Modern intelligent device management with IT/OT data-driven operations

Industrial Internet of Things connectivity dominates the industrial automation workplace, enabling modern ways to manage intelligent devices.

By FDT Group May 5, 2023
Courtesy: FDT Group

Industrial networking insights

  • FDT technology provides a standardized device management environment that allows for effective asset management strategy and end-to-end data transparency in industrial control systems.
  • The latest version, FDT Unified Environment (FDT UE), is a distributed FDT server that delivers OT data consistency to IT applications and supports traditional FDT intelligent device management use cases with modern browser-based interfaces, streamlining project engineering and giving users complete data-centric asset management solutions.

Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) connectivity dominates the industrial automation workplace, enabling modern ways to manage, monitor and maintain intelligent devices, networks and processes with diagnostic rich information. Looking at next-generation system environments, it’s important to preserve the current install-base and future-proof the application. This approach allows companies to integrate smarter instrumentation and support service-oriented maintenance business models for both IT and OT operations improving reliability with real-time production visibility.

Traditional FDT use cases form foundation

Industry-driven feedback has been the basis for the growth of FDT technology since the release FDT version 1.2 (in 2001) that introduced the original software-based FDT Desktop (FDT/FRAME) configuration environment and device type managers (DTMs). The solution provides end users with a standardized device management environment in an industrial control system. The solution helps solve use cases focused on managing the entire product lifecycle of all connected assets — configuration, commissioning, monitoring, diagnosis, parameterization, replacement in one common environment enabling an effective asset management strategy.

The focus on delivering “data consistency” provides users with uniform intelligent device diagnostic insights for alerts, status information (NE107), device-specific performance and process information. Using Comm DTMs to standardize the communication channel to the operations of the mapped information technology/operational technology (IT/OT) network or protocol, FDT offers end to end data transparency independent of the topology of protocols (nested communications) all the way to the field-level to any vendors device/type/representation in process, hybrid and discrete applications.

FDT’s open, scalable and adaptable architecture simplifies device management and maximizes operator productivity by providing a unified way to integrate and work with all connected devices for easier training and handling of all assets in different situations – in the vendor tool, in the system environment, and in the service tool. It also consistently stores the data of all devices streamlining device management.

What a modern FDT unified environment can do for IT and OT teams

The latest version of the standard, FDT Unified Environment (FDT UE), based on FDT3, has evolved to a distributed FDT Server (also an OPC UA server and web server) solution that delivers OT data consistency to IT applications supporting service-oriented device management, maintenance and data analytic business models.

Courtesy: FDT Group

The FDT server is the IIoT distributed control environment for complete device management and IT/OT data-centric operations. Courtesy: FDT Group

Deployable in the cloud, at the edge or on-premise, the new FDT server supports traditional FDT intelligent device management use case business benefits in a modern browser-based interface environment. The solution natively supports OPC UA unifying field-level data via information modeling, eliminating information silos allowing IT/OT data to reach decision-makers throughout the enterprise.

Critical data is reachable via any authenticated FDT, OPC UA or mobile/app client. This opens the door to manufacturer service maintenance support.

The solution streamlines project engineering and gives users a complete data-centric asset management solution, with access to all advanced real-time diagnostic insights. This improves predictive maintenance strategies and reduces unplanned downtime.

With the FDT server architecture, users can expect more levels of achieving data consistency from the current install-base while scaling an IIoT application. Device data is now centrally stored for the whole device lifecycle, from initial commissioning to dismantling, system operators or service employees can use the central server to execute device service operations via a mobile device so all changes to the device can be tracked in a central audit trail. This means software updates on a DCS, PLC or other engineering applications are eliminated as the solution is web-based and accessible via thin clients.

IT/OT data access and mobility

The IIoT provides remote access to connected machines and devices to enable transformative operational and process performance improvements. These improvements in plant reliability deliver value to the bottom line — and users can accomplish this with actionable information from intelligent devices that provide the analytics needed to avoid unscheduled shutdowns.

Getting there can require a culture shift to understand and use the diagnostic information from intelligent devices and a workforce ready to change from analog to digital practices. This shift can provide a competitive advantage as employees and decision-makers take advantage of information access, analytics and visualization throughout the enterprise. Real-time collaboration practices can help plants move forward with reliability improvements and even improve plant safety, quality and compliance.

Risk avoidance

Plant and reliability improvements in operations and performance are driving the need to connect and use real-time information from installed intelligent assets. Leveraging existing assets — devices, systems and workforce — to become part of the IIoT can be a low-risk, high-return investment.

The key is to get the right information to the right people at the right time in actionable format so that information can be used to avoid potential problems. Big data and IoT are made possible by retrieving information from intelligent devices, and now you have many options to integrate smart assets with smart solutions, including asset management, smart or configurable I/O and internet protocols. Deploying an FDT data-centric integration environment future proofs your application with access to the aging infrastructure.

Next steps

The IIoT offers endless productivity improvements in automation, operations information, and advanced analytics through smart devices and systems that link machines through open platforms and enable them to think, learn and react in real-time.

  • Take inventory of your intelligent devices and talk with your device suppliers to get FDT Device Type Managers (DTMs).

  • Check to see if your system is FDT-enabled. If it is, pick a device and test out a DTM to see what you are missing.

  • Talk to your device supplier about an FDT solution if you are not yet FDT-enabled. There are single-user standalone configuration and device management software options like PACTware (FDT desktop solution) available for free. FDT is scalable and flexible with the option to integrate at your pace. PACTware 6.1 offers complete backward compatibility to all DTM generations (FDT3, FDT2 and FDT1.2) and other device representations.

FDT Group is a CFE Media and Technology content partner.

Original content can be found at FDT Group.