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Foundation Fieldbus Not A "Fieldbus?"

Rich Timoney, executive director of the Fieldbus Foundation (, uttered a revolutionary thought at a press conference held during the group’s annual meeting in Houston on Feb. 22. “Foundation Fieldbus isn’t a fieldbus—it’s an architecture,” proclaimed Timoney.

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Actually, the statement may be less revolutionary than it appears at first blush. More than wires between devices, the Foundation Fieldbus specification includes the Electronic Device Description Language (EDDL), an instrument level language that ARC Advisory Group Inc. Research Director Larry O’Brien likens to “XML for fieldbus,” referring to the eXtensible Markup Language ubiquitous in Internet data communications. Timoney continued with the thought that users don’t come to the Foundation and say, “I want a network.” Instead, he observerd, they want an open architecture that allows them to connect many devices to a controller, with each capable of being found by the controller and each capable of communicating a wide array of information. The meeting had a definite feeling of optimism about the future of Foundation Fieldbus, reinforced by a recent market survey of fieldbus protocols—essentially Foundation Fieldbus vs. Profibus PA—that found that the former has about two-thirds of the market for fieldbus products and services. Further, much work has been done on interoperability with other standards with a mapping from FF to OPC UA (an open communicatins standard) expected yet this year. This effort will enable communication vertically to enterprise systems, complementing the current horizontal control architecture communication. Of the several user presentations at the meeting, all were centered on the interoperability of a variety of instruments with a variety of controllers.

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