure. This is what Endress+Hauser have done with their approach to FOUNDATION fieldbus standard diagnostics, and they are making this approach available to other automation suppliers as well.

Endress+Hauser is one of the world’s leading process automation suppliers. The company was one of the founding members of the Fieldbus Foundation, and has a long history of involvement standards making bodies and committees. The company’s new approach to categorizing fieldbus diagnostics has value not just because it can provide a wide range of diagnostic information about its devices, from electronics to sensing element to the process itself. The Endress+Hauser approach also gives the company the ability to form new diagnostic models based on the information from and relationships between multiple devices in the plant. This brings the diagnostic capability to the asset, unit, and plant level. Endress+Hauser also wants to make this diagnostic capability available to other vendors.  Read the rest at the link:

Taking Field Diagnostics to the Next Level: Endress+Hauser

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Fieldbus and FPSOs

Fieldbus is an ideal fit for Floating Production, Storage, and Offloading operations, otherwise known as FPSOs.  As the name states, FPSOs are floating vessels that can collect, process, and store oil from offshore platforms, templates, or other sources. The oil can later be pumped to a tanker or pipeline for transportation.  FPSOs are an ingenious solution for offshore applications.  They are cheaper and easier to build than offshore platforms.  Old oil tankers can be converted into FPSOs, but there are also FPSOs built from the ground up in various shapes and sizes.  Most people are probably familiar with the oil tanker conversion units.  Various research firms have estimates on FPSO spending, with estimates ranging as high as $10 billion for the current market. Oil companies love a cost effective solution, however, and spending on FPSOs is expected to increase well into the double digits for the foreseeable future.

The Terra Nova FPSO Operated by Petro Canada
Photo: AlfvanBeem (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons
FPSOs are cramped places where real estate for anything, much less automation equipment, is scarce. Fieldbus, particularly when using H1 cards with integrated power, significantly reduces the footprint and weight of the process automation system.  Devices these days are no longer are integrated with just one signal each.  A control valve, intelligent on/off valve, flowmeter, or level transmitter, for example, may have 3 signals each.  This means that system I/O counts are higher than in years gone by. With FOUNDATION fieldbus, however, you work with device count, not I/O count.  This means that a 6,000 I/O conventional system turns into a 2,000 device system with a huge reduction in I/O hardware.

This is what we refer to as "Virtual Marshalling" at the Fieldbus Foundation. You simply don't need anywhere near as much hardware to get the job done, and many of the traditional I/O functions that were once handled by purpose built hardware are instead handled in the software.

Since the “topsides”automation of FPSOs consists of process modules fabricated in different yards, FOUNDATION fieldbus enables these modules to be connected with the rest of the ship using only a few cables. This makes fieldbus Ideal for fast track projects, and what project isn't fast track these days?

No I/O cards are installed on the process modules out on deck. Fieldbus runs from small simple junction boxes back to the H1 cards inside the rack room. Couplers in the field junction boxes are rugged and encapsulated and are suitable for Zone 1. With Fieldbus Intrinsically Safe Concept (FISCO) the junction boxes are passive.

Pemex / BW Offshore Yuum K'uk'Nriab (Lord of the Seas) FPSO - Emerson

Material Related to Fieldbus and FPSOs from our Singapore Seminar

BP Angola Block 31 NE FPSO, Plutao, Saturno, Marte and Venus (PSVM) wells - Yokogawa System

BP Angola Greater Plutonio FPSO Angola - Emerson System

Then there are also FLNG vessels being built using FOUNDATION fieldbus as we speak. One of these is Shell Prelude FLNG

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Come and See us at Field Communication Lounge Hanover Fair!

Fieldbus Foundation will be featured at the Field Communication Lounge at this year's Hanover Fair, happening now!  Stop by the booth and let us know what you think.  Inside the Field Communication Lounge, the leading process and factory automation organizations and their members will exhibit their respective communication and integration technologies in a co-located demonstration and display area, making it convenient for show visitors. The lounge will be located at a new location in Hall 9, Stand D76 this year.

Hanover Fair 2013

Monday, April 8, 2013

New White Paper on FDI

Historically, the two primary technologies used for presenting and managing information from intelligent devices are FDT and EDDL. Both technologies are complimentary in some ways and overlap in other ways. Many in the industry felt that rationalizing the two technologies to form a single solution would be a good idea, particularly since all the major suppliers support both FDT and EDDL technology. This was how the Field Device Integration (FDI) project was born.

