Chairman’s Corner: May 2014

FDT: An Important Element for Building the Internet of Things

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For veterans of the factory and process automation markets, it’s no surprise that most machines, devices, and sensors do not offer direct internet connectivity needed for IoT solutions. There must be intermediate layers that transition the plethora of network standards to a more suitable TCP/IP transport protocol.

Most of the machine and device busses offer some type of Ethernet backbone, which might seem to come tantalizing close to meeting the needs of IoT. Unfortunately, there is almost no compatibility at the Ethernet level between the various lower level bus protocol standards. Since most organizations deploy more than one automation bus standard within their facilities, this diversity presents a technical connectivity hurdle that is difficult to overcome without a standard like FDT.

FDT is the only international standard that provides the critical missing communications link for an IoT architecture. It not only provides the complete integration of all industrial and process automation standards, it natively and transparently provides aggregation of all of these networks at the TCP/IP level. 

The FDT standard transparently tunnels the traffic through all of the intermediate network layers, so an IoT application can communicate with systems or devices that are on a lower level network without concerning itself with the layers of networks that exist between the Internet and the target device or system. The IoT application does not need any awareness of the intervening gateways, routers, and bridges - it only needs to request communications with the end system or device. The internal mechanisms of FDT will do the heavy lifting.

IoT isn't just about the internet and device communications. Aspects such as the architecture of the plant, process, skid or machine are also required. FDT assists in this area by defining layered logical and physical plant structures that aid in the representation and navigation required in typical IoT applications.  Multiple structures can be stored and recalled to facilitate broad enterprise aggregation. Additional features in FDT such as distributed applications, role based security, and comprehensive network extensibility further contributes to the IoT technology pool.

All IoT architects, product managers, and technologists should take a close look at FDT, which provides free, off the shelf, critical functionality to enable IoT applications and architectures. FDT has been standardized as IEC 62453, ISA/ANSI 103, and China GB/T 29618. More than 100 companies and universities support the advancement, adoption, certification, and development of the FDT standard thereby providing a rich ecosystem to ensure its continued leadership position in the industry.

FDT’s developers are always looking for ways to improve the capabilities and scope of the standard. Users with suggestions for additional enabling capabilities or features can visit http://TechSurvey.FDTGroup.org. This rgprovides you direct access to our Technology Roadmap process that guides all of our future developments in the FDT standard, which can help the Internet of Things continue to evolve in scale and definition.

To preview a FDT Integrated Brewery Application Demonstration, click here.

- Hartmut Wallraf

 

 

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