Though the goal of the FDT Group has always centered on providing a standard set of technologies for integrating automation networks and devices—a concept which also happens to be core to the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)—even this group has felt the need to rebrand itself for the IIoT era. Adapting its long-held interoperability message to incorporate IIoT, FDT Group now says its goal is “to make the IIoT a reality via an ecosystem of automation vendors promoting interoperability, security and mobility through tomorrow’s new, adaptive manufacturing assets.”
It’s important to note that this new messaging from FDT Group is not merely cosmetic. The group recently announced several new initiatives, two of which address IIoT technologies and applications directly.
The first of these announcements is about FDT Group’s new FDT/IIoT Server (referred to as FITS) for mobility, cloud and fog enterprise applications. Pointing out that current FDT-enabled systems already support an IIoT-connected enterprise by creating a single system infrastructure that standardizes the connection of disparate automation assets, FDT Group says FITS allows the FDT architecture to scale to suit the needs of a single manufacturing facility or an entire industrial enterprise. FITS does this by enabling the FDT architecture to be deployed as a cloud, fog, local server, or standalone platform.
If you’re confused about the differences between fog and edge computing, read this explanatory article from Automation World.
FDT Group adds that FITS also features “robust layered security leveraging vetted industry standards and utilizing encrypted communications with transport layer security (TLS).”
Expanding the FDT architecture even further, FDT Group also announced an extension of the group’s work with the OPC Foundation to include use of OPC UA in FITS to enable sensor-to-cloud and enterprise-wide connectivity in industrial control systems used in the process, hybrid and factory automation markets. According to the FDT Group, the combination of FDT and OPC UA in FITS—referred to as the FDT/OPC UA annex—allows “sensor, network and topology information to permeate the enterprise, including mobile devices, distributed control systems, programmable logic controllers, enterprise resource planning systems, the cloud, and the IIoT and Industry 4.0.”
Explaining that the FDT standard acts as the hub for critical information from tens of millions of FDT/DTM-enabled devices installed in the field, Glenn Schulz, managing director of the FDT Group, says the OPC UA standard provides an infrastructure to make this information available to thousands of other applications and platforms.
The FDT/OPC UA annex is intended for implementation by automation system manufacturers in FDT Frame Applications. System suppliers with an FDT/FRAME embedded in their distributed control system, asset management system, programmable logic controller or other device now have the ability to include an OPC UA server in an application accessible from any OPC UA client application.
“With the release of the FDT/OPC UA annex, the FDT Group has taken an important step forward towards helping industrial end users realize the promise of IIoT and Industrie 4.0,” said Schulz. “The FDT standard is represented as the device integration solution in the German Reference Architecture Model RAMI 4.0 and, with release of the FDT/OPC annex, sensor-to-cloud, enterprise-wide connectivity is granted with seamless data communications.”