FDI activities continued, but were somewhat sporadic, until 2011, when all of the five major technology foundations, including FDT Group, HART Communication Foundation, OPC Foundation, PROFIBUS International and Fieldbus Foundation signed an agreement to form FDI Cooperation LLC, a company dedicated to seeing through the development of the FDI specification its associated development  tools, and product testing and registration.

We at the Fieldbus Foundation have produced a new white paper that hopefully will take a lot of the mystery out of FDI and provide a clear explanation of what FDI is and where it is headed.

Field Device Integration: Making Device Management Easier

InTech Article on Fieldbus Project Commissioning

This month's InTech has a great article about fieldbus project commissioning written by Augusto Pereira and Ian Verhappen.  Augusto and Ian have done a lot of fieldbus projects and they have written a good book on fieldbus that is available through ISA at their bookstore.  In this article they give some good tips on necessary equipment for your fieldbus installation, commissioning practices, and they have some interesting things to say about fieldbus network diagnostics.  Key takeaways are you can save yourself a lot of time by investing in registered products, including cable, and follow a few simple rules to keep your installation painless.

Projects Commissioning with Fieldbus Foundation

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

What's in a Node? Putting Market Research in Perspective

Since I have a pretty extensive background in market research related to process automation, I was greatly interested in the new study results announced by IMS Research, (one of the few market research firms aside from ARC, Frost and Sullivan, and AMR/Gartner that serves the automation business).  The new study examines the worldwide market for Ethernet and fieldbus technologies, and the study results have caused quite a stir in the media because they seem to predict the doom of fieldbuses in general in favor of Ethernet.

As marketing manager for one of the leading fieldbus organizations, I can tell you without a doubt that we are still experiencing double digit growth in the sales of products and services related to FOUNDATION technology, and to me the results presented by IMS Research warrant further scrutiny, so here's what I learned about the study and their methodology.

IMS makes no distinction between fieldbuses or networks related to process automation versus discrete automation.  So, the study lumps together networks covering the full spectrum from device level networks in discrete manufacturing such as AS-i, ControlNet, and PROFIBUS DP, to process automation fieldbuses such as FOUNDATION fieldbus, HART, and PROFIBUS PA.  IMS also includes HART devices in the scope of the study, although it is unclear to me if they are including all HART devices sold or just those integrated with the DCS.  All of these networks are categorized as "Fieldbus" networks in the IMS report.

IMS also includes all the Ethernet-based protocols, such as Ethernet/IP, EtherCAT, PROFINET, and presumably FOUNDATION HSE, categorizing all of these as "Ethernet-based" networks.

The primary method of quantifying the market for IMS' purposes is nodes, not revenues from products and services sold.  IMS defines a node as a network connection, but that definition has always been a little unclear to me.  Is a node equal to a device or sensor, or does it include connections at the controller and I/O level?  Counting nodes also seems to tilt things in favor of discrete networks, since you quite often have many more sensor connections in discrete applications than you do in most process applications.  A discrete network needs to be able to handle a lot of not-so-complex messages very quickly from a large number of sensors.  A process fieldbus has its own requirements for speed and message complexity and process control that are very different from discrete applications.

Anyway, this is the measure that IMS has chosen to use.  According to this measure their research shows that fieldbuses still dominate the marketplace, accounting for a little under 75 percent of total installed nodes versus their counterparts in the Ethernet world.  IMS sees "fieldbuses" accounting for less of a share of the total number of installed nodes. In 2016, IMS predicts that fieldbuses will account for a little over 69 percent of all the nodes sold.

So what IMS is really saying is that fieldbus nodes will still account for almost 70 percent of the total nodes sold in 2016 versus just under 75 percent in 2011, when you combine both the process and discrete industry sales.  Shipments of both fieldbus and Ethernet networks will experience growth over the next five years, but Ethernet-based networks will experience more growth.

