Device Management, Integration and Migration Made Easy

Jan. 9, 2014
FDT2 supports more protocols, adds FDI compatibility and other features. Backwards compatibility and pre-tested Common Components simplify setup and ongoing operations.

The FDT® standard, that has already simplified smart device integration for thousands of industrial companies, is expanding its scope and capabilities. The enhanced FDT2™ standard offers more end-user requested features while extending its already comprehensive portfolio of protocols.

FDT2 brings more capabilities and simplification to the popular standard, which has helped thousands of manufacturing engineers link equipment using a mixed topology of networks. FDT already supports more than 16 protocols (HART, Foundation Fieldbus, Profibus, Profinet, AS-i, CANopen, CC-Link, ODVA protocols (CompoNet, ControlNet, DeviceNet, EtherNet/IP), EtherCAT, MODBUS, InterBus, IO-Link, and sercos), with more to come.

That’s prompted more than 70 of the top software and equipment suppliers to implement FDT Frame Applications (hosts) and FDT DTMs (device drivers) that support more than 7,000 device types utilized in installations globally. All the benefits and skill sets built up over the past few years can be maintained as users set their own timeframe for adopting the updated version of FDT known as FDT2.

Updated standard   

In the coming year, there’s going to be a major transition to FDT2. Many FDT2 products are already shipping, and the ARC Advisory Group predicts that most equipment suppliers will unveil compatible products in 2014. FDT2 brings a number of enhancements for both the end user and the developer making it even easier to deploy.

On the supplier side, the FDT Group focused on helping equipment manufacturers begin develop Frame Applications and Device Type Managers (DTMs) that are the central elements of the technology.

The main element in this strategy is the DTM and Frame ‘Common Components’. These Common Components are well-tested, ready-for-use software packages that optimize the performance and operation of the FDT2 DTM and FDT2 Frame Applications while also improving interoperability.  The Common Components have been developed and tested together, to ensure interoperability and compliance with the FDT2 standard. Time to market can be significantly shortened by deploying these verified software modules.

On the end user side, backwards compatibility with standard FDT1.x is essential. From the start, FDT2 was written to make it easy to move to FDT2 without tossing out any existing FDT DTMs or other related software. That’s important because more than 70 equipment suppliers have been shipping FDT-compatible products that are being used around the globe. Therefore all available DTMs from the FDT 1.x specification will work in FDT2 Frame-based systems ensuring investment protection throughout the life cycle of a plant. (see figure 1)

End users on the verge of updating their control system, engineering tools for configuration or Asset Management applications should contact their host suppliers to check on the status of their integration of FDT2 within their software to reap the new benefits offered for smart device integration for DDs, EDDLs, DTMs 1.x FDT2 DTMs and FDI Device Packages.

More speed, more security

End users deploying FDT2 will enjoy speed and performance improvements. Functions such as data transfer, instantiation and frame updates typically run from three to 20 times faster than the original FDT 1.x specification. ARC researchers report that there’s an order-of-magnitude reduction in the time required for many tasks.  It is now possible to undertake static functions due to the separation of the business logic (or device model) and the graphical user interface.  It is also feasible to run the business logic without starting the DTM.  This allows the server to be used for other tasks such as asset management applications, without showing any graphics from the DTM.

Device parameters are now divided into data blocks and can be dynamically loaded during use. Accessing one stored parameter does not necessitate the need to upload the entire data record of a DTM.  The DTM is initially started by accessing only the data and parameters of the DTM User Interface. Only if the user calls up additional user interfaces will the additional data records can be loaded. This advantage is especially apparent in FDT2 Frame Application projects using hundreds or thousands of DTMs.

The topic of security is becoming essential in industrial software, where system stability and security are very important, especially in the context of access and tamper-proof protection.  While perimeter security is typically enhanced through IT infrastructure and robust IT guidelines, a prudent "belt and suspenders" approach requires that the underlying applications must play a role in ensuring secure and stable applications.

