Today marks the 20th anniversary of the merger between ISP and WorldFIP as recognized by the business filings. So many things have evolved since the merger first happened and here we are 20 years later talking about a new merger between HART and Fieldbus Foundation to create FieldComm Group. Exciting times indeed. We all look forward to what the future will hold!
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.
I found myself reading an interesting article today from Wired.com. It was an article on the “connected home” of tomorrow. As we see more and more of our lives pushed towards automation, it just seems natural that automation would extend into a smarter home. In fact, I have a digital meter outside my home that not only provides my electricity provider the convenience of reading my meter remotely, it also allows me to view my energy consumption from a day to day basis…even down to a hour by hour basis. It’s really cool stuff. Every week I receive an email that details my electricity use each day, and even gives me the high and low temperatures in my city on those days. Even more impressive, I can compare the usage over time (last week, last month etc.). Still further, I have a Wi-Fi connected thermostat that allows me to setup, monitor and change my thermostat without ever having to get off the couch or even be at home altogether. Life is grand.
As more and more start-ups begin designing more complex advancements into our homes to automate things like our lights, TVs, dishwashers etc. the more we put ourselves at risk to cyber attacks. There is an inherent risk with opening your home to outside connections, but those risks exponentially increase with obsolete systems or buggy works done by low budget automation houses. This is where standards can help and where on line in particular from the article stuck out to me: “The best way to ward off…problems before they metastasize is to embrace openness.”
I will not argue that open standards are inherently more secure than a proprietary solution, but in general there are many reasons why it actually can be. The difference is in world-wide usage of a standard. Proprietary solutions tend to be developed and maintained by a smaller group of highly trained unique individuals. Open standards by contrast are spread widely, and are adopted and implemented by many. The benefit being that buggy back-door findings and strange anomalies get detected sooner, and can be fixed purely based on the number of individuals interacting with it. It’s the same principle that makes “group think” so powerful.
Often, proprietary systems run by a core group of individuals lack the outside view of others. Ever heard the saying “Can’t see the forest for the trees?”. This is the same idea. The core group gets so engrained in doing what they do, that they cannot see a flaw if it exists. I’m sure the people over at Siemens would love to have prevented the Stuxnet virus that left a big black eye against their teal coloring. I think everyone can agree on that.
By adopting open standards, individuals and companies can minimize risk and ensure longevity to their investments. Open standards are owned or run by one single manufacturer so if one goes bankrupt or can’t offer the solution you need, another is there to take its place.
Long live standards-based protocols! Long live fieldbus.
P.S. For those interested in the article that started it all, check out the article posted on wired here: http://www.wired.com/2014/08/connected-home/
Austin, Texas, July 25, 2014 – The Boards of Directors of the Fieldbus Foundation and the HART Communication Foundation are pleased to announce that they have approved unifying the two Foundations into a new industry organization dedicated to the needs of intelligent devices and their integration in the world of Process Automation.
The combined power of both organizations will serve to protect the investments that end users in Process Automation have made in HART and FOUNDATION™ fieldbus communication technologies. The mission of the combined organization will be to develop, manage, and promote global standards for integrating devices into automation-system architectures, providing functional solutions for process automation suppliers and end users. Suppliers will also profit from the increased efficiencies in resource utilization, procedure consistency, and member service and support improvements.
The Fieldbus Foundation and HART Communication Foundation have a long history of cooperation. For example, the two worked together to develop common international standards, such as Electronic Device Description Language (EDDL) specifications and Field Device Integration (FDI) technology. Combining the organizations offers significant potential for harmonizing the procedures and efforts supporting the two protocols, as well as simplifying each technology’s implementation while better delivering their full benefits in plant operation and maintenance.
The Foundation Fieldbus and HART specifications will continue to exist individually, and to evolve into the future. Each protocol will retain its own brand name, trademarks, patents, and copyrights.
The new organization will continue development, support, and promotion of the two existing protocols, and will direct the development, incorporation, and implementation of new and overlapping technologies. Thus, the new organization will eventually serve as the single source for FDI, the sole integration tool for HART and FOUNDATION fieldbus technologies. The name of the proposed organization is not yet finalized.
