It seems digital process fieldbus can’t get away from people saying “it’s too hard” or “growth is flat”, yet every day in other areas of people’s lives they continue to adopt more and more digital technology. While unsettling as it is to hear that, the most unsettling part is that there seems to lack any evidence to support the conclusion. Why does someone believe it’s too hard? Where can they point to prove there is a stall in digital fieldbus growth? Somehow a message gets disseminated that fieldbus has reached some peak despite data from ARC stating fieldbus is still growing at double digit rates.
Are there regions where fieldbus isn’t as widely adopted as alternatives? Certainly. But are there also areas where fieldbus is overwhelmingly the de facto standard? You bet. It’s hard to argue there have not been projects that should have gone fieldbus, and instead went 4-20mA. It’s also hard to argue there have been projects that seemed certain to go 4-20mA but ultimately stepped into modern fieldbus. There are fieldbus “physics” to be considered. For a given negative story, there is an equal and opposite positive success story to counter. So what then are we to believe?
The Fieldbus Foundation sees it this way: user demand is responsible for driving registrations of fieldbus devices… and as of August 2014, user demand has pushed manufacturers to register record setting numbers of FOUNDATION capable process instruments.
Understanding the Impact of User Demand on RegistrationsThe data below is for FOUNDATION fieldbus specifically. It is sourced directly from our registration data and reflects a growth in FOUNDATION fieldbus by way of user demand driving increased development and registration.
When digital fieldbus was first introduced, there were only a handful of available device types. Today, thanks to user demand, there is a wide array of available devices to fit nearly every possible application each with their own unique set of capabilities and advantages.
This same user demand has led to the Fieldbus Foundation registering more devices with more companies every single year as it outpaces itself in frequency and rate of registration every year over the last 3 years. The Fieldbus Foundation also averaged roughly 15 new member companies per year during that same period.
As one can see, not only has FOUNDATION fieldbus been growing, it has just had the highest product registration month in all of 2014, registering nearly 30 devices. In fact, digging back through data to 1998, growth of product registrations with FOUNDATION fieldbus has never declined or become flat even once.
Looking closer at the sharp increase experienced in August (the end of the red line in the chart above), the Fieldbus Foundation actually had the highest number of product re-registrations since 2001…and we’re only now entering the 4th quarter of 2014. Additionally, the Fieldbus Foundation just registered the 3rd highest number of new product registrations since its founding. At current trends, the organization is projected to see the largest number of device re-registrations and new registrations in the 20 year history of the foundation. Let that sink in for a minute.
So what do the spikes in registrations mean? Well for starters, it means there is a clear and present economic business model for FOUNDATION fieldbus that manufacturers are capitalizing on. As the world has long since entered the digital age in nearly every facet of its life, it is only natural the process industries do the same. Digital provides obvious advantages over traditional analog systems, and Fieldbus Foundation feels that user demand comes from stronger standardization in the areas that the users require it and more flexibility where the users need it.
As the usability and simplicity of FOUNDATION fieldbus continues to improve and meet the needs of the user community, growth will continue as users demand more information and better awareness from their devices to run efficient operations that make reliable high quality products.
Beyond the growth comparisons to the registration program, the Fieldbus Foundation has seen continued rise and involvement in social media across the globe. The official Fieldbus Foundation LinkedIn Group now has nearly 1,900 members and increases an average of 60 members per month. LinkedIn has shown itself to be a valuable way to communicate about FOUNDATION fieldbus installations with other industries experts. The level of interaction on each discussion post is impressive.
The @FOUNDATIONField twitter account has 1,885 followers as of this post with similar growth rates as the LinkedIn group. Twitter provides an immediate way people to interact with the organization and to read about current news and events natively on their mobile platform. Again, its the continued growth trend that illustrates user demand for FOUNDATION fieldbus.
The Fieldbus Foundation also utilizes a YouTube channel that has proven effective for spreading educational videos on FOUNDATION technology. It allows the organization to share great “how-to” videos and direct viewers to appropriate content they find useful when visual illustration is needed. For example, one of the most watched videos on the channel is a simple “how to” on wiring H1 fieldbus cable. This video alone has amassed over 16,000 minutes of viewing time. Growth in user demand for fieldbus has generated 50% more engagement in 2014 then in 2013. These numbers will continue to grow and expand as awareness of the channel increases.
The Fieldbus Foundation continues to see double digit growth across the globe and it shows in both the registration program and social conversations. Users demand smarter instruments, more efficient systems and real-time closed loop control. FOUNDATION Fieldbus helps achieve these demands, and in so doing, allows the user to make a salable product safely and reliably on-time and with minimal interruptions. If it wasn’t for this strong user demand, manufacturers wouldn’t have a feasible economic business model to continue delivering fieldbus products at unprecedented rates. It should be said that the Fieldbus Foundation shares its users enthusiasm in looks forward to closing out another successful year of growth and a record breaking year of device registrations. This is a great thing for the process industry.
If you look back over the past couple of years it seems clear that FOUNDATION fieldbus is entering a new era. Many efforts are underway that are improving our technology to make it easier for end users to deploy and utilize FOUNDATION fieldbus in new and existing plants. Recent updates to our Interoperability Test Kit (ITK), for example, are making it easier to replace devices. Our new Host Profile registration process provides a greater level of interoperability between devices and different supplier hosts. FOUNDATION for ROM gives users the ability to manage information from devices on different wired and wireless networks in a single infrastructure.
At the same time, many of our “power” users who have had fieldbus installed for a long time now are providing us with valuable insights into how we can continue to improve the technology. Our goal at Fieldbus Foundation is to make fieldbus the easiest to use and most effective technology in the world of process automation.
It only makes sense then, that we should have a continuous improvement project that takes a holistic view of many of the things we are already doing, such as FOUNDATION for ROM, FDI, ISA108, ongoing revisions to our ITK, and ongoing efforts to improve the usability experience with FOUNDATION fieldbus, which we are collectively calling Project Gemstone.
You can read more about Project Gemstone in this interview I had with Walt Boyes of Control magazine.