Field Device Integration (FDI)

The FDI Precursor – First Units Enter the World of field Device Integration

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In this process, the user is not restricted to a desktop PC, server or laptop. FIM can be installed in a Windows tablet and supports the necessary touch navigation, so that the user has a lot of freedom while using the system. “The tool has a modern user interface, is tablet compatible and can be operated via a touchscreen”, confirms Seintsch. “You realise that the software developers could use new technologies”. The device menu simplifies access to the standard menu like Operate, Diagnostics and Device Settings as well as other device-specific menus. The FIM enables the user to, for example, switch between all the open device views. The user can also very easily switch from one device to another without having to keep returning to the overview.

Instead of having to search for the correct function in the context menu or the menu trees, the user can now do this intuitively with a finger motion. “Operation is simple and easy. That sets a standard in the market”, Seintsch is convinced, which also emphasizes the stability of the tool at the same time. “Earlier, it was quite often for such a tool to be suspended or for it to crash. But the FIM was stable the whole time and also functioned smoothly”.

What Is Still to Be Done?

Still, there are a couple of points to be resolved. “We were using the initial version of the tool. With that, one could only work online with the tool, so that a function of saving the parameter sets and printing omitted,” Seintsch mentions as future tasks. Settings for devices with Profibus PA- and FF connection are also absent. However, this is mainly because of the short development time. These functionalities will be integrated in one of the later versions.

The FIM is supplemented by new features and functions to the extent of the progress of the common FDI-Host components. The aim is to develop future versions into a complete Asset Management system including integration options in control systems and ERP systems. This shall also contain the FDI device model on the basis of OPC UA for the general access to device information.

Seintsch also feels that there is still work to be done in the certification of FDI packages. But this goes for all FDI components: “From the Namur point of view, there ought to be a certification of the FDI packages which is already planned, but should also be possible across the world”. Seintsch considers the development of FIM an important first step: “I can only encourage the users to try out the tool”, he concludes. “It is an asset because of its simplicity. Anyone can start easily with it. One mainly works actually with the field device and not with the tool anymore”.

However, Seintsch does not want to specify about a timely forecast, when FDI is no more spoken of because it has become a matter of course. “That depends on how quickly the manufacturers develop the FDI packages”. But: The tool was submitted to a maintenance technician at the same time as the tests in the test laboratory and that also gave promising feedback.