Lee Lane - FDT Chairman  Rockwell Automation
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Our work on FITS continued right up to the start of the holiday season and now as we pick up the pace again in 2018, we can look forward to this exciting new standard at the end of this year. While we still have plenty of work to complete, it is interesting to me to think of how this new standard will benefit our end user community as it is incorporated in new products.

The FDT standard has always been heralded by end users for saving them needless trips across factory floors, campuses, and fields by allowing them to monitor and diagnose situations from the comfort of their desktop. While this capability is retained, FITS will take this to a new level by adding several new dimensions to the platform that combine to yield significant efficiencies for customers.

The FITS platform removes the dependency of the FDT client residing on a Microsoft platform and allows FDT functionality on any platform that can support a browser. This immediately brings into focus the use of smart phones and tablets as new portals for FDT features. Smart phones and tablets also bring intrinsic features like cameras, near field communications, and geo locating that allow unique, customer centric solutions to be built. Add OPC UA to this feature stack and FITS serves as an open standard platform that enables incredible efficiencies and functions that have not previously been available to this scale.

Consider the simple need of a maintenance person to access manuals for a particular device while in the field or on the plant floor. With FITS this can be as simple as using the camera on their smart phone to scan the asset ID and having the specific manual delivered right to their smart phone or tablet. Or with a simple hand gesture, obtain the current I/O or process value information for the device. This saves browsing and radio time, allowing the maintenance person to get right to work on the asset.

Imagine walking along on the factory floor or in the field and having your smart phone or tablet alert you to an asset that needs attention. By using geolocation features and the asset health capabilities of FITS, this type of app is a realistic solution that can save hours of downtime and additional trips by maintenance persons to that location.

It has long been a goal of the engineering organization in many customers to have a simple to deploy asset health portal. Since FITS is communicating with all supported devices across the facility and since asset health is a strength of FITS, an asset health portal is a straightforward application either through the use of OPC UA or through the web sockets interfaces to FITS. The vendor community may very well offer such solutions off the shelf but end users are also capable of leveraging the well published interfaces of FITS to make this possible.

Management personnel will appreciate the ability to remotely access the entire plant structure and health through secured, remote access. When away from the plant, it can be a simple matter to access a dashboard showing the real time operational status of a line or process. An engineer can use this same capability to drill into the details in order to remotely support the plant operations. Access to remote, real time data like this can increase operational efficiency and allow management personnel to supervise multiple facilities from a remote location using a simple tablet, for example.

The possibilities are nearly endless due to the rich information that a FITS environment makes available and the published, but secured, interfaces to FITS. It will truly be exciting to see the different FITS apps that are developed by the vendor and user community. The broader integration of the fully integrated OPC UA server offers secured data access across the enterprise on an unprecedented scale.

Truly exciting times.

Lee Lane

FDT Chairman of the Board