To me that sounds a little more reasonable than sounding the death knell for fieldbus, but you also have to keep in mind that Ethernet in and of itself does not do all the things that are required of a device network or control network.  Ethernet only goes so far, and you need some kind of a protocol on top of Ethernet to get the job done, that's why we have numerous Ethernet-based variants on the market today.  The terms Ethernet and fieldbus are also not mutually exclusive, as we can see with FOUNDATION fieldbus HSE, where HSE supports the entire range of fieldbus capabilities, including standard function blocks and Device Descriptions (DDs), as well as application-specific Flexible Function Blocks (FFBs) for advanced process and discrete/hybrid/batch applications.

It is the assertion of IMS, however, that fieldbus networks are not sustainable because it take too much overhead to maintain these networks.  From the press release:
"Simplifying the network can reduce company overheads through an integrated system. This is difficult to achieve with fieldbus technologies. Instead end users will usually have separate office IT divisions and a factory [sic] IT divisions. Ethernet adoption across a plant or factory provides a better environment for sharing information and a single division with responsibility for the overall network. The benefits of which are likely to be less downtime and lower overall cost."
If it is the assertion of IMS that Ethernet-based networks are intrinsically simpler than fieldbus networks, I am not sure this is entirely true.  Again, Ethernet itself does not comprise the entire network, and there are differences in Ethernet-based protocols that must be understood by the user.  Waving your magic wand and making everything Ethernet does not solve your problems.  Ethernet also has its limitations at the plant floor in process applications.  The reason we use twisted pair as a communication medium in H1 FOUNDATION fieldbus is because it is the de facto standard for the process industries.  I don't think you are going to see Cat 5 connectors on pressure transmitters any time soon as long as there are issues surrounding bus power to devices, etc.

If you reference international standards, you will see that Ethernet/IP, Profinet, EtherCAT, HSE and others are all consider "fieldbus profiles" under IEC 61158 and IEC 61784.  Ethernet is standardized as ISO 8802-3 and specify the physical layer (wire or fiber optic) and parts of the media access control (when you can transmit). And, that’s the extent of the specification.  Ethernet does not describe the application (e.g. data models, services like read/write, etc).

The term fieldbus is defined in IEC 61784-3 as "communication system based on serial data transfer and used in industrial automation or process control applications"  The communication system is more than just a physical layer specification.  It describes the data model and data is transferred between different communication entities on the fieldbus.  Some Ethernet based fieldbuses can use "off the shelf" Ethernet and other profiles require specialized equipment to achieve high performance.  There are lots of choices, but each has their own consequences.  And, in the end, you still need to do the engineering to see what solution best fits your application.

IMS has done some interesting research here and I can speak from personal experience that doing these studies is not easy, and someone will always want to pick apart your results.  I must say that it is refreshing to see new research in this area, and we wish IMS success in the future.  Just take this as constructive criticism for the future from someone who's been there that sometimes it helps to put things in perspective.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Support End User Training in Pune, India, By Donating Your FOUNDATION Fieldbus Equipment

As you know, the Fieldbus Foundation is committed to delivering not only the best in technology, but also the essential training that allows end users to get the most out of the technology. That is why we developed our FOUNDATION Certified Training Program (FCTP), which ensures consistency and quality in training at some of the world's leading technology and industrial educational institutions around the world.

We are pleased to announce that we have added a new FCTP partner site for end user training in Pune, India, which as you know is one of the fastest growing markets for adoption of fieldbus technology. UL is a well-known supplier of automation training solutions to our industry, with an excellent reputation for quality and highly qualified personnel. 

The Foundation would like our manufacturing members to be part of the success of this important new training site by providing hosts, devices, physical layer components, and cable to properly equip the site to deliver vendor neutral, first class training to end users across a wide range of industry segments.

Think about it. Every day that an end user is in class, they are becoming more knowledgeable and comfortable with the quality products your company provides. What better way to market your automation solutions then to provide your customers and potential customers with hands on knowledge of your products? 

Many of you may know Mr. B.R. Mehta, Senior Vice President of Reliance Refining. Here is what Mr. Mehta has to say about the importance of high quality training:
"When we began our search for the automation technology essential to build the largest refinery in the world, it was obvious that to maximize our return on this significant investment, Reliance would need to educate their operating personnel in engineering, operations and maintenance. We recognized FOUNDATION fieldbus as the technology of choice, and we also recognized that for ongoing success, India needed a dedicated training institute to support an ever growing economy. The Fieldbus training site at UL Group in Pune is the culmination of that dream and the result of more and more end user demand."
Each contributing company will have their company name proudly displayed on a high visibility plaque in multiple locations within the facility. There will be no doubt as to your support and commitment of the technology and the trust you have in your products and the training center itself.

