Android or iOS? How about both? Field device integration for the win (FDI FTW)!

Android here to stay or iOS all the way? Each operating system has its own quirks, and you choose your phone based on your needs, your habits, and your desires. Fair enough. But what do phones have to do with field device integration (FDI)?


If you’ve ever had to transfer anything from one system to the other, then you know where I’m headed here. If you haven’t, then I’ll drop another clue. Android allows you to do a lot of personalizing, file transferring, and other stuff that iOS doesn’t.

Apple’s products have their own pluses, but compatibility isn’t one of them. So imagine if half the folks in your company uses iOS and the other half Android, and now they all have to use their phones to make a music video. Yeah, you’re getting it now.

Android vs Apple FDI
Courtesy of TalkAdroid

We’re talking connectivity and standardization here, a big issue in the industry. Today, let’s discuss field device integration (FDI) technology, what it promises, and what it delivers.

The reality

Regardless of your segment or your process, I’m 100 percent sure you have different brands measuring and running your application. If you have a digital protocol connecting all of them, then you know where I’m coming from.

Let’s suppose you have an FDT/DTM (Field Device Tool/Device Type Manager) system to read all your field devices. Of course, you need all kinds of files to set your devices up remotely and read the data coming from them, but you have all that done and squared away. So what happens if you want to introduce an advanced diagnostic from a valve positioner? You can read that through the DTM, right? Ehhhh, depends on the device.


If you want to use a device from a vendor who supports Electronic Device Description Language (EDDL), the diagnostic will run in a snap-on or a solo version of the software. That means that the DTM will only have the necessary information. If you want more, then you need to change your platform or buy the standalone version of the software.

The same happens with a device where the company supports FDT/DTM. You can run the basics on the EDDL, but for advanced documentation, graphics, and so on, you need an FDT platform or a web server integrated into the device. And if you have a condition monitoring system, then you might have limits all over the place. But nobody tells you that! You can read more about the differences between EDDL and FDT/DTM to understand the issues of each.

The dream

Anyway, for many years, we lived with just these two options. Device suppliers support both technologies, but system vendors only support one or the other. And even the device suppliers tend to invest more in one, especially if the supplier also offers control systems. It makes a lot of sense – to them.

But what about us, the users? We have to pick one system or platform and live with it. Some vendors have begun to realize that having a way to integrate everything might make more customers happy. In 2007, a few of these peeps launched the FDI effort with the idea of merging these technologies. Sounds good, right?

FDI Timeline
Courtesy of FieldComm Group

Five years later, they created a non-profit organization, The FDI Cooperation. Then, everything was solved, right? Not yet! By the way, what did they do in those five years? Not sure, but I guess they worked on standardizing stuff to make EDDL and FDT/DTM mesh. It probably took a lot of time and work, with all the interests involved.

Finally in 2015, they got the standardization as IEC 62769-1! Yay! Then FDI Cooperation said goodbye. Wait, what? Yeah, it transferred the responsibility for management and enhancement to FieldComm Group and PROFIBUS & PROFINET International. Uh, well, okay.

The plan

To start with, you have to simplify the installation, maintenance, configuration, and management of the field devices and host system. Yeah, it’s a lot, but FDI supplies all the tools you need to integrate a device in a host. The process, called “stress-free integration,” offers packages, hosts, and registration in three steps.

The first step, the FDI package, has all your information – user interface, device data, and so on. The second step, called the FDI host, is a software component that reads and works with FDI packages. Makes sense, right? These hosts can be field communicators, plant asset management systems, device management systems, and more. The third step, the FDI registration, has the Fieldcomm Group testing everything to guarantee the functionality and interoperability of the system.

The FDI package holds the core of the whole concept. It includes the Electronic Device Description (EDD), the User Interface Plug-in (UIP), and the attachment. The EDD provides functions, data, and a user interface based on the EDD language (EDDL, IEC 61804). The UIP is an optional plug-in that allows a flexible, graphically enhanced interface. And the attachment has all the other relevant information such as descriptions, capabilities, data sheets, and user manuals.

The FDI hosts consist of a server, client, and communication servers. You can have standalone or distributed architecture to use the FDI packages. This image has more information about the structure of FDI hosts.

FDI Format
Courtesy of FieldComm Group

And of course we need compatibility with an existing system, right?  The FDI device packages support DTMs and EDDs in parallel. For example, you can support FDI device packages in an FDT host using the FDI-DTM.

The future

The final idea is simple. You have two different ways to read data from field devices, and you often run into compatibility problems. Then FDI technology comes along to combine both into one and make the lives of field engineers easier. FDI FTW! Right?


We’ll explain more and dig deeper in the details of how this technology can help us when we next write about the Industrial Internet of Things. Stay tuned on Visaya!

Recommended articles