22 Jul 2024


FF aims to make digital buses easier to use than analogue

The Fieldbus Foundation has announced a technology development initiative, called Project Gemstone, intended to make digital fieldbus automation easier to use than analogue control systems in every way, from device setup to device replacement and daily maintenance practices.

“Our goal at the Fieldbus Foundation has always been to listen to the industrial marketplace and provide a managed infrastructure for process automation that allows end-users to focus on their processes and their plants, not the technology tying everything together behind the scenes,” says the Foundation’s president and CEO, Rich Timoney. “For this reason, we have undertaken a number of key projects centred on making fieldbus automation solutions more user-friendly and compatible with other technologies.”

According to Timoney, control technology should be easy to use and interoperable, and allow results to be achieved quickly, but end-users need the right work processes to guide them in its successful application. For example, plant engineers want to be able to combine devices from different networks and manage them effectively, with minimal effort.

“Many of the recent advancements we have made in our specification are geared not just toward the user,” Timoney adds. “They allow process automation suppliers to create more effective applications as well. If you are a small supplier just starting out today, you can really use the Foundation fieldbus specification to create an entire control system offering.”

Project Gemstone will drive an innovation strategy that will allow plant owners to focus more on what technology can do for them and their businesses, rather than how they manage the technology. The focus on standards-based systems will also make it easier for automation suppliers to develop new fieldbus-based products and applications. In addition, the Foundation’s testing and registration process is designed to ensure that fieldbus devices, systems and components all work together as they should.

Project Gemstone encompasses many initiatives that the Foundation is already working on, including:

•  The Foundation for Remote Operations Management (ROM) technology, which allows users to integrate WirelessHart, wired Hart, ISA 100.11a devices, remote I/O, and Modbus communication into a Foundation fieldbus managed infrastructure. This technology was demonstrated recently at a research and development facility operated by Petrobras in Brazil.

•  Field Device Integration (FDI), which is working towards a single device integration package offering the benefits of the Electronic Device Description Language (EDDL) and FDT/DTM technologies.

•  The ISA108 effort to define recommended work processes for intelligent device management, regardless of communication protocol. The Foundation’s new usability team is also focusing on making fieldbus devices easier to specify, set up, configure and maintain.