Original pneumatic process control loops were implemented with Control in the Field. In those days, the analog input (transmitter) and output (valve) needed to be connected by the air line sharing the 3-15 psi signal calibrated to the transmitter signal. As indicated in past columns, Foundation Fieldbus - with its function blocks - has been designed to be able to implement Control in the Field with the constraint that, like pneumatic loops, the input (AI block) and output (AO block) must be on the same physical segment. In effect, the pneumatic air line has to be replaced with the fieldbus segment wire.
When you talk to safety system and control engineers, many say that they do not have faith in the communications reliability of buses and prefer to use conventional analog signals for all safety applications and SIS (Safety Instrumented Systems). Why? Because, they say, conventional analog signals have been proven in use for so many years. It seems as though these engineers have conveniently forgotten that there was a time when these systems were new as well.
The majority of new electronic field devices being installed today all have some form of diagnostics capability, and most also have some way of communicating their overall general health to another system that can make use of this information to improve overall plant reliability. This reporting system is typically called an asset management system.
Networking technology has been around for at least as long as computers; however, it was not until the 1970s that the demand for permanent connection between distributed nodes became more important.
We are all familiar with the phrase "garbage in, garbage out," but how many of us realize that this statement is also true for our control systems?
We are all aware that the North American energy grid is under stress, and utilities urgently need to manage peak versus off-peak energy demand to reduce the need to build new power plants. One of the ways power-generating companies are deferring the large investment of new plants is through the use of automation - in particular, through Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI), which combines Home Area Networks (HANs) and Neighbourhood Area Networks (NANs) as part of the overall Smart Grid initiative.
Every working professional - myself included - is expected to continually develop new work skills. In fact, depending on your role and licensure, ongoing professional development is often a mandatory component for maintaining your licence. Here in Alberta, a professional engineer must have documented 300 "points" in each three-year period, and must report their activities in this area on an annual basis when renewing their membership. There are different types of recognized credentials: certificates, licences and certifications. Certificates are evidence that you have taken and successfully completed a course or series of courses on one subject. They are often received at the end of a training class or related program. Licences provide a legal right to practice in a broad area. Licences require education, comprehensive examination and, in most cases, continuing education/professional development. Certification is generally applied to a narrower area than a licence, and requires education, experience, an exam and continuing education/professional development. In many cases, certification complements the skills of a licenced professional, signifying an area of specialization or competency in one or more areas. In the automation field, ISA's Certified Automation Professional ( is one example of certification. A certification program provides a mechanism for an employer to ensure a high level of skill and competency of employees, and set a standard level of knowledge and skill for employees. Highly skilled employees help ensure that proper safety practices are used in a facility, protecting the workplace and public safety. With the wide use of outsourcing of engineering functions by industry today, a certification program provides a standard tool to qualify new hires and contractors with qualifications verified by an independent third party. For the employee, certification programs help to establish a professional identity and provide documentation of the individual's knowledge, experience and education to current and prospective employers. ISA's Certified Automation Professional (CAP) program has been designed for those working in the automation (process and factory) market. The skills required and tested for this certification fall into two broad categories: domains (skills required during different stages of a project life cycle) and technical competencies. Domains include those skills used in each of the following different stages of a project: • Feasibility study: How to differentiate between different options or approaches to a project. • Definition: Understanding a project in sufficient detail to be able to prepare a cost estimate for funding. • System design: Actual design of the project itself with associated drawings, documentation and specifications. • Development: Configuration and testing of the systems and associated databases, operator interfaces and network/node interactions. • Deployment: Commissioning and startup of systems. • Operation and maintenance: Tasks associated with maintaining systems in their optimal condition, as well as upgrades and the addition of new equipment to an existing system. The second dimension being tested and verified by the CAP program is your technical competencies in the following areas: • Basic continuous control: This covers an understanding of basic concepts of control, such as PID control and process dynamics. • Discrete and manufacturing control: This covers the basic skills used in the manufacturing sector, including the IEC 61131 programming languages, batch operations (ISA-88), etc. • Advanced control: Building on the above two skill sets, this area covers multivariate control, unit optimization and interactions between different unit operations. • Reliability, safety and electrical: You must demonstrate an understanding of electrical codes, safety standards, such as IEC 61151, and how this affects overall system reliability. • Integration and software: You must understand how systems are built from the separate components above, combining hardware and software, including the ISA-95 four-layer model. • Deployment and maintenance: You must know how to implement the above and keep it operational to maximize run length and reliability. • Work structure (projects, teams): Automation tends to be a support skill to projects and operations, so it is critical that we know how to work in teams. If you are interested in pursuing this certification, ISA has material for the CAP program, for both online and offline studying, with exam proxy centres around the world. Once you have successfully obtained your CAP certification, it is good for three years. Provided you have maintained your professional development activities during that time, the recertification process is straightforward documentation of your activities and payment of the registration fee. Certification is but one component of continuing your life journey and demonstrating ongoing personal development on the technical side. Life, however, requires continuous evolution of the complete person, so do not forget to develop in other dimensions as well (i.e. soft skills and interpersonal skills). Life is about growing, but only you can find the right ingredients for your garden. Ian Verhappen, P.Eng. is an ISA Fellow, ISA Certified Automation Professional, and a recognized authority on Foundation Fieldbus and industrial communications technologies. Verhappen operates a global consultancy, Industrial Automation Networks Inc., specializing in field level industrial communications, process analytics and heavy oil / oil sands automation. Feedback is always welcome via e-mail at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .
