A Very Good Year
BEFORE I SAT down to write this, I reviewed last year’s supplement and several of the presentations I’ve had the privilege of giving this past year in an effort to determine what’s changed—and what hasn’t. Here’s what I discovered. Continued recognition of the value of FieldComm Group core technologies. End-users and end-user consortiums recognize the value of FieldComm Group technologies. This past year, NAMUR, a large European, chemical industry-focused consortium, and Exxon-Mobil each issued position papers outlining their respective visions for the next generation of process industry communication systems. Our new integration technology, FDI, is part of both visions. Likewise, our members continue to develop HART and Foundation Fieldbus products. In fact, since 1996, the number of registered HART and Foundation Fieldbus products has grown 10-fold to more than 2,000 registered products. The IIoT and Industrie 4.0 are just part of the broader initiative of digital transformation. Particularly here in the U.S., the hype around the Internet of Things (IoT), and our niche, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), is not abating. The IIoT requires a deep understanding of the complex needs of process automation, where we deal with mission-critical information in environments of noise, chemicals and security. Evolution of our protocols through specifications and a tight process of registering compliant products to assure users of performance that meets the needs of this environment. New architectures will evolve with our protocols as the basis. The process industries have two distinct communication technology groups—the operating technology (OT) group responsible for keeping the plant running, and the information technology (IT) group that we’re all familiar with. Increasingly, more information is required by both OT and IT, thus the transformation to digital technology. Research indicates 50% of process industry facilities now use field-device, digital data for real-time applications. This is great progress and recognition of the value, yet there is still much room to improve by exploiting opportunities in IIoT. Renewed emphasis on simplified device integration. In addition to simply connecting devices digitally, device information must be integrated with higher-level systems. As device complexity increases, so does integration complexity. This year’s Control survey asked about the challenges users face in device integration. The top three answers were: staff training, device driver installation and revision, and proprietary systems. FieldComm Group’s FDI technology helps resolve the second and third issues by simplifying the process for finding and installing drivers, and requiring adherence to specific product registration requirements for FDI packages. This should reduce the training burden on end users as well. Finally, there is much more content than we were able to fit, so please bookmark the newly redesigned FieldCommGroup.org website, and use it as your source for information about technologies, training programs, registered products and more.