The enhanced FDT2 standard takes a strong approach to security. First, all applications created in compliance with FDT2 specifications are digitally signed providing non-repudiation and making them tamper proof.  And there is more granular DTM security with enhanced user rights and privileges added to the security settings. The existing levels of user security have been supplemented with a user-defined security level to provide even more role based security flexibility.

The FDT Group has established an FDT2 certification process for DTMs. Certified DTMs contain an embedded digitally signed certificate from the FDT Group.  The Frame Application can now not only ensure the integrity and source of the DTM, it can also display the certificate, or lack of, issued and signed by the FDT Group.  These certificates are tamper proof and cannot be forged due to the PKI (public key infrastructure) technology involved. This process ensures the validity of the certificate as the Frame Application can check the signature by means of the corresponding key assigned to the FDT Group. Both methods together grant a high degree of security in the use of DTMs.

Updating DTMs has even gotten easier. Within a new FDT2 Frame Application environment, users will receive automatic notifications from the Frame Application (host) when an updated, certified DTM is available for an installed device.  No more waiting or self-research to know if you have the latest and greatest DTM for a device.    

All these benefits build upon the myriad of experience that FDT has gained over ten years of successful deployments. FDT works on any device on any network using device drivers provided by device manufacturers. Its rich graphical user interface makes it simple to configure, operate and run diagnostics.

More connections

The move to FDT2 also builds the critical links between FDT and the Field Device Integration (FDI) standard. The FDT Group is one of the members of the FDI Cooperation, the group that developed FDI and is taking it through the standardization process.

FDI® (Field Device Integration) is focused on device integration for process automation applications using HART, PROFIBUS, and FOUNDATION fieldbus based devices.  The goal of FDI is to provide a common solution based on device integration technologies: EDDL (Electronic Device Description Language) and DTM Technology. The FDI Device Package will address the requirements for simple and complex devices for process applications. FDI Device Packages can be processed in FDI Hosts as well as in an FDT2 Fame Application.  This allows device suppliers to create an FDI Device Package for their devices containing both: an EDD and an optional UIP (User Interface Plug-in) that provides additional graphical capabilities similar to a DTM.

The FDT Group and FDI Cooperation are both committed to support this approach and ensure that FDT2 based systems can use and deliver the full functionality of FDI Device Packages.

Hosts that are based on the FDT2 Frame Application specification will process FDI Device Packages using an FDI DTM. This FDI DTM will be based on the same tools that are used to develop a native FDI host. (See figure 2)

More connections on the way

That’s not the only new connection option for FDT. Over the past couple years, the FDT Group has implemented a number of projects designed to broaden its reach. The number of supported protocols is being expanded to include additional Factory Automation protocols and wireless standards. The FDT Group is also planning future growth in energy management, smart grids, and building automation.

The FDT2 standard includes enhancements needed to better apply the standard in Factory Automation environments. Each Factory Automation network has a unique method of mapping I/O. When multiple networks are involved, it was up to the PLC manufacturer to rationalize these unique I/O maps. The FDT2 has introduced a level of abstraction that provides a common I/O map regardless of the underlying networks that are deployed.

FDT will also make it easier to monitor wireless industrial networks because it is adding support for HART and ISA100.11a. This compatibility makes it straightforward to use common tools to monitor wireless network health.

The addition of BACnet will bring the simplicity of FDT to building automation. BACnet is a popular network for building automation, and it’s the final link for the SmartGrid/smart buildings of the future. As facilities adopt these new energy distribution and conservation technologies, FDT will simplify the task of connecting the many elements that make up building supply, automation, security, architecture and electricity generation systems.

FDT2 builds upon the solid success FDT has achieved. New functions and broader connectivity will help many industrial companies achieve their goals with better performance, valuable device and network diagnostics, and fewer design issues.

Download the FDT Technical Description brochure for more information:

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