Jeff Besola is a member of the PI North America Board of Directors since 2017.
Here he shares some perspective on the large number of smart field devices used in process plants.
Over the years, you’ve started amassing smart field devices – smart valves and smart (temperature, pressure, flow) transmitters that can tell you if they have a fault, and you can even trend the data and know when a fault is imminent. But you’ve amassed smart field devices through different area owners, different project owners, and even purchasing, and now you are backed into a tough spot; you have to extract the ‘smarts’ from these pricey intelligent field devices from different manufacturers, connected to different PLCs, and in some cases across different protocols.
Intelligent field devices have their own computing capability and provide a wealth of diagnostic and maintenance information besides the actual process value. Extracting the intelligence is accomplished via communications protocol such as PROFIBUS PA.
Through many years of migration, modernization, or forced upgrades at your plant, the challenge of maintaining multiple automation islands and multiple communication protocols has been brewing. This has a significant impact on the cost of managing the field devices as the maintenance team needs to have multiple tools to monitor each automation island.
One approach to reduce this complexity is to utilize a handheld, portable interface tool that supports multiple protocols simultaneously. One example of such an interface tool is mobiLink from Softing. Upstream (to a phone, PC, or tablet) mobiLink offers either a Bluetooth or USB interface, and downstream (to the intelligent field devices) mobiLink includes the common communication protocols for process automation – including PROFIBUS PA – to allow a single software platform to communicate with almost any intelligent field device.
Out-of-the-box, mobiLink supports FDI and FDT technology so maintenance crews can use this interface tool with FDI compliant applications like AMS Device Manager and FDT frame applications like PACTware, FieldCare, or FieldMate to configure, change settings, perform diagnostics, and perform predictive maintenance on smart field devices. In addition, Bluetooth enables mobiLink to be used in intrinsically safe environments.
An interface tool that links to almost any intelligent field device to almost any Asset Management software allows you to choose best-in-breed solutions for your application.