The next step will be to complete the membership ballot by the end of summer 2014. Following a successful membership vote, legal filings for the creation of a new not-for-profit entity will take place in September 2014. As a final step, it is expected that the new organization offices will be consolidated and located near Austin, Texas, in early 2015.
About the Fieldbus Foundation
The Fieldbus Foundation is a global not-for-profit corporation consisting of leading process end users and automation companies. Within the Fieldbus Foundation, end users, manufacturers, universities and research organizations work together to develop an automation infrastructure that allows you to view your process in high definition; manage information effectively; and optimize people, processes and technology. For more information, visit their web site at www.fieldbus.org.
About the HART Communication Foundation
The HART Communication Foundation (www.hartcomm.org) is the technology owner and standards organization for the HART Communication Protocol. Founded in 1993, the Foundation is an independent, not-for-profit, membership organization providing support for the HART Communication technology and standards worldwide. The Foundation is supported by a global membership of 319 companies. HART Communication is the leading technology for process measurement and control with more than 40 million HART-enabled devices installed worldwide.
Be sure to check out the newly released Fieldbus Report posted today! The bi-annual Fieldbus Report is your resource for all things FOUNDATION. It has the latest news, fieldbus solutions, programs and initiatives being developed by the Fieldbus Foundation. It also contains a comprehensive list of the latest registered fieldbus products so you can be sure you keep up to date with the latest technological advances.
Be sure to grab a copy and read about the new Fieldbus Foundation Usability initiative we’ve been writing about! You can find the latest Fieldbus Report (as well as past versions) by going here: Fieldbus Report
It’s time we give Jim Montague over at Control Global a head nod for his recent coverage of the process fieldbuses. For those of you who have been following Jim’s writing you know he has been quite the advocate for Ethernet, but it is his most recent writings on the current state of the process industries that have been the most enlightening. “Okay, so it’s obvious that fieldbuses never went away. It turns out I was too focused on over-hyped technology trends and wasn’t paying enough attention to what was going on in the real world” said Jim.
In our current world of faster and faster processors, bigger and bigger hard drives and our unquenchable thirst to consume information, it’s easy to get caught up in the latest “sexy” new tech development that promises to be faster and better than the previous. Wireless was the sexiest new thing for a while until common sense kicked in and people started realizing that while it has some killer applications (large rotating equipment was one great example I heard), it doesn’t fit everywhere and frankly can’t be used everywhere. As with all technology, the market ultimately dictates where and how technology will be used and more often than not common sense applications drive implementation. This is the reason that Ethernet hasn’t yet grasped the process industry. It just wasn’t necessary. The killer application wasn’t there yet. FOUNDATION fieldbus’ HSE has seen slow adoption because prior to FOUNDATION for ROM, there wasn’t a strong value proposition since the increased speed alone wasn’t needed. (FOUNDATION for ROM certainly has changed the HSE landscape and a very strong value proposition exists now for HSE, but that’s a topic for another day.)
Unlike the internet service providers of the world who have to meet the demands of users streaming massive high definition video files, the process industry is a historically slow moving giant with slow moving networks. Why is that? Simple, because faster networks have just not been needed. A “large” file in the world of FOUNDATION fieldbus is a DD download of something in the neighborhood of 2 MB. In fact, did you know that the average file size of a registered FOUNDATION fieldbus DD in 2012 was 640 KB? That’s right. Kilobytes. By comparison, the average file size for a single MP3 music file is somewhere in the ballpark of 6 MB. That’s almost 10 times larger than an average DD file. Despite the obvious sufficiency of “slow” speed fieldbus networks, Ethernet seemed to be the next “sexy” tech advancement where speed and common interface connectivity would take over the industry. Jim Montague, however, seemed to come to the realization that Ethernet may just be another big uproar that doesn’t have the strong footing it might otherwise want our industry to believe. After all, is Ethernet actually addressing a user’s needs or is it an advancement for the sake of advancement?
Jim’s take on it is that while there is a lot of media buzz going on right now about Ethernet, the true work horse of the process industries quietly lumbers along at 31.25 kbps picking up project win after project win all while meeting the needs of the user today and in future expansion projects.
Jump on over and read Jim’s article on Control Global’s website called “Fieldbus Protocols Support All Processes“.