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In the industrial automation field, the increased pace of innovation and global competition has made product differentiation more important than ever. Industry stakeholders are demanding open and standardised options supporting a unified architecture of devices, systems and networks, so innovative business strategies need to advance on these efforts. By Glenn Schulz, MD, FDT Group

Manufacturers in the process, hybrid and discrete sectors need solutions to mobilise real-time remote operations, especially with the recent COVID-19 pandemic stay at home orders. Their goal is to expand secure access to the critical device and network data to increase productivity while creating a safer workplace.

While many companies are battling for survival during these challenging times, successful companies that take the initiative to implement visionary product development strategies will deliver innovation the industry is demanding.

Looking To The Future Of Automation

The Modernised FDT 3.0 Architecture

For the global industrial community, implementation of FDT Group’s standard is a forward-looking strategy for the new era of automation. FDT® technology is supporting digital transformation for manufacturers with an open, enterprise-wide IIoT data-centric integration platform empowered with new, built-in features mobilising real-time, remote operations.

The recently released FDT 3.0 standard has evolved from a single-user, desktop environment to a distributed, multi-user web client/server approach for enterprise-wide integration and asset management.

The updated standard now delivers a feature-rich FDT Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) Ecosystem, including an FDT Server natively integrated with the OPC Unified Architecture (UA) and Web servers, as well as new FDT Device Type Managers™ (FDT/DTMs™) utilising a web user interface (UI) to mobilise remote operations.

The new FDT Server unlocks universal device integration with a platform-independent, data-centric environment offering diversified deployment options including cloud, enterprise, edge, on-premise, and single-user desktop options.

The DTM provided by the device vendor renders the visualisation of the smart device within the FDT Server. DTMs also house the business logic that controls the parameterisation, diagnostics, information access and bus mapping for the device. Many DTMs also incorporate “wizards” that guide the user through otherwise complex tasks.

The UI of these DTMs employs HTML 5 and JavaScript for state-of-the-art access by mobile devices or standard web browsers. The FDT DTM solution scales from simple to the most complex devices while automatically enabling data access with OPC UA without the need for additional coding.

Additionally, the DTMs are compliant with the NAMUR NE 107 status recommendations for device health status.

The new FDT 3.0 IIoT ecosystem is fully supported with a platform-independent, modernised development environment using Common Components for Server, Desktop and DTM environments.

Now, system and device suppliers can take a well-established standard and benefit from a simplified pathway to innovative IIoT solutions supporting standardised sensor-to-cloud data integration to empower effective asset management strategies.

Each standards-based, data-centric, cross-platform FDT IIoT solution auto-enables OPC UA integration and allows developers to focus on value-added features.  These custom features differentiate their products while greatly reducing the burden of development work, saving time and money when bringing new product offerings to market.

Expanding Access To Critical Data

The FDT 3.0 standard builds on the growth of IIoT, by enabling mobile technologies that can revolutionise traditional data access practices as they move into the industrial arena. The FDT 3.0 architecture can fundamentally change how data is acquired, viewed, stored, analysed, and acted upon.

The FDT 3.0 standard allows information is to be shared across the plant and enterprise in new and innovative ways. Manufacturers can take advantage of an open, data-centric approach to provide critical information to operations and business systems. FDT 3.0 does this with scalability, security, remote access, and backward compatibility.

The FDT 3.0 standard addresses the automation industry desire for a platform that supports the next-generation architecture, which can scale from sensor to the cloud and allow secure mobile field device management and improved workflow for plant and factory personnel.

The FDT 3.0 standard and developer toolkits are secure, scalable and platform-independent, enabling remote access to device and network data across the enterprise without host intervention by the user’s Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) or Distributed Control System (DCS).

FDT Server Common Components natively Integrates OPC UA and Web Servers.

Within the FDT architecture, the FDT Server sits at a peer level with the PLC and DCS, so data doesn’t have to pass through these host systems. Device data can be securely distributed throughout the enterprise without the need for special coding or authorisation from the PLC or DCS. This data immediately becomes available to both the Information Technology (IT) and Operational Technology (OT) domains with the user’s organisation.

The new standard can also enable FDT-as-a-Service, whereby multiple instances of the technology are pre-deployed in the cloud and a hosted service and project structure are set up with all devices and networks pre-populated. This allows for the implementation of a complete, turnkey system without having to touch the infrastructure itself.

Delivering Benefits To All Stakeholders

The FDThub eliminates DTM management headaches for devices suppliers and end-users.

Industry-driven feedback indicates that the “sky is the limit” with the FDT 3.0 standard and its new, modernised development environment. Automation suppliers are jump-starting development efforts to enhance their product offerings with standards-based, platform-independent, information-driven business models.

FDT 3.0 enables open, secure and scalable skid-to-cloud architectures and sensor-to-cloud integration. At the same time, it includes inherent security features that do away with the need for suppliers to create their own detailed security models.

Thanks to the release of the FDT 3.0 standard, suppliers no longer have to install a driver on the customer’s PC to demonstrate their product. They can show the features of a device utilising a server in the cloud.

All DTMs are now immediately available from the online FDThub™ repository, meaning customers no longer have to search for the right DTMs for their project.

End-users can install a single instance of an FDT Server and make it accessible across their facility for deployment. And, all real-time data from installed devices are automatically available through OPC UA to any enterprise-level application such as MRP, ERP, dashboards, and CMMS applications.

The FDThub eliminates DTM management headaches for devices suppliers and end-users.

Conclusion

Recognised as a critical technology for the new era of automation—providing built-in mobility, native OPC UA integration, robust security, and platform independence—FDT 3.0 paves the way to IIoT and Industry 4.0 in both greenfield and brownfield applications in the process, hybrid and discrete manufacturing markets.

To explore innovative business models empowered by FDT, please download our white paper at www.fdtgroup.org/innovation.

 

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