FDT standard gains mobility

04 June 2018

Control Engineering Europe reports on the latest developments from the FDT Group, which is advancing its open standard for enterprise-wide network and asset integration.

Maintenance departments today are often caught between budget and cost pressures and the need for greater asset and plant availability. To increase performance capacity and efficiency of maintenance operations, appropriate processes and systems, and adequately structured data management, are needed.

With visibility, information and control literally in workers’ hands, plant processes and productivity are transformed. 

FDT Group is continuing to advance its open standard for enterprise-wide network and asset integration. The organization was founded in 2003 for integration and lifecycle management of devices, and today it provides a uniform interface supporting connection to devices from any network and any device vendor.

FDT technology provides a common environment for utilising the features of intelligent devices as well as a single interface to integrate any device asset and network with access to performance-driven data – sensor to enterprise. Within the FDT ecosystem device manufacturers provide Device Type Manager (DTM) software for their products, and the FDT/FRAME (embedded in control systems or standalone device management tools) communicates and reads those FDT/DTMs – regardless of protocol for each device. This enables complete lifecycle access for configuration, operation and maintenance through a standardised user interface in a vendor and communication protocol neutral environment.

Wide adoption
Today, FDT is widely adopted in the process, hybrid and factory automation markets with tens of thousands of FRAME-enabled applications and millions of DTMs installed and working to provide seamless integration and intelligent driven operations.

To support next-generation solutions in the era of IIoT and Industry 4.0, FDT Group is developing a solution known as FITS (FDT IIoT Server) which will protect industry investments in FDT through advanced business logic, well-defined interfaces and common components, and enables operating system (OS) agnostic implementation of the technology while supporting today’s integrated automation architecture. The IIoT server employs FRAME and DTM business logic at the heart of its client-server architecture and can scale to suit the needs of a single manufacturing facility or an entire industrial enterprise.

FITS implements OPC UA natively to enable mobility, cloud, and fog enterprise applications, as well as sensor-to-cloud and enterprise-wide connectivity – making it possible to share information between higher-level applications and the server architecture. Using FDT-enabled control solutions, which can be configured using the open OPC Unified Architecture (UA) protocol, the management of networks and devices is enhanced, giving access to data at all levels in the enterprise without protocol-specific handling and providing support for a wide range of devices.

Thanks to FDT, the ability to integrate diverse plant information enables personnel to mitigate process upsets and instrument malfunctions. The combination of measured values, valve openings and device diagnostics helps identify specific deviations in operation and instrument performance. This level of interoperability and advanced diagnostics is helping to optimise plant and factory operations.

FDT Group is dedicated to meeting the requirements for mobile device connectivity on the industrial shop floor and in the field. Its goal is to enable automation end users to employ the functionality they appreciate in the FDT integration standard on all of the leading mobile platforms to provide access to additional data – anytime and anywhere – with flexible deployment options.

FDT mobility takes the technology’s founding principles and empowers the industrial workforce with agile operations optimising process efficiencies.

FDT Web Services, which is at the core of the FITS server, provides a standardised mobile access approach utilising browsers, apps, standalone applications, or anything else capable of interfacing via web sockets. Users can take advantage of standard browsers to gain access to DTMs and FRAME-enabled systems, or write custom apps and programs.

From the simplest to the most complex maintenance operations, FDT-enabled mobile applications will empower plant personnel to work smarter, faster and more effectively. They will gain the ability to complete tasks and record notes directly at the instruments they are maintaining and repairing. Indeed, field workers who use mobile devices to access equipment maintenance data will report more frequently and with higher accuracy.

With apps employing FITS Web Services, for example, maintenance technicians will not be bound to a centralised tool or handheld device connected to an individual instrument; instead, they can use tablets, smart phones and other mobile devices to carry out activities. This includes solutions bringing FDT data closer to the engineer and enabling troubleshooting and monitoring of critical operating parameters of instruments to be performed remotely. Additional maintenance benefits will include the ability to take pictures or scan bar codes with secure, authenticated smart phones or tablets to provide a host of device-specific information. Programmers will have the option to write algorithms to simplify reporting.

Mobile technology is starting to transform the manufacturing environment – a trend that is being accelerated by Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) initiatives with the aim to create a smart, connected automation ecosystem to empower an intelligent enterprise.

Technology developments from FDT Group are helping to optimise maintenance departments by enabling cloud-based enterprise data access, robust device diagnostics, mobility applications, and the use of augmented reality in asset management and predictive maintenance programs.

At the recent Hannover Messe exhibition Glenn Schulz, managing director of the FDT Group confirmed that FITS is on schedule for publication by the end of the year. He said: “Prototyping is now complete and we are currently undertaking a final internal review process with membership reviews beginning in June. Security audits are underway and final specification will be completed in November. FITS will be the first new industrial standard targeted at Industrial IoT, offering access to all data from intelligent devices across all networks and built on a trust and widely deployed device and network management standard.”

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