Upcoming Enhancements

Upcoming Enhancements

Efforts to simplify the implementation and operation of FOUNDATION Fieldbus-based digital controls systems in the process industries is an ever expanding role FieldComm Group plays a part in achieving. Working with our members in technical working groups, we've reached several important milestones and there are more still on the horizon.

The Usability Initiative — a name given to the continued work effort surrounding user experience, feedback & improvement — is intended to make the digital fieldbus automation experience easier than conventional analog control systems in every conceivable way, from device setup to device replacement and daily maintenance practices. The goal is to marry the technology advancement of today's products, with the simple familiarity of yesterday's work practices. 

When it comes to industrial control systems and instrumentation, usability is all about human Interaction. It addresses the user experience and making the user interface (UI) simple and intuitive. Usability is a measure of:

  • Effectiveness – Can users complete tasks and achieve goals with the product (i.e., do what they want to do)?
  • Efficiency – How much effort do users require doing this (often measured in time)?
  • Satisfaction – What do users think about the products ease of use?

Identifying the challenges

The usability initiative was conceived as a way to make smart devices easier to deploy and operate than traditional unintelligent 4-20 mA technology. It began with surveys of the global supplier and end user communities to determine their “pain points” in utilizing fieldbus, followed by the development of case studies to resolve their issues.

A particular area of concern for the usability initiative has been eliminating the need to employ Electronic Device Descriptions (EDDs) for basic process variable (PV) integration – a key consideration in a wide range of device replacement scenarios. The goal is PV device interchangeability, whereby end users can swap out different vendors’ products with different feature sets and still get the PV value with no engineering effort. To help accomplish that goal fieldbus needs to replicate familiar 4-20 mA work practices, but with modern digital systems the division of duties is blurred.

This led to the creation of 4 principle objectives to ease usability.

  1. Establish Backwards Compatibility
  2. Ease Configuration challenges
  3. Automate Device Replacement
  4. Quickly Integrate the Device's Process Measurement

Once the challenges the users face in integrating smart instrumentation was defined, technical teams went straight to work developing solutions to ease the burden.

solving the Challenges

  1. Backwards Compatibility — This “future-proofing” technique allows users to replace a field instrument with a different revision level (yet like-device) and maintain the pre-existing level of functionality from the old device.
    • Enables the new instrument to operate on the old device’s DD until the system can be updated to take full advantage of the new instrument’s capabilities
    • Backwards compatibility is an important part of developing full device replacement strategies in the future
    • Provides quicker device replacement scenarios (especially when engineering resources are unavailable)
  2. DD Templates — While users enjoy the seemingly limitless capability offered by fieldbus, they struggled to manage configuration of all the various parameters available that weren't applicable for each application. This made simple configuration applications more burdensome. DD Templates gives individual users a basic foundation (generic application-specific DD) upon which to build their device configuration. The user can then establish a basis for all applications and only make a few individualized tweaks to unique applications versus fully configuring each and every device. This saves time and money.
    • Pre-defined set of values loaded in the device from the manufacturer
    • Multiple templates possible within a device
    • Labeled and filterable
    • Greatly reduce configuration and commissioning effort during Front End Engineering & Design (FEED). By as much as 80%!! (source: Emerson Exchange)
  3. Automated Device Replacement — Automation of device replacement allows the configuration in an existing field device to be restored in a newer version of that instrument without manual intervention. 
    • This “plug-and-play” solution for like-devices ensures features are consistent between different generations of devices without reengineering the host configuration or changing any element of the H1 network other than the new instrument. 
    • Results in greater predictability with fewer integration risks
  4. Standard Connection Points — The single most important challenge faced by users was the inability to quickly integrate a device in order to get sensor data into the system so that they can get their process up and running. Standard Connection Points is the dream solution for the “Saturday 3 a.m. instrument failure in the midst of a snow storm". A user needs to quickly get the process back up and running with as little effort as possible. To do that, the operator must have a process variable (PV). This key piece of data is what allows the process to get back online until Monday morning when the engineering department shows up and can finish configuring the enhanced features like advanced diagnostics, control in the field, etc.
    • By decoupling the PV from the DD itself, FOUNDATION Fieldbus maintains the benefits of smart instrumentation while gaining the simplicity of traditional 4-20 mA processes. In fact, it will be easier than 4-20 mA because devices will not need to be ranged or calibrated before operation.

Feature support throughout development lifecycle of FOUNDATION Fieldbus

Release Schedule

The FOUNDATION Fieldbus technical specifications currently include support for fieldbus device replacement and backwards compatibility, DD templates, field diagnostics and alarm/alert integration. The ability to utilize these enhanced features was included in Host Profile C, which required hosts to integrate field diagnostics into alarm management systems, rather than just provide access to the information in a device view. Standard Connection Points is currently under development from our Technical Working Groups. 

User Availability:

Feature Market Availability (est.)
Backwards Compatibility Released
DD Templates Released
Automated Device Replacement Q2 2019
Standard Connection Points Released


Developer Implementation:

Developers looking for information on enhancements released to specification or development tools and testing equipment can go to our Development Products & Tools page in our support portal. You can also subscribe to receive product updates by submitting a ticket request through the support portal.