The International Society of Automation (ISA) recently completed its Automation Week in Houston, Texas. This was a huge change from past years because this year the focus was on the technical conference rather than the exhibition. The initial indications are that the event was a success, with more than 1,500 attendees registered for the event and another 120 or so exhibitors showing related products and services during the breaks. The whole idea behind this year's event was to bring people together in conversations, because the most powerful network that exists is the "people network." People, by and large, are social, and even engineers seek venues to meet with other people with similar interests. Whether that location is a conference, a local engineering society meeting or a virtual community, the intent is to have a place where you can exchange ideas with others, while learning something yourself in the process. The strength of the people network is reinforced by the number of web-based networking tools that people use to connect with others with similar interests - socially and professionally. Next to meeting in person at conferences and local society meetings, the most basic network you have is the contacts list in your e-mail application. In fact, that is how many list serves were started, including the original Fieldbus User Network (FUN list) that ran off a mailing list of approximately 600 names on my computer before it was converted to a true list serve that discussed all things Fieldbus at The following are some list serves related to networking technology that might be of interest to readers of this column: • HART: The HART Communications Foundation forum discusses this widely used protocol. • Profibus: This board discusses all things that have to do with the three Profibus protocols. • Modbus: This granddaddy of protocols just happens to reside on the longest running list server of all, the Control mailing list, with topics on practically everything automation at ISA also has several forums: Some are open to everyone, while others are for ISA members or specific groups, such as standards developing bodies. ISA also has list serves for each of its divisions at Participation in division list serves is restricted to the members of the division; yet another form of community where those with similar interests can meet. All of the above forums give you a digest option where you can request to have either a daily or weekly digest sent to you with all postings of interest, rather than be inundated with e-mails every time someone posts. Last but not least are the connections available through LinkedIn and other public networks. The following are just a few of the industrial networking related forums on LinkedIn that I belong to: Foundation Fieldbus, Profibus, WINA (wireless), Industrial Wireless (discussion area for wireless between the field sensor and control system I/O such as HART, ISA-100 and WIA) and, of course, the Manufacturing AUTOMATION group that provides access to some of the publication's columnists/contributors, as well as those individuals with similar interests. The above is only a partial list of the ways in which you can expand your network and exchange knowledge with others. Note that the key word here is exchange. You will only get out of a network what you are willing to put into it. People can quickly tell if you are hoping to get something for nothing, or are trying to use the network for self promotion or because you are too lazy to do the work yourself and hope to get some free consulting from the mail list. If you have other networks that you feel might be of interest to our readers, post them to the Manufacturing AUTOMATION group on LinkedIn, or send the link to Mary or myself and we will be sure to get the relevant information to our readers. In summary, participating in the people network will not only reinforce and expand what you know, but also the number of people you know. This network will be very helpful for those times when you either need confirmation of the solution you think is right, or need some suggestions on where to start looking for an answer. From personal experience, I know that participating in such networks has not only helped me grow professionally, but also allowed me to make some wonderful friends all over the world. I encourage you to get involved in the networks that relate to your interests. I look forward to meeting you on a network soon. Ian Verhappen, P.Eng. is an ISA Fellow, ISA Certified Automation Professional, and a recognized authority on Foundation Fieldbus and industrial communications technologies. Verhappen operates a global consultancy, Industrial Automation Networks Inc., specializing in field level industrial communications, process analytics and heavy oil / oil sands automation. Feedback is always welcome via e-mail at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .
