Monday, November 25, 2013

Everything You Wanted to Know About FDI But Were Afraid to Ask

FDI, also known as Field Device Integration, is the technical specification that will allow device developers to use a single device package that combines elements of FDT (Field Device Tool) and EDDL (Electronic Device Description Language).  Without getting bogged down in acronym soup, all you really need to know is that EDDL is like HTML for intelligent field devices, providing a standard environment for devices to describe what they are, what they can do, and the information they can provide.  FDT/DTM is analogous to an application environment that can provide more depth of functionality. FDT/DTM is well suited to handling complex diagnostics and monitoring functions on more complex devices.  You can develop FDT frame applications for managing intelligent field devices.  Both technologies are widely adopted by suppliers.

You can read all about EDDL at the EDDL Web Site

You can read more about FDT/DTM Technology at the FDT Group Web Site

Both EDDL and FDT technologies are complementary in many ways, and competing in others. Both define how some aspects of device data are displayed.  Extensions were made to EDDL (Enhanced EDDL) that now make it do more sophisticated things with graphical displays and more.  The history of the two technologies may have played out like the "fieldbus wars" of the 1990s, but both technologies are going to stay and both have good use cases.  All the major suppliers now support both.

EDDL and its corresponding device descriptions are mandatory for any intelligent field devices developed for FOUNDATION fieldbus, HART, and Profibus, so it's not going anywhere.  FDT/DTM technology has found its way into most plant asset management and intelligent device management applications.  What is required is a single device package that combines elements of both FDT and EDDL to speed development time for new products and ease the deployment of intelligent device management in plants.

That's what FDI does.  The most crucial part of FDI is the single device package that allows a supplier to develop a FOUNDATION fieldbus device, HART device, or PROFIBUS PA device using a single device package for each protocol, as well as standard hosts.  The protocol foundations and organizations will then test and register each FDI-compatible device and/or host according to their specifications.  Both EDDL and FDT continue to exist,  but things are made easier for device developers and end users spend less time worrying about how to get different technologies to play well with each other and can spend more time actually getting the most out of their applications.  Everybody wins. But not without a successful FDI specification.

Elements of FDI Device Package and Host

FDI Cooperation LLC is the organization established by the combined efforts of the FDT Group, Fieldbus Foundation, HART Communication Foundation, OPC Foundation, and Profibus International, along with support from most of the major automation suppliers, to see the FDI specification through to completion.  This includes not only the single device package but also a facility for OPC integration, an Integrated Development Environment and an application guide.  This way, developers have both the specification and the tools to help them develop FDI hosts and devices that fully conform to the standard .

You can also view an excellent YouTube video by our own Stephen Mitschke that fully describes FDI and its history.  Fieldbus Foundation has also written a white paper about FDI.

The first official release of the FDI specification was announced at the recent NAMUR annual meeting. The FDI specification and the latest Electronic Device Description Language (EDDL) specifications were handed over to the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) for the next important phase—the Committee Draft for Vote—in the international standardization process. FDI will be included in the emerging standard IEC 62769.

You can download version 0.9 of the FDI specification at the FDI Cooperation web site.

With the release of the FDI specification, FDI Cooperation demonstrated a preview edition of the common cross protocol Integrated Development Environment (IDE), which 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 significantly reduces development costs and speeds time to market for both device developers and system developers.

FDI Demonstration 
There was also a physical demonstration of FDI at the NAMUR meeting.  The live demonstration at the NAMUR Annual General Meeting showed FDI functionality in field devices from six different suppliers, all of which are integrated with the help of FDI device packages within a process control system. The demonstration, organized and constructed by Siemens, included typical use cases, such as parameter assignment, configuration, diagnostics, functional testing, and maintenance. This was the first time a commercial system based on common components was applied to interpret FDI device packages.

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