ABB comments on role of FDT/DTM and EDDL


The ongoing debate on the value of FDT/DTM and EDDL for automation industry end users has become more heated. ABB Inc., which has traditionally supported both FDT/DTM and EDDL, has issued the following statement on the relationship between these two technologies:

"Recently, there have been negative public statements about FDT/DTM technology. The authors of these statements want their audience to believe that FDT/DTM technology and EDD are competing — mutually exclusive technologies — either you support EDD or you support FDT/DTM," said Mark Taft, Senior Vice President, Systems Marketing, ABB Inc., and Board Director for the Fieldbus Foundation. "This assertion is simply false.

In working with customer-owners, ABB understands their high expectations for interoperability and integration of automation systems and intelligent field devices. While progress has been made, their expectations have not been met by any of the current fieldbus standards. These customer-owner needs drove ABB and other like-minded automation and instrumentation companies to develop FDT/DTM technology (the FDT Group held their first formal End-User forum in October 2005).

ABB has also actively participated in and supported the enhanced EDDL cooperation initiatives between Fieldbus Foundation (FF), HART Communication Foundation (HCF), PROFIBUS Nutzerorganisation (PNO) and the OPC Foundation (OPCF). While these cooperative efforts have taken a first step in addressing customer-owners' needs for a higher level of interoperability and integration, the results still fall short of customer-owners' desire for integration of increasingly sophisticated device applications with automation systems.

Unlike some automation system and instrumentation suppliers, ABB has implemented support for all major field instrumentation integration standards in its automation systems. ABB uses EDDL technologies together with these technologies (HART, Profibus, FOUNDATION Fieldbus) in its systems to integrate intelligent field devices. Our customer-owners have implemented systems combining these technologies to allow for best-in-class multi-vendor solutions. EDDL provides the support necessary for basic integration and interaction with process instrumentation. However, customer-owners are increasingly focusing on the utilization of the more complex and sophisticated intelligent field device applications. They require a consistent and rich integration of these applications, meaning they desire the same performance when they buy a field device from one supplier, and the automation system from another, as they receive when they buy the whole package from a single supplier. EDDL solves that problem for the bulk of instruments available on the market today. It does not solve the problem, however for the more sophisticated (and one could argue more valued) applications that have traditionally been performed by stand-alone, or "bolt-on" applications. Examples include Metso's valve diagnostics and partial stroke testing for safety valves, Vega's radar level measurement, Emerson's valve diagnosis software, and ABB's 2600T Multivariable Transmitter configuration wizard. Solutions are also desired for integration of intelligent devices not addressed by EDDL such as electrical equipment including variable speed drives and intelligent motor controllers.

ABB uses FDT/DTM technology to integrate these more sophisticated device applications, when DTMs are available — as is the case for the Metso, Vega, and ABB equipment mentioned above. The FDT standard provides field device suppliers a rich environment to develop and then integrate their applications into the context of an automation system that supports DTMs. Moreover, customer-owners who want the freedom to choose devices and systems from different suppliers are able to take advantage of these sophisticated applications, which decreases their life-cycle costs.

The recent controversy — dubbed by some as "Fieldbus Wars" is very one sided. A couple of vendors have chosen to withhold support for FDT/DTM from their customer-owners. Automation system and field-device supplier-members of the FDT Group have gone on record as supporting both FDT/DTM and EDDL for their customer-owners. The FDT Group has grown to nearly 40 member companies made up of automation and field device suppliers like ABB, Endress & Hauser, Honeywell, Invensys, Metso, Rockwell, Schneider, SMAR, and Yokogawa, and customer-owners like Saudi-Aramco, and Shell.

ABB also has an inclusive strategy. As a member company of all the major fieldbus foundations including the FDT Group, our active participation in the ongoing development of these standards, aims to ensure that our customer-owners' desire for true interoperability between devices, systems and applications is met. Therefore we will support both EDDL and FDT/DTM as complementary technologies in our process instrument, control system, and power technology products. We feel strongly that exclusion of either technology would compromise that goal," said Taft.

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