Continuing along the theme of last month's column, I'd like to carry on with the discussion about the importance of diagnostic information, and the integration of this information into asset management software. Unfortunately, far too many installations that have smart instruments such as HART are not taking advantage of this information, and are only using the digital capabilities of their devices to communicate with their handheld calibrators. Handheld units certainly make working on these instruments much easier; however, without the centralized database - typically asset management software - the real value of maintenance and diagnostic information cannot be realized. At its most basic level, asset management software has the advantage of being able to aggregate information in a variety of ways. This ability makes it possible to see trends and common failures that will point to root causes of faults, so that the faults can be corrected rather than continually patched. One challenge to the adoption of integrated asset management is the lack of standards at all levels of the integration - from field sensors through to ERP systems. Fortunately, progress is being made on developing such standards. However, it is not one standard; it's a series of standards. The "trick" - or opportunity - for integrators will be defining the interfaces between the various systems at each of the ISA-95 levels of data storage/reporting. ISA-95 has defined a model that describes the type of operations at each level of an integrated manufacturing enterprise - from the sensors at Level 0, through to the business planning systems at Level 4. Let's take a look at what is happening in standards development at each of these levels. Starting at the base, Level 0/1, where the sensors for which we want to collect diagnostic information reside, we have HART and the various fieldbus protocols. Fortunately, HART, Foundation Fieldbus and Profibus PA are all based on EDDL technology and, as discussed earlier this year, these groups are working on the next generation of this technology - called FDI. FDI will define a common interface for these three protocols, so that the majority of process facilities will only have one type of interface between levels 1 and 2. In addition, the Fieldbus Foundation is developing a series of standards for the transducer blocks in which all of the maintenance and diagnostic information is contained, so that regardless of which manufacturer's sensor is installed, it will be possible to integrate directly into any asset management software tool because all of the parameters will have the same name and information. Level 2 is where the controllers reside. How many times have each of us operated our plant with "bad data?" Foundation Fieldbus technology makes sure that this does not happen by sending out a status message every update cycle. However, it is possible to get close to the same result using other digital protocols. All that is required is to read the status bit on a regular basis and incorporate this information into your control algorithm. Level 3 is where most of the asset management software tools reside. Unfortunately, I am not aware of any standards being developed specifically for this level; hence, the reason for the integration challenge of connecting these tools with the ERP software used to manage the complete facility. The ERP or business planning applications at Level 4 are being discussed by a number of groups, most notably the ISO PAS-55 standard, as well as the MIMOSA ( organization. MIMOSA is a not-for-profit trade association dedicated to developing and encouraging the adoption of open information standards for operations and maintenance in manufacturing, fleet and facility environments. MIMOSA's open standards enable collaborative asset life cycle management in both commercial and military applications. There are also a number of activities underway to help integrate all the levels through the complete life cycle of a device and system. Most notable among the life cycle standards work, from an instrumentation perspective, is the NAMUR ( activity under the auspices of Working Group 100, known as ProLIST. ProLIST is working on a plant life cycle management standard (actually, a series of databases) for the full range of field devices. These databases will track an instrument for both manufacturers and end users from the moment it is specified, through procurement, manufacturing, installation, maintenance, removal and disposal. Part of the incentive for this is to enable competitive bidding on every type of device, as well as quality tracking (because it is possible to trace every component back to its original source by the manufacturer). Another incentive is the ability to determine the environmental impact for any possible hazardous chemicals or materials in the device. This is obviously a huge effort, and will take many years to develop the standards and the associated databases and infrastructure to make this possible. The outputs of the ProLIST group are being incorporated into a series of IEC standards under the auspices of TC65E Working Group 2. As you can see, information to better manage your field devices and your operations is available. The tools to do so are also moving towards a more open, more easily integrated option, which will hopefully make it easier for all of us to better use the tools and information we have to improve our overall maintenance operations. Ian Verhappen, P.Eng., is an ISA Fellow and ISA Certified Automation Professional. He operates Industrial Automation Networks Inc., specializing in field-level industrial communications, process analytics and heavy oil/oil sands automation. He can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .
