FDT® solutions have proven advantages to be effective for the new generation of smart operations, enabling improved configuration, calibration and diagnostics in the process industries, and optimizing network interfacing and device configuration in factory, hybrid, and process automation. The technology delivers valuable device and process information enabling many cost-saving and operational improvements. Lower maintenance cost, improved reliability and increased safety are just a few important advantages.

FDT Technology’s support for smart device information monitoring and predictive diagnostics optimizes the lifecycle cost of plants while enhancing maintenance activities, increasing the safety of personnel and assets, reducing trips to the field and improving product quality. Operations are also helped since many FDT solutions comply with the NE107 guidelines that define alert and notification symbols for fast and clear problem recognition and resolution.

For end users, the specific benefits of the proven and widely implemented FDT solution include:

Seamless communication – A key feature of FDT® is “tunneling,” which is the ability to communicate through different types of networks to an end device. For example, this might start from an Ethernet network hosting a Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) or Distributed Control System (DCS), passing though several network layers to configure or communicate with a smart device. The FDT standard is written such that the end user has no awareness that routing through different networks is taking place. It’s as if they are directly connecting to the device and can access all of its intelligent features.

Freedom of choice – With FDT Technology, industrial firms have already unlocked the power of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) for crucial automation applications. They also gain the freedom to mix and match communication protocols, control system platforms and solution suppliers, simplifying device integration for a modernized approach across diverse plant and factory environments. FDT is unique in its ability to balance these needs, especially in view of the increased number of hybrid installations that combine elements of both forms of automation. The technology can support any device and “device driver” such as a DTM™,  or other device representations (e.g., Device Description (DD), Electronic Device Description (EDD), FDI Device Package, IODD and others) from any manufacturer on the market.

Backwards compatibility – FDT Group is committed to maintaining the flexible and scalable nature of its standard. FRAMES are compatible with all generations of DTMs, providing full backwards compatibility for the installed base of FDT Technology. This approach eliminates “rip and replace” scenarios in applications utilizing different eras of field equipment, and allows new and existing hardware/software to coexist.

Single access to device data – FDT makes important device data available when and where it’s needed for automation, asset management and engineering systems, providing performance data for operational excellence.

Interoperability – Interoperability is one of the prime motivators for adopting FDT Technology. It is associated with the integration of devices, systems, networks, and applications in a standardized way to reduce the time and cost of implementation. FDT supports heterogeneous control architectures, allowing best-in-class network and asset integration, as well as the cascade of information from sensor to the enterprise. The technology also frees end users from the constraints of being tied to a specific platform or communications method when configuring and monitoring devices. They can choose the best product for their installation and know that it is easily integrated into their system.

Greater ease of use – With a single window to access information from a wide variety of machines and plant equipment, industrial firms can easily access and extract intelligent information via OPC UA from their most crucial assets. Systems deploy a consistent user interfaces allowing connected devices to appear with a same look and feel across any network.

Predictive analytics – FDT’s support for smart device information monitoring help optimize the lifecycle cost of plants while enhancing maintenance activities – increasing safety and improving product quality. Operations are also helped since many FDT solutions comply with the NE107 guidelines that define alert and notification symbols for fast and clear problem recognition and resolution.

Worker mobility – The FDT Group is working towards understanding the requirements for mobile device connectivity to the industrial shop floor. The goal is to enable end users to employ the functionality they appreciate in the FDT standard on all of the leading mobile platforms Improved security

Cloud computing – The FDT Group’s approach to communicating device and machine data using OPC UA will provide an effective combination of local control and monitoring with global overview and aggregation via cloud computing – without the need for end users to develop their own global IT infrastructure. This technique will also offer the advantages of relatively quick deployment and minimal overhead cost structure.

Cyber security – FDT solutions can be implemented in a way that avoids possible cyber security threat vectors, providing unparalleled protection when integrated in control system vendor applications and hosted within a secure Information Technology (IT) platform. All applications created in compliance with the current FDT specifications are digitally signed, providing tamper-proof data delivery and non-repudiation. And there is granular DTM security with enhanced user rights added to the security settings.

Investment protection – FDT is the only open integration standard for both the process and factory markets built with an open architecture (timeless technology) allowing backwards and forward integration as the industry demands.

Complete lifecycle support – FDT Technology plays a vital role in the entire automation device lifecycle, offering adaptability for asset support requirements from configuration and parameterization, through operations and maintenance.

For automation equipment manufacturers, FDT® Technology is an important tool for improving performance and business results:

Intellectual property license – The FDT Group specification is truly an open standard, free for suppliers to begin FDT solution development work. Corporate members can use the FDT and DTM name marks and FDT logos to name their products and register them. However, they remain the intellectual property of the FDT Group, as specified in the FDT Group by-laws.

Simplified development processes – The FDT developer tools enforces an efficient design and engineering concept allowing Common Components and the dtmINSPECTOR to do the major development and conformance-testing work for FDT/FRAME and DTM suppliers. FDT solutions using the specified developer tools assure robust integration between systems and devices. Manufacturers can benefit from endless flexibility while ensuring seamless integration sensor to system – no matter the protocol/fieldbus or system used. This allows system and device manufacturers to focus on custom features that provide a competitive edge.

Reduction in product development effort – Use of the developer tools dramatically reduces development time and cost for both the FDT/FRAME and FDT/DTM.  In addition, manufacturers only have to develop a single device DTM™ that will work on any system.

Comprehensive lifecycle management – With FDT Technology, companies can streamline their development programs with a solution that allows integration of all devices and “device drivers” such as a DTM™,  or other device representations (e.g., Device Description (DD), Electronic Device Description (EDD), FDI Device Package, IODD and others). This single-system approach enables complete device lifecycle management and maintenance from sensor to enterprise. There’s one system for planning, configuring, operations and maintenance. The FDT-enabled interface provides a uniform visual display supporting all phases of the system/device lifecycle for all connected devices. The system deploys all devices in a consistent look and feel approach. There are no limitations on DTM capabilities, custom performance traits or advanced functionally, etc.

Improved quality assurance – A group of FDT members act as official service providers to aid automation suppliers with FDT consulting and/or development expertise. These specialists use the latest technological developments and trends using the current FDT standard for comprehensive interoperability solutions wanting to integrate FDI within an FDT environment, OPC UA sensor to cloud integration, mobility to help optimize edge device portfolio offerings and so much more. The FDT Integration lab is also available for FDT Group members where member companies are encouraged to participate in system/device interoperability testing.

Rigorous testing/certification – Users deploying FDT-enabled solutions look for certified device DTMs for implementation. The comprehensive FDT/DTM test/certification process assures DTM conformance to the FDT specification via the approved dtmINSPECTOR testing tool. Plus, it verifies interoperability/integration with the FDT/FRAME with Common Components.

Investment protection – FDT is the only open integration standard for the process, hybrid and factory markets developed with an open architecture, allowing backwards and forward adaption for integration as the industry demands. The “timeless technology” approach enables connectivity through the system and provides end users with peace of mind that newer solutions will plug and play!

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