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‘First’ FDI tool slashes device integration time to 3 minutes

30 March, 2015

ABB claims that it will be the first automation supplier to offer a device management tool that supports the new FDI (Field Device Integration) specification, announced recently by the FieldComm Group. The first version of ABB’s “Field Information Manager” (FIM) software, which will make its debut at the 2015 Hannover Fair, is claimed to slash device management times from up to 90 minutes, to as little as three minutes.

The FDI specification, which is the result of five years of development work, is designed to simplify device integration dramatically by bringing together the best of existing text-based (DD, EDDL) and graphic-based (FDT, DTM) device integration systems. Most of the world's leading automation system suppliers, as well as organisations such as Hart, Profibus, the Fieldbus Foundation, OPC and FDT, have worked together to develop the specification.

The new specification defines a single device package for all conceivable applications, as well as common host components and a usability guide. But it does not yet allow users of device management tools to solve every problem that they might encounter.

ABB conducted an international survey to determine the challenges of device management in everyday applications. This revealed that for many users, it can take 30–90 minutes to install device management tools, connect the devices and gain online access. ABB says that using its new FIM tool, it will take around three minutes and about 15 mouse clicks.

The tool can be installed on Windows tablets and supports touch navigation, giving users much greater freedom when working on site. They will no longer be tied to using a desktop PCs, servers or laptops.

A menu provides access to key device information. Instead of having to search for functions via context-based menus or menu trees, users will be able to open the menu at the touch of a finger.

ABB's Field Information Manager tool uses a simple interface to speed device integration

They can also switch between different device views, and from one device to another without repeatedly returning to a summary page. Because device management programs are typically used by operators in the field and not in engineering back-offices, the FIM user interface is deliberately not cluttered with unnecessary information. It is said to be similar to the HMI interface of ABB's 800xA distributed control system.

Users of existing device management tools often need to process the same parameters – such as names, variables and units – repeatedly for different devices connected to the tool. FIM is designed to simplify such tasks by providing “frequently used” and “recently used” parameter functions. The tool learns how parameters and device features are used and generates a list that users can access easily. They can mark parameters/features as “favourites” and these will stay at the top of the list.

ABB says that the “Device Window Edition” of the FIM tool that it is launching at Hannover “is just the beginning”. As the development of common FDI host components progresses, ABB plans to update the tool to include new functions. The goal is to ensure that future versions deliver a complete system for field asset management that can be integrated into process control and ERP systems. This will also include the FDI device model based on OPC UA for general access to device information.

Users will be able to download and use the Device Window Edition free-of-charge from May 2015. They will subsequently be able to upgrade their tools at no extra cost to keep up with FDI developments.

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