FDT Group announces latest features of FDT IIoT Server and further OPC UA integration

Friday, 28 April, 2017

The FDT Group announced the latest features of its FDT Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) Server solution (FITS) at Hannover Messe 2017, held in Germany, as well as new features in its standard supporting integration of devices into the Industrie 4.0 framework leveraging OPC UA.

The FITS enhancements benefit industrial maintenance departments by enabling cloud-based enterprise data access, mobility apps and the use of augmented reality to view virtual content, while the new OPC UA features are focused on integration of intelligent devices as part of an overall IIoT/Industrie 4.0 strategy.

FDT IIoT Server

Through FITS, FDT Group is committed to making the IIoT a reality via a broad ecosystem that spans the process, hybrid and factory automation markets, and involves controls and instrumentation suppliers, end users, standards organisations — and all aimed at promoting interoperability, security and mobility through new, adaptive manufacturing assets. This next-generation technology is intended to protect legacy investments in the FDT standard through advanced business logic, well-defined interfaces and common components, while also providing the foundation for a modern, integrated automation architecture.

The FDT architecture is being enhanced to include operating system (OS) agnostic support for standard browsers, and mobility standardisation for the development of fit-for-purpose apps to ease maintenance efforts for the new era of automation. Accessible through FITS Web Services, a standardised mobile access approach utilising browsers, apps, stand-alone applications or anything else capable of interfacing via web sockets, any mobile device authenticated to access the server will have full access to the topology, with a tunnelling capability to manage assets on any network.

The updated FITS features are intended to spur the development of new apps to optimise asset management, preventive maintenance and other critical functions at modern industrial facilities. They include:

  • FITS prototyping with a focus on web services and mobile device use cases. This includes web browser and app-based access to the IIoT server.
  • Apps employing FITS Web Services to deliver business value to the control industry. Plant personnel are no longer bound to notebook computers, instead having the ability to use tablets, smartphones and other mobile devices to carry out their daily activities. Future apps will function similar to a plug-in to an FDT/FRAME, but will be easier to standardise via a web API.
  • Augmented reality with FITS using a holographic HMI made possible by Microsoft’s HoloLens computing device. Augmented reality is aimed at achieving context-sensitive increases in human perception so as to relocate information transfer, as well as the traditional, screen-based operation of machines, into space itself.

FDT Group Managing Director Glenn Schulz said, “Today, plants and factories utilising FDT-enabled systems are already benefiting from open access to the Industrial Internet. To advance our support for the IIoT and Industry 4.0, and to simplify the automation ecosystem exchange, FDT Group has developed a solution known as FITS. It enables mobility, cloud and fog enterprise applications, as well as sensor-to-cloud and enterprise-wide connectivity employing FRAME and DTM business logic at the heart of its client-server architecture.”

For automation end users, FITS is delivered as an open, standardised architecture concept, designed to empower the intelligent enterprise and simplify the ecosystem exchange. Users can switch standard protocols for any level of their backbone architecture. It is a versatile approach allowing deployment flexibility. The enhanced architecture is scalable to suit the needs of a single manufacturing facility or an entire industrial enterprise.

FITS is specifically designed to allows sensor, network and topology information to permeate the enterprise, including mobile devices, DCSs, PLCs, ERP systems, the IIoT and Industry 4.0.

FDT Technology currently supports more than 16 automation industry networks, and its open architecture allows users to add networks to meet changing industry demands, including new IIoT/Industrie 4.0 networks such as Message Queuing Telemetry Transport (MQTT).

OPC UA features

Since 2014, the FDT Group and OPC Foundation have worked together to provide greater access to critical information throughout the industrial enterprise. The FDT standard is the hub of data from tens of millions of DTM-enabled devices installed in the field, while the OPC UA standard provides an infrastructure to make this information available to thousands of other applications and platforms.

FDT Group’s new OPC UA features are focused on integration of intelligent devices as part of an overall IIoT/Industrie 4.0 strategy. They include:

  • Providing device-specific information such as network configurations, device parameters and device-related documents (eg, references to fieldbus profile definitions and other semantic information) from DTMs within the German Reference Architectural Model RAMI 4.0 for use in integrating field devices.
  • Representing different partial models of a device instance as functional groups, which may share the same data. This allows for efficient re-use of data and avoids unnecessary overheads such as duplication.

According to Schulz, his organisation’s collaboration with the OPC Foundation continues to advance solutions for enterprise-wide data access across the industrial sector.

“The Industrial Internet is ushering in an era of connected industrial ecosystems,” he said. “Our efforts in support of Industry 4.0 are focused on automation, interoperability, seamless exchange of data and contemporary manufacturing technologies to realise the vision of a smart plant or factory.”

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