FDT reaches another technical milestone

06 September 2011

2011 has been another busy year for the FDT Group, not least with the public availability of FDT Version 2.0, following completion of the first technical review of the standard.

The FDT Standard, IEC 62453, has become widely adopted by end-users and manufacturers wishing to obtain seamless device, network, and application integration across the process and factory automation spectrums. More than 3000 unique devices are now supported by FDT certified DTMs (the device driver software) making it the most widely certified standard in the industry. Installations range from a few dozen devices in an asset management application to tens of thousands of devices in full-scale DCS or PLC installations.

Commenting on the announcement of public availability of FDT 2.0 at Hannover Messe in April 2011, Glenn Schulz, managing director of the FDT Group, AISBL, said: “We are delighted to reach this significant technical milestone in the advancement of the FDT standard. It retains backward compatibility to the large installed base of FDT supported products while delivering significant performance and feature enhancements requested by our end user and supplier community.”

In addition to this important backwards compatibility feature, Version 2.0 is also said to offer speed and performance enhancements, improved support and deployment in distributed applications, support for a full client/server environment, enhanced security, FDI compatibility, and the provision of a rich set of innovative new features and capabilities for end users.

To make life easier for equipment vendors producing FDT 2.0 compliant products, the FDT Group offers them a set of common components designed to deliver pre-engineered and tested FDT 2.0 interfaces. It has also released the FDTExpress integrated development environment for Microsoft Visual Studio, which will be made available to all FDT Group members at no charge.

By incorporating the complete FDT 2.0 Standard into the FDTExpress Integrated Development Environment (IDE) tool, developers will be able use the latest tools to rapidly create FDT compliant products speeding the time to market for certified FDT products at a lower cost while passing the savings to end user customers.

Commenting on FDT developments, and the introduction of Version 2.0, Wil Chin, from ARC Advisory Group, said: “The progress of the FDT 2.0 standard and its collaboration with FDI underscores the FDT Group’s commitment to the sustainable growth of FDT technology and its mission to meet automation user needs around the globe. FDT 2.0 improves interoperability and optimizes DTM resource utilisation to increase the speed of operation. It also utilises Microsoft .NET technology platform to enable fast easy access to data while providing a secure platform to support future enhancements.”

The move to Microsoft .NET came as the result of dwindling support for COM and ActiveX technologies. It is hoped that .NET will ensure obsolence-proofing for supplier applications without the need for costly migration updates.

“Updating to the FDT 2.0 Frame Application will be easy and economical, particularly when users consider new functionality and their ability to deploy future capabilities of the FDT Group’s technology,” said Chin.

Better interoperability
When fully adopted, the FDT 2.0 Standard will have around 15 network protocols supported, with the potential for many more. Wil Chin of ARC believes that this is a unique attribute. He said: “This is a key differentiator that makes FDT suitable for not only the process industry but also the hybrid and discrete industries that deploy a host of diverse protocols not commonly used in the process industry.

“The new FDT 2.0 standards will be complimented with pre-engineered and pre-tested Common Components that provide most of the functionality needed to adopt the FDT 2.0 standard within DTMs or Frame Applications. FDT 2.0 supports device configuration and management not only through DTM technology but also through DDs EDDs and the future FDI device packages.”

As mentioned earlier in this report by Schulz, FDT 2.0 will also support Field Device Integration (FDI) Device packages when they become available. The FDT Group has been collaborating with the EDDL Corporation Team (ECT) – now called the FDI Cooperation Team - since FDI was launched in 2007 by a collection of industrial fieldbus trade associations and leading control equipment suppliers in an effort to speed up deployment of FDI technology.

Collaboration between FDT and FDI is expected to result in a uniform device integration solution for process industries across all host systems, devices and protocols. Chin said: “The future FDI standard seeks to tightly couple the use of EDDs with a graphical interface into a new industry standard. The grouping of components necessary to configure a device using the proposed FDI standard is called an FDI Device package.”

Global support
The ISA and American National Standards Institute (ANSI) are now also firmly supporting the FDT Technology standards following the recent adoption of the FDT Technology Standards as an ISA standard. Glenn Schulz said: “FDT standardisation, based on the IEC 62453 standards – known as ISA-62453 in the US – is occurring globally with user demand serving as the driving force. We are excited to hear that ISA is moving US support and adoption of FDT standardisation forward.”

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