Friday 30 March 2012

New IEC technical report is good news for automation end users

The Fieldbus Foundation is supporting a new International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) report that provides guidance to end users for selecting an industry-standard device integration technology encompassing all host systems, field instruments and device protocols.

The new technical report, IEC 61804-6 Ed 1: Function blocks (FB) for process control – Electronic Device Description Language (EDDL) – Part 6: Meeting the requirements for integrating fieldbus devices in engineering tools for field devices, explains the requirements for field device integration and how they are met using the EDDL standard (IEC 61804-3). (Dab hands at the simple easy to remember titles are our IEC!)

EDDL is a universal, proven and state-of-the-art method for accessing diagnostic, real-time and asset management information contained in more than 20 million field devices from the world's leading instrumentation manufacturers. EDDL has the power to integrate field devices for optimal control strategies and consistent Human-Machine Interfaces (HMIs) across different platforms. The technology extends interoperability to the HMI and diagnostic data levels with improved visualization and graphical capabilities.

The IEC report is based on the recommendations of NAMUR, an international end user association of automation technology in the process industries. The NAMUR NE105 specification was published in 2004 to clearly define requirements for device integration technologies enabling a mixture of sophisticated device types—based on different protocols—from multiple manufacturers, and keeping control systems up to date with new versions of these devices. Device integration technology impacts both the ease of use for devices and system administration.

The Fieldbus Foundation's global marketing manager, Larry O'Brien, said, "This report is good news for automation end users because it illustrates how EDDL can satisfy key requirements for integrating the large amount of data provided by today's fieldbus devices with the applications that must turn that data into useful information–not just FOUNDATION fieldbus devices, but all devices that rely on EDDL technology.
"NAMUR writes excellent recommendation documents, and NE105 provides a very effective outline of how information from multiple intelligent devices should be integrated in a process plant. BIS, one of the leading industrial services suppliers in the world, conducted extensive research to match the functionality of EDDL with the NAMUR NE105 end user requirements. To get this report admitted as part of the IEC 61804-6 standard is beneficial because users now have a roadmap for implementing EDDL-based technologies in accordance with NAMUR NE105 recommendations."

As a standard that is totally independent of computer operating systems, EDDL protects investments in control systems and devices by ensuring obsolescence cycles are not shortened by new Microsoft Windows™ versions. Future devices with EDDL files can be commissioned without upgrading Windows. Likewise, a new version of Windows does not require updated drivers in existing devices; new device management software can be installed while still supporting the older equipment. EDDL also avoids version conflicts with system software, since EDDL files do not require software installation for loading and are non-executable.

EDDL allows operators to receive detailed information about failures of critical devices so that action can be taken before the process is affected. Additionally, EDDL files are organized according to device type and version, enabling the system to automatically find the right file for the device without manual binding. Keeping control systems up to date with EDDL is easy since EDDL files are copied documents, not installed software. The process is the same for all devices regardless of protocol, manufacturer, or type. Updates are guided by a wizard and done once—in a central location—for all workstations in the system.

EDDL graphics are rendered the same for all devices regardless of protocol, device type or manufacturer, thus ensuring a consistent look and feel for device configuration and diagnostics. This is key to the technology's ease of use. A standard dictionary also ensures consistent terminology, and device-specific functions such as advanced diagnostics are integrated with the same user interface as the standard overview.

Because device management software can use EDDL files without special programming, it can maintain an audit trail and keep the configuration database synchronized for all devices. Since graphics are rendered, the parameter status is consistently indicated for all devices. Audit trail and configuration can also be exported and printed for all devices.

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