Field Device Integration A Milestone is Reached: Why Everyone is Talking about FDI

Author / Editor: Sabine Mühlenkamp* / Dr. Jörg Kempf

Device integration: The first stage finish has been reached—the FDI specification has been approved and handed over to the IEC, while simultaneously the first version of the developer tool has been made available. Is that the end of it? On the contrary, as all protagonists assert. Things are just getting started!

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Wenn alles nach Plan verläuft, beginnt in diesem Jahr eine neue Ära beim Thema Geräteintegration: Endlich sprechen alle eine einheitliche Sprache – FDI.
Wenn alles nach Plan verläuft, beginnt in diesem Jahr eine neue Ära beim Thema Geräteintegration: Endlich sprechen alle eine einheitliche Sprache – FDI.
(Bild: tai111 - Fotolia; [M]-Sahlmüller)

In recent years, the issue of device integration dominated discussions in process automation. There were devices whose integration in control systems conforms to the text book. However, there are also cases in which a single field device blew up the schedule for commissioning. In particular, acquiring the right DTMs and EDDs could turn into a waiting game. User Michael Pelz of Clariant can tell you a thing or two about that. “In some cases we had assigned an individual just to search through the various home pages of manufacturers for the right EDD or DTM.” If everything goes according to plan and all players in the FDI project are convinced of that, a new era in device integration will begin this year.

After all, users — that is, Namur, leading device and control system manufacturers, and the Profibus & Profinet International and Field Comm Group (formerly Fieldbus Foundation and Hart Foundation) user organizations — have been working for over two years to implement a common FDI specification and developer tools that make integration of FDI in devices and systems much easier.

As an initial assessment, Karsten Schneider, Chairman of PI (Profibus & Profinet International), stated: “We have broken off from old patterns and have started something new together on a level playing field.” The Field Device Integration (FDI) specification (IEC 62769), the latest Electronic Device Description Language (EDDL) specifications (IEC 61804), and the first version of the FDI developer tool kit were all approved in November 2014.

Karsten Schneider, Vorstand PI International
Karsten Schneider, Vorstand PI International
(Jurga Graf 2012

FDI–Compatible Field Units Might be Around the Corner

As a result of this, manufacturers of automation technology will be able to develop FDI-compatible field device drivers and host systems. This marks the first milestone in a project that is unique within the community of process automation engineers. “Users, fieldbus organizations, and manufacturers have collaborated intensively. Although it wasn’t always easy, the result is impressive,” praised Gregor Kilian, who is responsible for control technology at ABB in Germany.

Testing and Certification for Full Integration

According to agreement, the FDI Cooperation LLC will be dissolved at the conclusion of its work scheduled for mid-2015. However, permanent establishment of the FDI technology on the market will require continuous further development and support. To this end, PI and the Field Comm Group are proposing to join forces under the framework of a long-term cooperation agreement after disbandment of the FDI Cooperation. The platform and infrastructure for this will be provided by the Field Comm Group. This includes the establishment of working groups for support of the specifications and management of development projects.