Improving Interoperability Between Field Instruments and Host Systems
The Field Device Integration Standard (FDI) is supported by virtually all leading automation suppliers, easing integration and future-proofing investments.
Byline: Paul Sereiko, Director of Marketing, FieldComm Group
Decades ago, communications between field instruments and host systems—such as a distributed control system or an asset management system—were limited to 4-20mA, typically with HART. While this method of communication became a de facto industry standard, more capabilities were needed to ease integration between field instruments and host systems. Enter FDI, a widely supported standard, as described in my column in the February 2023 issue of Control, titled: Why Instrumentation Purchases Should Require FDI Device Packages.
This standard defines a common set of software components for incorporation into systems and instruments, which improve the tasks of configuring, commissioning, operating, monitoring, and maintaining field devices throughout multi-vendor installations. Finalized in 2015, many host systems and instruments from FieldComm Group member companies now support the FDI standard.
On the instrumentation side, major suppliers—including ABB, Emerson, Endress+Hauser, Honeywell, Schneider Electric, Siemens, Yokogawa, and many others—all offer FDI Device Packages for many of their instruments. A complete list of instruments with registered FDI device packages can be found at http://go.fieldcommgroup.org/fdi-packages
To realize full value, smart instruments with FDI support must communicate with host systems supporting the standard, and much progress is being made on that front as well:
Emerson’s AMS Device Manager v14.5 was the first FDI-registered host, and ABB’s AbilityTM Field Information Manager, Siemens SIMATIC PDM, Honeywell’s Field Device Manager (FDM), and most recently PACTware 6.1 also support FDI.
With widespread supplier support from both sides, field instruments and host systems, FDI is ready for prime time. To future-proof their automation, asset management, and related systems, end users should therefore specify support for this standard when purchasing any new instruments.
When fully implemented, FDI offers the following benefits:
- Device Health, specifically advanced device health diagnostics supported per the NAMUR NE 107 recommendation. Endress+Hauser has an excellent blog post on NE 107 that can be found here: https://netilion.endress.com/blog/namur-ne-107/. Monitoring device health in a process helps identify, mitigate, and manage issues before they become failures or downtime events.
- IIoT Readiness is needed to facilitate asset management and IIoT connectivity to instrument data across the OT/IT chasm. To address these and other challenges, FieldComm Group—along with many other standards and user organizations—developed a standard for Process Automation Device Information Models (PA-DIM) using OPC UA technology. (Reference: https://www.controldesign.com/industry-news/news/11415227/major-organizations-partner-with-fieldcomm-group-and-opc-foundation-to-develop-pa-dim). This standard enables protocol-agnostic communication of common process automation instrument parameters, including semantic IDs as defined by IEC 61987.
- Offline Configuration. Configuring instruments and systems offline prior to installation, and then downloading the configuration to the physical instrument in the field when it is ready, is required for faster commissioning and reduced downtime during turnarounds.
- Modern User Interfaces. FDI Device Packages may come with a vastly improved user interface plug-in supporting .NET or HTML5 technology. Prior to FDI, the user interfaces for system-integrated instrument configuration tools were limited to text and simple graphics, or reliant upon vendor or OS-specific custom applications.
- FDI Device Package Security. The FDI Device Package ensures security because suppliers must “sign” the package using a recognized certificate authority during the FieldComm Group conformance and registration process. FieldComm Group also provides an additional signature indicating conformance.
These benefits, combined with widespread support from many suppliers and backward compatibility, ease integration between field instruments and host systems, a requirement for digital transformation:
Because host systems that support FDI also support older DD technology, it is essential for users, SIs, and EPCs to continue encouraging suppliers to deliver FDI Device Packages with instrumentation to best support digital transformation.