Standards capture stranded data, help with device design, data integration

Standards update: Integrated systems and standards help support advanced information technology (IT) and operations technology (OT) collaboration and optimization in three key ways. Also see four advantages of future process automation facilities.

By Ted Masters March 9, 2020

It’s an exciting time of technology revolution across industries, and integrated standards are helping. While most home devices can be accessed on computers and smart phones and automotive technologies have advanced to self-parking and near self-driving vehicles, process industries are progressing at a more careful pace. There is inherent risk in disrupting good processes and complex systems. However, we are in an era of real change as a new generation of workers move into the leadership positions that drive this evolutionary transformation.

The manufacturing industry, once resistant to collaboration between information technology (IT) and operations technology (OT) teams, now realizes collaboration is a critical factor to success. Educating the current workforce on IT, while assuring the next generation appreciates the challenges of operating a complex, and sometimes hazardous, process automation plant, requires collaboration across multiple functional disciplines. It is projected approximately 75% of the global workforce will be millennials by 2025, according to a Forbes Magazine article, “What The Ideal Workplace Of The Future Looks Like, According To Millennials.”

IT and OT collaboration: 3 benefits

FieldComm Group is aware of the culture change of collaboration between IT and OT and is managing standards development to address existing products and the next generation of products based on a new set of technologies. The vision has been clear with the following plans in place:

1. Assist the installed base by making it easier to capture stranded data

2. Design specifications for new devices with technologies for the next generation

3. Drive the adoption of FDI (Field Device Integration) technology to create a bridge to the next generation, with seamless standardized device integration, regardless of the supplier or protocol.

FieldComm Group (FCG) is closely aligned with the Namur Open Architecture (NOA) as a means of digitalization since it does not disrupt existing systems and provides a path for migrating users to a digitalized approach. NAMUR is the User Association of Automation Technology in Process Industries.

Process automation open architecture

The NAMUR open architecture proposes future process automation facilities will:

1. Continue to use existing instrumentation protocols

2. Make use of new high-speed and IP based physical layers

3. Take advantage of simplified integration tools to move plant floor data throughout the global enterprise

4. Use one-way communications out of the core process control domain to reduce cybersecurity threats.

Namur Open Architecture provides an approach for using field devices supporting OPC UA (OPC Foundation) as the data exchange technology. Working jointly with OPC Foundation, FCG has developed a new OPC UA based standard to replicate the most common set of field device parameters in process instruments. The technology is called PA-DIM (process automation device information model). PA-DIM adds specificity to the standard OPC UA device information specification and defines core parameters to establish a standard set of data for each class of process automation device. PA-DIM also delivers these parameters in machine-readable format enabling use by applications, independent of the supplier or protocol that delivers it.

Two-wire Ethernet

In working to develop next generation of field devices based on Ethernet-APL [two-wire-based advanced physical layer for Ethernet], the PA-DIM can be resident local on the device. The benefit to users is a 25-year-old HART-based device using FDI can co-exist with a new Ethernet-APL device of the future and both use the same information model to provide data to the cloud, and the cloud won’t know the difference.

Together, new technologies of Ethernet-APL, FDI and PA-DIM provide the highway to digital transformation for existing instrumentation and new system architectures and data models.

FDI plays a major role in this change, helping users worry less about a device’s protocol and care more about how they can use data, instead. Simplifying the device’s integration into systems or the cloud is the purpose of the “FDI Device Package,” the new standard “container” of all relevant information needed around a device. The FDI Device Package is supported as the new standard by HART Communication Protocol, Foundation Fieldbus, ISA100 Wireless Systems for Automation, FDT (Field Device Tool, FDT Group) and Profibus (PI North America).

No desire for more standards?

At the end of the day, collaboration is the key. Standards organizations must work together in the age of digitalization to align on standards that are best for the industry. Users and suppliers don’t want more standards; which means we need to agree on which ones work best for the many use cases incurred for digitalization. Collaboration among industry organizations is helping align key industry issues, such as cybersecurity, next-generation field devices, integration and information models.

Results of this collaboration contributes to emerging technologies that make it easier for industries to use data to run enterprises better, protect the value of investments and future-proof operations.

Ted Masters is president and CEO of FieldComm Group. Edited by Mark T. Hoske, content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media,


HART, Foundation Fieldbus, FDI, FieldComm Group

IT and OT integration

Industrial standards organizations collaborate

Ethernet and open process automation advances.


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Author Bio: Ted Masters is president and CEO of FieldComm Group.