The past five years have been exciting for process automation. It was clear to everyone involved that a turning point was at hand. And, thus, with the development of FDI (Field Device Integration) technology, an important signal was sent. For one thing, because the technology will make future device integration in process automation significantly easier. For another thing, because the collaboration with users, fieldbus organizations, and manufacturers was exceptional. All participants pulled together and wanted to see the project succeed.
And, thus, at ACHEMA in mid-June, the FDI Cooperation LCC was able to mark the end to the project – the development of FDI technology was successfully concluded. Using proven elements of existing EDDL and FDT technologies, something new emerged that consistently simplifies device integration through optimum vendor neutrality.
The specification and the first version of the development tools and standard host components have been available since March. The FDI specification is available on the website of the FDI Cooperation as well from the FieldComm Group and PROFIBUS & PROFINET International (PI). The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) has published FDI as an international standard (IEC 62769). With this step, automation providers can now develop FDI-compatible products and host systems. The first components along these lines were exhibited at the ACHEMA trade fair. Now, it is up to manufacturers to implement the specifications in their products, and likewise, it is up to users to include this integration technology in new or expansion projects.
And what happens next? To successfully establish FDI in the market, we have to stay on the ball. While the FDI Cooperation was disbanded, as per agreement, after successful completion of its work, its successors are already in the starting blocks. The work results are being transferred to new owners: FieldComm Group, FDT Group, OPC Foundation, and PROFIBUS & PROFINET International. The maintenance and further development of the FDI technology will take place in the FieldComm Group in close cooperation with FDT Group, OPC Foundation, and, in particular, PROFIBUS & PROFINET International. Some of the topics that are currently being worked on intensively are conformity tests for FDI host systems and device packages as well as expansion of FDI for use of mobile devices.
And the project is also forward-looking in another way. In the early stages of FDI, the term “Industrie 4.0” had not yet been invented. Now, however, it appears that FDI technology fits seamlessly in the reference architecture model for Industry 4.0 (RAMI), which the German trade associations BITKOM, VDMA, and ZVEI describe in their implementation strategy for Industrie 4.0. The reference architecture model names the FDI technology for the integration layer and functional layer. With its device information model (set forth in IEC 62541-100), the client/server architecture of FDI technology provides all functions for modeling real devices as virtual objects for the Industrial Internet of Things. The first mission is accomplished but further tasks already await.
From my point of view, FDI – the single cross-protocol device integration technology – fits perfectly into the strategy of using PROFINET as a backbone to integrate various communication networks.
I am looking forward to completing the FDI technology development and seeing the technology being applied to PROFIBUS and PROFINET products.