Are ERP, CAD/CAM and PLM really more than just acronyms in your facility? Yes, as the articles in this issue indicate, there are facilities that make effective use of these software tools; however, many manufacturers fail to go to the next level - the sensor level, where the process is actually controlled. The vast majority of analog transmitters installed today are HART-enabled, meaning that they are able to provide device status and diagnostic information to the network. Most process control systems support HART communications directly, and pretty much the rest of the analog signals connected today support some form of bus technology.   If your control system's I/O cards do not have a native HART modem to communicate directly with the field devices, wired "HART strippers" are available to use RS-485 or another network to bring the diagnostic information back to a central location to make full use of the data. Most HART devices on the market today support HART 5. However, HART 7 was released in 2008 by the HART Communications Foundation. Most people believe that the addition of wireless is the most important part of this latest version. I beg to disagree. I think the most significant addition is the "report by exception" feature. This means that you no longer have to send a command from the host to the device on a regular basis to find out if something is wrong. With "report by exception," the device can now send a message to the host to tell you if there are any issues.  HART 7 devices are just being released to market. But as existing HART devices get replaced through regular maintenance practices, this new "report by exception" capability will have a huge impact on the way we work. Unfortunately, a large percentage of installations do not effectively use the diagnostic information available in their devices today, because they are not collecting the information in a central location. The most common tool for the centralized collection of sensor-level network information is asset management software. Unfortunately, most providers of this software make the software too complete, so that the tool can, in addition to collecting, analysing and interpreting the data, also generate work orders, thus duplicating the efforts of the corporate ERP software. Of course, you can turn this off and integrate the asset management software with your ERP system. A series of standards are being started to provide some guidelines on how this should be done. The ISO body is in the process of adopting British Standards Institution's publicly available specification, PAS 55 - Optimal management of physical assets, as the starting point for a new series of documents. If you have an interest in this area and want to help, please contact me. Unfortunately, the ISO/BSI work is focused on asset management at the financial or highest ERP level, and though it may provide general guidelines, it will still need work to be applicable at the control and sensor level. A number of interested individuals are considering forming a committee within the ISA standards department to develop the requirements for asset management at the field level, so if you are interested, please contact me. Ian Verhappen, P.Eng., is an ISA Fellow and ISA Certified Automation Professional. He operates Industrial Automation Networks Inc., specializing in field-level industrial communications, process analytics and heavy oil / oil sands automation. He can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .
There must always be an economic incentive for development of a new product or protocol, and the same is true for fieldbuses. In this case, the drive is from different vertical segments or industries that use industrial automation and see the benefits of all digital communications. Figure 1 shows a subset of the fieldbus options available in the market today and the approximate niches in which they fit. The "simpler" buses, which have fast update times and very small (typically on- or off-type) messages, are in the lower right while more complex buses with larger data packet sizes are in the upper left side of the figure. The bottom horizontal access lists the type of sensors and controllers typically associated with each of the protocol in the diagram, while the vertical axis provides an indication of the type of I/O associated with the bus. The horizontal axis along the top describes the type of bus by colour and protocols below and, as we will see by examining a few of these protocols, each of these buses target a different type of communication and industry. Starting with a simpler bus, AS-interface ( connects simple sensors and actuators including the power supply over a two-leader bus. AS-Interface is a master/slave protocol and every AS-Interface slave is freely addressable and can get connected to the bus cable in any arbitrary place. This makes modular construction possible with no limits to the structure and hence any network topology can be used (e.g. bus, star, or tree topologies). Cable and network range 100 metres but this is scaleable by repeater to up to 300 metres.  A single AS-i message typically has a four-bit data load. The repetition of a single telegram requires only 150 µs and this time period is already taken into account in the specified cycle time of the network. Because AS-i is primarily an on/off protocol (though it can support analog signals) it is predominantly found in factory automation. Devicenet and Controlnet are part of the Open Device Vendors Association (ODVA) and this protocol is typically used in factory automation as well to connect motion controllers and PLCs. Devicenet, which is based on the CAN (Controller Area Network - the same network used in automobiles) supports both branched and daisy chain networks. It uses CSMA/CA (Collision Sensing Multiple Access/Collision Avoidance) with an arbitration scheme to prevent secondary collisions if a collision is detected. Devicenet uses a unique five-wire (four conductors plus ground) cable to provide both signal and power. Depending on the data transfer rate (125 - 500 kbps), cable-type networks of up to 500 metres can be installed. The two field level versions of Profibus (, DP (Decentralized Peripherals ) and PA (Process Automation), are each targeted to different industries