There are many major improvements in Field Device Technology version 2 (FDT2) that make it simpler for users to integrate field devices and controllers. To help users gain these benefits quickly, the FDT Group has rolled out a reference platform that helps users focus on their tasks without learning the intricacies of the standard.
FDT2, completed last year, is now more suitable for distributed systems, with improved transaction controls. It also uses the scope of functions of Microsoft .NET, Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) and WinForms to make it easier to access data.
Early in the standard’s upgrade cycle, the FDT Group decided to focus on making it easy for companies to begin using Frame Applications and device type managers (DTMs) that are the central elements of FDT2. A key aspect of that development effort went to CodeWrights GmbH, which developed the FDT2 DTM Common Components as a ready-for-use software package.
These DTM Common Components optimize the performance and operation of the DTM and FDT Frame Applications while also improving interoperability. Backwards compatibility is a central element of these common components, as it is for the full standard. That’s important because more than 90 equipment suppliers are already shipping FDT enabled products that are used around the globe.
FDT2 provides many reasons for users to migrate to the version. One is improved suitability for distributed systems. The communication between the sub-components of a DTM (the Business Logic and User Interface) is now marshaled by the Frame Application instead of using “private” interfaces. This allows a far better transaction control of the complete system.
Another is that FDT2 uses Microsoft .NET technology, which enables fast and easy access to data while providing a stable platform for future enhancements. That provides better performance than FDT version 1.2, which is based on the Microsoft COM and ActiveX® technologies. Though FDT2 made the transition to .NET, it maintains backwards compatibility with Microsoft technologies used in the past.
The FDT Group recognized the importance of the Common Components in the early days of FDT2’s development cycle. The 20 project partners who directed the development wanted to ensure that users would be able to start taking advantage of the enhancements as soon as possible. A qualified service provider was sought, which would be able to conduct such pioneering work. The selection of CodeWrights turned out to be a good choice:
“The software project that was awarded to CodeWrights was the most important software project of the year for our members. Our internal peer review of the results from CodeWrights rated their performance and deliverables as excellent. We simply could not be more satisfied with the high quality of communications and work that was provided”, observed Mr. Glenn Schulz, the Managing Director of the FDT Group after the results were delivered in time. This was the first time that tools of this sort have been considered by the FDT Group, which is driven in large part by volunteer efforts of employees from member companies. Since this was a first time effort, there acceptance criteria had not been decided in the beginning of the development.
That uncertainty was compounded by the timing of the development program. The Common Components were being created as the standard was being refined, so the CodeWrights team was writing software based on an evolving target. Under such conditions, it was more than adequate to use an agile software development method.
Those challenges were overcome, and vendors now have two approaches for creating DTMs for FDT2:
The first is to license the DTM Common Components from the FDT Group and do the programming around the components.
The second option is to contact a DTM software developer using licensed common components.
Whichever options users pick, they will gain significant benefits. Quality will be ensured because the Common Components have been extensively tested. This assurance helps provide a fast development of DTM products with reduced time and expense for development and testing. Once those chores are completed using the Common Components, certification of DTMs should be a straightforward process.
For additional information on FDT2 DTM development with CodeWrights, please check out our website at: www.codewrights.biz.