Control systems just got more maintenance-friendly

Jan. 12, 2012
Mike Bacidore says integrated infrastructure could allow remote diagnostics and condition monitoring for asset management with fieldbus connectivity.

As industrial plants continue to extend their operations, the need for condition monitoring and remote diagnostics keeps increasing, as well. Many sites now cover thousands of acres, and some field devices might be monitoring assets that are miles away.

While many plants have begun utilizing the control-system network more often for monitoring assets, each of the devices might be running on a different system, so managing physical assets in a coordinated fashion still requires a bit of patchwork integration.

In December, the Fieldbus Foundation ( inched that integration just a little bit more within reach when released details on its Foundation for Remote Operations Management (ROM) at Lee College’s Fieldbus Center ( in Baytown, Texas. The initiative is designed to provide a single unified, integrated infrastructure built specifically for asset management in remote process industry applications ranging from tank farms and terminals to pipelines, offshore platforms, and OEM skids.

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“We’re transporting natural resources from places we never have before and across places we never have before,” said Larry O’Brien, global marketing manager of Fieldbus Foundation. “Project engineering costs are rising faster than other costs, and users need to distinguish between the assets and the process for monitoring their health.”

The technology uses electronic device description language (EDDL) and function blocks to ensure interoperability with Foundation for ROM devices and provides an interface to enable fieldbus connectivity to remote I/O and industrial wireless protocols, including WirelessHART and ISA 100.11a.

"Foundation for ROM is important because it is the first example of being able to integrate ISA 100.11a, WirelessHART, wired HART, and wired H1 protocols into a single standard environment,” explained O’Brien. “More importantly, it is one that does not sacrifice diagnostic capabilities of the existing wireless devices. Instead, we map these capabilities into our block structure to provide a standard environment for data management, quality, and more, eliminating today's solutions which are highly customized and much more costly to maintain throughout the plant lifecycle."

The next move needs to be made by the vendors. O’Brien noted that two suppliers already are interested in including the Fieldbus Foundation technology.

"Remote operations management is one of the fastest growing segments of the process automation business,” said O’Brien. “However, it is also caught up in the turbulence of business challenges, technological change, personnel issues, and the need for operational excellence. With Foundation for ROM, industrial operations can implement a true predictive and proactive maintenance strategy for remote assets that could not previously support one. Data from devices on multiple networks, both wired and wireless, are tightly integrated into the Foundation fieldbus infrastructure, providing a single environment for management of diagnostic data, alarms and alerts, data quality, control in the field capability, and object oriented block structure."

Within the architecture, the H1 (31.25 kbit/s) and HSE (100 Mbit/s) fieldbus networks provide a distributed function block capability with HSE serving as a larger pipeline with increased speed and throughput. The new technology expands these capabilities by establishing open, non-proprietary specifications for an interface to wireless field device networks, a wired HSE backhaul, and a wireless HSE backhaul integrating various wireless sensor networks such as Wi-Fi, satellite, and cellular. Foundation for ROM is designed to provide a way to bring large concentrations of discrete and analog field I/O back to the control room using HSE communication. This enables the integration of critical functional areas, including machinery health monitoring, safety interlocks, fire and gas detection systems, and even video surveillance.

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