though the two are closely linked because ALL Profibus PA messages are transferred through a gateway to the Profibus DP protocol. Up to 126 I/O devices can be connected to a PROFIBUS DP cable while Profibus PA uses the same physical layer as Foundation Fieldbus H1. Profibus DP uses four-wire RS-485 as the physical layer and, like Devicenet, the cable length depending on the bit rate used (bit rates range between 9.6 kbit/s to 12 Mbit/s) between two repeaters is from 100 to 1200 metres. Lonworks (, developed by Echelon Corporation, is one of the protocols in the BACnet standard for building automation. Building automation is where Lonworks is most commonly used (including the elevator you rode on the way to work today). The most common deployment of this protocol uses twisted pair signal wires that operate at 78 kbit/s using differential Manchester encoding. The Lonmark organization uses profiles (a similar concept is used by Profibus) to provide a basic set of generic functions (open and closed-loop sensors and actuators and a controller) from which a broad set of applications are implemented. WorldFIP was one of the protocols on which Foundation Fieldbus was based and today has limited use, predominantly in France. Lastly, readers are familiar with Foundation Fieldbus, which is targeted to the process automation market - just like Profibus PA. As you can see, just like a carpenter has more than a hammer in their toolbox, automation professionals have a range of tools and protocols as well. If you would like to see us cover some of these other buses in future columns, please email me and/or the editor ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ) and we will work to schedule it into the editorial calendar. Ian Verhappen, P.Eng. is an ISA Fellow, ISA Certified Automation Professional, and a recognized authority on Foundation Fieldbus and industrial communications technologies. Verhappen operates a global consultancy Industrial Automation Networks Inc. specializing in field level industrial communications, process analytics and heavy oil / oil sands automation. Feedback is always welcome via e-mail at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .
One of the reasons that many people hold back on implementing an industrial wireless system is security concerns. Obviously, you don't want to install a wireless system if it can be a "back door" into your control system. Luckily, the engineers who are developing the standards and products intended for industrial uses understand these concerns. Consequently, a number of security features have been included in the industrial wireless standards to alleviate them. I've mentioned in past columns that the OSI model ensures each layer of the communications protocol is partially independent of all others. Once again, with industrial wireless, this good planning comes into play since the majority of the industrial Ethernet protocols all use 802.15.4 radios for the lower layers of the protocol but then differentiate themselves at the higher 'application and user layers' with unique features. How industrial systems differ The 802.15.4 radio replaces the twisted pair wire associated with HART. And just as each of the fieldbus protocols have a migration path to an Ethernet-enabled version (802.3), 802.15.4 could also be replaced with 6LoWPAN or low power version of 802.11in the future with minimal impact to the protocol itself. Bandwidth sharing at 2.4 GHz beyond ISA100.11a, WiHART (HART 7.1), and ZigBee stipulates that an IEEE 802.15.4 radio be used.  In addition, while the 802.15.4 radio could be operated at a number of different frequencies, only the 2450 (+/-) MHz frequency range is available licence-free worldwide.  Because of this, it's the range most commonly used in the licence free Industry Scientific Medical (ISM) bands. Unfortunately, many other items such as cellular phones, wireless home phones, and various other items including remote control cars and toys use this frequency as well. Added protection Message encryption is one technique used to maintain data integrity and prevent deliberate or inadvertent interception of the data between two nodes on a network. The process automation wireless protocols include industry standard 128-bit AES encryption, unique encryption keys for each message, and an access point that provides rotating encryption keys when new devices attempt or request permission to join the network (see sidebar for other industrial wireless standard features). Techniques such as Direct Sequence Spread Spectrum (DSSS) technology, also known as coding diversity, and adjustable transmission power, or power diversity, also help WirelessHART provide reliable communication even in the midst of other wireless networks. WirelessHART also uses time-synchronized communication (time diversity) as a means to minimize the potential for collisions through the use of "blacking out" channels being used by other devices and networks. All WirelessHART device-to-device communication is done in a pre-scheduled time window, which enables collision-free messaging. In addition, each message has a defined priority to ensure appropriate Quality of Service (QoS) delivery. Fixed time slots also enable the network manager to create and manage the network for any application without user intervention. Keeping it safe The ISA-100.11a standard committee is in the process of revising their document to incorporate a 'use case' that was not adequately addressed in the first revision. The expectation is that a revised document will be approved in 2011 and resubmitted to ANSI for approval at that time. After approval as an ANSI standard it will then be possible to submit the document to IEC for consideration as an international standard. WirelessHART is presently in the IEC approval process as an international standard. Despite the best efforts of the specification developers, all the above capabilities are only as good as what you choose to implement. Including such basic items as managing your signal and antenna gain (receiving strength) at the perimeter of your property, changing default passwords and using defensive indepth security practices will help you protect your wireless system from intruders. When it comes to security, you're only as good as your weakest