Please consider a donation of FOUNDATION-based products to our newest training center at UL Group, Pune, India. Download the equipment donation form and return it to Dileep Miskin ( of the UL Group at your earliest convenience. If you need more information, Dileep can be reached by email or at +919970006819.

Corrosion Management and Fieldbus

The ExxonMobil pipeline rupture looks to be the most significant thing to happen in the world of process automation this week.  Like much of the North American industrial infrastructure, the pipeline is quite old and was originally constructed in the 1940s.  Although there has been no official prognosis or root cause of this incident announced, the incident has sparked discussion about the role of corrosion measurement in process automation applications.  I wrote about bad corrosion management practices when I was at ARC and the BP Alaska pipeline ruptured back in 2008.  According to ARC, the process industries spend shockingly little on corrosion management systems annually.  Here is an excerpt from the 2008 article:
"ARC Advisory Group's Plant Asset Management (PAM) Systems Worldwide Outlook estimates that manufacturers spend over $50 million on corrosion monitoring million annually. One of the fastest growing segments of PAM, the corrosion monitoring market will nearly double over the next five years. The traditional method for monitoring corrosion in pipelines is through metal coupons that are weighed, inserted into the process stream, then periodically removed to determine if corrosion has occurred, by recording the average weight loss over time. Pipeline operators also use ultrasonic testing modules on smart pigs to measure the thickness of the pipe. These are not real time measurements for corrosion, however, and merely confirm that corrosion has taken place."
Like many of the variables in process automation, particularly in remote applications like pipelines, corrosion measurement is moving from the realm of the transactional to the realm of real time.  Methods such as electrical resistance (ER) and linear polarization resistance (LPR) can measure the resistance across wires that are inserted into the process.  We are even reaching into the realm of more localized corrosion detection through methods such as harmonic distortion analysis, which is used in this Pepperl+Fuchs product.

Obviously, this is an excellent use case for FOUNDATION for ROM as well.  This is one of those variables in remote applications that is moving from a transactional variable to a real time variable that can be measured from a remote location.  Sadly, none of the latest breed of real time corrosion measurement devices are tested or registered for FOUNDATION fieldbus, but we would have the capability to integrate with such devices with our FOUNDATION for ROM solution.  

But why should you think about FOUNDATION fieldbus for your corrosion measurement solution?  Simple, FOUNDATION fieldbus was design to report the condition of the sensor and provide a mechanism for the quality of the data coming from the sensor itself.  This allows you to immediately distinguish between problems in the process versus problems with a sensor, or sensor electronics, or memory, or other aspects of the device. Our diagnostics go deeper, they are managed much better, and they provide instant notification.  

In a corrosion monitoring solution, you would have much better information about wear on the sensor, and that critical information is reported to the operator much more quickly.   That real time view of corrosion also means that you can schedule maintenance and shutdowns exactly when they are needed, with a much better planning window.  FOUNDATION fieldbus then lets you prioritize that information more effectively, so the operator sees only the information that is critical to the process, while maintenance sees information that is relevant only to maintenance.  We do this through our Diagnostic Profile and adoption of NAMUR NE 107 guidelines.  So, consider asking your supplier to make a FOUNDATION fieldbus compatible version of their corrosion monitoring sensor, or you can use FOUNDATION for ROM technology to integrate wired HART or WirelessHART into a FOUNDATION fieldbus infrastructure for your remote application.  

Monday, April 1, 2013

2013 Fieldbus Foundation General Assembly Keynote Presentation Now Available!

The Fieldbus Foundation just posted the Chinese and English versions of the Keynote presentation by Mr. Lin Rong of Sinopec SEI that was given during our March 14, 2013 General Assembly in Shanghai, China. Both versions can be viewed on our slideshare account at All other presentations are also available on that page.

The General Assembly in Shanghai saw over 260 end users register and over 110 manufacturers/reps in attendance. It was a great chance for everyone to talk and share their successes and solutions surrounding FOUNDATION fieldbus. To review the event agenda from the 2013 event, you can click here: Fieldbus Foundation General Assembly Agenda

You can also watch the short video shot on location to see what the General Assembly looked like in person below:

Special thanks again to all of the great sponsors supporting this annual event!