link. In many cases, the old saying rings true: We have seen the enemy and he is us. Features incorporated into industrial wireless standards • Data integrity and device authentication are two of the three pillars of cybersecurity. The third being authority, or does the device have sufficient security privileges to make the change being requested. • Channel hopping makes it more difficult for a device that is not part of the network to know at which frequency the next transmission will take place. • Multiple levels of security keys for access by different individuals with different responsibilities. This reinforces the concept of authority, the third pillar of security mentioned above. • Adjustable transmit power levels allow the user to manage the signal 'spillage' beyond the boundary of the plant environment. If the radio signals do not go beyond the edge of a facility it will become much more difficult for someone to either "steal" information or capture enough data packets to be able to decipher the data package format so that it can be compromised. • Security servers, similar to RADIUS servers in the office environment, allows the wireless network manager to record every attempt to join the network. By keeping track of all the attempts, the details of failed access attempts can provide an indication of how vigorously someone is attempting to compromise your network. Ian Verhappen, P.Eng. is an ISA Fellow, ISA Certified Automation Professional, and a recognized authority on Foundation Fieldbus and industrial communications technologies. Verhappen operates a global consultancy Industrial Automation Networks Inc. specializing in field level industrial communications, process analytics and heavy oil / oil sands automation. Feedback is always welcome via e-mail at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .
The FDI (field device integration) Project will have a big impact on the future look and feel of digital field sensors, especially after the recent announcement that host suppliers ABB, Emerson, Endress+Hauser, Honeywell, Invensys, Siemens and Yokogawa have joined the FDT Group, Fieldbus Foundation, HART Communications Foundation, OPC Foundation and PROFIBUS in pushing not only the development of this new standard but also incorporating it in their products. So what is FDI? In simple terms, when complete, it will replace all EDDL (IEC 61804-3)-based languages: HART, Foundation Fieldbus and PROFIBUS-PA. Obviously, this is a significant portion of the process automation market. While EDDL is a common text-based description of a device, the text description is normally converted to a "binary DD" through a tokenizer before being shipped with the device. Unfortunately, the format of the binary DD is different for each process Fieldbus even though they originate from the common EDDL language. The above manufacturing company members of FDI have made it a high priority to harmonize the binary DD through secondary standards and tools so the result will be a single binary format file regardless of the protocol of the device. The EDDL file for each protocol will be processed through a tokenizer, much like it is done today; this also ensures backward compatibility, as we would not want to have to replace all our existing devices as a result of this change. Because each protocol is not exactly the same, but rather closer to 90-percent similar, it will be necessary to create an FDI Developer environment for each of the three EDDL-based protocols to assist them in defining how to "map" the various parameters of each protocol to the appropriate FDI parameters. The resulting binary file from the tokenizer is then passed to a "packager," where it will be converted to an FDI file. Note that, at their discretion, the device manufacturer will be able to define a user-interface plug-in that is integrated into the FDI file by the "packager" to create the single common file. Foundation Fieldbus device manufacturers have this discretion today as well by creating "extended" function blocks that contain information beyond what has been fully defined by the Fieldbus Foundation. What is important to end users will be the interoperability of these devices, and that will be insured through the appropriately coloured green "test tool" box, which will provide the necessary check mark from the appropriate organization that the devices are not only compliant with FDI but also backward compatible. This is important when a new device needs to be added to an existing network and everything will have to continue to work together seamlessly. Lastly, when the device is connected and communicating on the network, the process needs to be "reversed," with the DCS/host converting the FDI information into a format useable by the internal system databases. This is not different than is done today, where each system needs to "interpret" the information from the field to the appropriate database register within the host. Note that the user-interface plug-in, which will be used to provide improved access to the maintenance, diagnostic and related parameters in the field devices, will use the knowledge gained from the use of FDT technology and combine that with the open interoperable communications capabilities of OPC UA to provide a platform independent solution to the rich data set contained in a modern digital field device. The working groups hope to have the standards developed by the third quarter of 2010, which means products should start being available in 2011. Do not let this change your plans for using any of these protocols because backward compatibly will be a key to acceptance and a must for the developers/testers. The good news and incentive for this work with all the device and host manufacturers is that they will now only have to develop and support one, rather than three, device description standard, which reduces development and support costs. For end users, this means reduced system complexity and better access to richer data features for all devices on the network. _ Ian Verhappen, P.Eng., is an ISA Fellow, ISA Certified Automation Professional and a recognized authority on Foundation Fieldbus and industrial communications technologies. Feedback is always welcome at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .
How will things get done 10 years from now?” This question has a two-pronged response: how will technology evolve, and how will it be maintained? It’s time to gaze into the crystal ball and forecast the future on both fronts. Before we start, I need to paraphrase Bill Gates: “We tend to over predict what will be accomplished in the next two years and under predict what we will have done in 10 years.” With that in mind, how will industrial automation technology evolve over the next 10 years, and what will be cutting edge in 2020? We will continue to have multiple protocols to serve the needs of niche industries. Ethernet (wired and wireless) will be used more widely than today and PoE (Power over Ethernet) will also be common so devices can be connected via a single cable. Wireless based on 802.15.4 will continue to gain traction with more devices connected, broader coverage and higher speed, but will still predominantly be used for monitoring-only applications. Cyber security will be part of system design and will consider more than external attacks, becoming more robust and user friendly. Operations will realize the benefits of life-cycle asset management and invest heavily in this area. The IEC standard on 3D displays will be adopted and enable the development of the first 3D immersion control rooms, process simulators and engineering design software. The above could be way off since the timelines are different for industrial settings than in the office or other short life-cycle environments. It is not too often someone will replace all their “perfectly adequate” field devices for new digital infrastructure, so a typical life cycle in industrial control is closer to 25 years versus fewer than five years for office computer systems. The above is a forecast of what may be possible, which does not equate to being widely used, just like we experienced with Fieldbus deployment more than five years after the technology was available. Wireless will gain traction around 2013 to 2015; by then, the press will be promoting the “next thing,” which will likely start being delivered around 2020. The second, more important factor to consider is how all this technology will be designed, installed and maintained — by people. As we know, the first half of the coming decade will see the baby boomers retiring in large numbers, and the result could be a worker shortage. Fortunately, technology will provide part of the solution, and to some extent, the recession will help as well since many will either need to or want to continue to work because they either need to or simply “want to stay busy.” Most of my friends enjoy what they do and, therefore, semi-retire and consult two to four days per week on projects that interest them. With fewer people around, and experience not as available as it may have been in the past, how will companies use technology to get the knowledge where it is needed when it is needed? n Remote support: These semi-retirees can be based anywhere. Technology makes it easy to send the information to the expert, or allow the expert remote access to the system under investigation rather than have the expert travel for days to get to the facility with the problem. The economic benefit for the customer is that the expert can now be “cost” and time shared across multiple clients. The expert also has the potential to make more money as they can help multiple customers in one day rather than just one when they needed to physically be there. n Smarter devices: These are able to not only report they have a defect but also the likely cause and what needs to be done to repair it. The fear is that people will rely on this information too much and forget how to do it by the time something happens. Therefore, just like operators have simulators to practice for abnormal situations, maintenance people will have similar tools to keep their skills fresh and sharp. n Virtual environment: When a technician needs to go to the field, they will have the option of a heads-up display projected on their safety glasses of repair procedure and associated manuals to walk them through the repair. n Software intelligence: Asset management systems and control systems will be tightly integrated, and the result will be maintenance optimization routines similar to what is done to optimize production across more than one unit operation today. This software will look for trends and patterns across multiple sensors and networks that indicate a potential problem for perhaps a device or piece of equipment not monitored directly long before it will affect operations so that it can be planned for the next convenient plant outage/service window. The technology to accomplish the above can be done today, though what is missing is the economic incentive and, to some extent, standards to define interfaces between the various systems so that each installation is not customized. In summary, the future will likely see better use of available experts who will be able to access the complete plant infrastructure through digital communications with fewer local staff to manage the day-to-day running of the facility. Ian Verhappen, P.Eng., is an ISA Fellow, ISA Certified Automation Professional and a recognized authority on Foundation Fieldbus and industrial communications technologies. Feedback is always welcome via e-mail at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .
I’ve recently returned from the ARC Forum, which took place Feb. 8 to 11 in Orlando, Fla., where about 500 industry pundits gathered to discuss the future of our industry and what trends are likely to have the biggest impact on the automation industry. This was my first time at the event, and though the information exchanged was interesting, I did not find the majority of the presentations to be forward looking — there were exceptions, and they made the trip worthwhile, but most of the material consisted of how today’s technology was being used to solve typical plant challenges such as energy management, cyber security, lifecycle management, wireless and DCS migration, coincidentally all areas in which ARC conducts industry research reports. One of the benefits of this coincidence is that each session as started by a summary of ARC’s research by their analysts on that particular topic. In some cases, with four tracks running in parallel, it would have been nice to be in two places at once. The press announcements were on Monday afternoon (Feb. 8) and early Tuesday morning (Feb. 9) before the full conference and sessions started. The common theme at this year’s event for all the press releases was ‘Energy Management’ and ‘Open Standards as a basis for Enterprise Integration’ mindful of the associated oversight and responsibility. • Bentley Systems announced a pair of acquisitions to enable them to move more into the enterprise integration space • Yokogawa promoted their entry into the Service Solutions business (no surprise as all their competitors are here and it is the largest revenue growth area for integrated automation equipment suppliers) • Invensys released version 2.0 of their Infusion Enterprise Control System, a very interesting flexible object based architecture where for all intents and purposes anything can connect to anything and the system manages the potential associated exponential growth in connections. One thing that may be driving the need for all this connectivity with the enterprise is a recent SEC ruling that companies will now need to report ‘energy opportunities’ as part of their annual filing. The conference started with a couple interesting presentations from U.S. Homeland Security and Proctor & Gamble. Interesting titbit from the P&G talk: “There is an inverse relationship between cost per use (i.e. how many we make per day) and the complexity of the machine required to make the product,” and Pampers machines were used as the example. The opening session was followed by a disappointing panel discussion — a low-impact way to start an event like this since the most vocal participants on the panel used the venue as a means to promote their company. I was not alone in leaving early. Mike Anderson of DOW, during his presentation, shared that managing unplanned events typically provides a two-time return on investment. There were several interesting items pulled from the in plant mobility session with the presentations by Boeing and Chevron. Steve Venema shared his work on Boeing’s ‘Virtual Enclave’ and how they connect a number of pieces of equipment on the same Layer 2 network. The key components of what makes this work have been incorporated into IETF RFC’s 5201 through 5207 as well as the Open HIP organisation. Chevron, who has been using roving interfaces for five-plus years now, has identified that it’s saving $3- to $5 million per year from their investment, predominantly in pump vibration data analysis. The two key ‘take-aways’ from Chevron’s Raj Patel and Eric Rearwin was: 1)    “greater than 50 percent of refinery assets are not instrumented,’ and 2)    “any data collected must be actionable; if you are not going to analyse what you collect, do not collect it.’ The most exciting presentations of the conference were saved for the end of the day Wednesday (Feb 10). Chevron’s Kevyn Renner’s presentation on RAVE (Real Asset Virtualization Environment) was captivating as he shared how Web 2.0 technologies can and are being used to bring people together virtually to analyse and solve problems by using the best people in the company to meet in the virtual world to discuss and solve problems. This was followed by a Dennis Inverso of Dupont sharing the methods that they use to save millions of dollars per year with their ‘Value Accelerator’ program. There are great tools here that are likely applicable to projects of any size. The ARC Forum also often invites other groups to co-host their meeting with them to encourage the cross-fertilization of ideas between different components of the automation industry. One such group resulted in Thursday morning’s (Feb. 11) Performance Based Outsourcing Program where University of Tennessee faculty member Kate Vitasek shared the results of their study on outsourcing (also the launch of her new book the week before) on a method to obtain win-win outcomes in outsourcing. The basic ‘rules’ for vested outsourcing can be found at — and with all the outsourcing being done today, the results of this research are worth investigating. Ian Verhappen, P.Eng., is an ISA Fellow, ISA Certified Automation Professional and a recognized authority on Foundation Fieldbus and industrial communications technologies. Feedback is always welcome via e-mail at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .
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