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Peace breaks out as FDT and EDDL bury the hatchet

09 May, 2007

A long-running feud between two industry groups with different ideas on a standardised approach to identifying and describing field devices, appears to have ended with the two groups agreeing to bury the hatchet and work together. At last month’s Hannover Fair last month, the EDDL Co-operation Team (ECT) and the FDT Group announced that they would be combining their efforts and aiming for a unified approach to device integration that will be compatible with both of their technologies. The FDT Group has become the ECT’s newest member.

The rapprochement follows a long-running war of words between the two groups over their previously incompatible technologies.

The FDT Group is backed by 57 companies including ABB, Bosch Rexroth, Moeller, Omron, Phoenix Contact, Rockwell Automation, Siemens, Sick and Vacon. Its aim has been to provide an open, non-proprietary interface – the Field Device Tool – for integrating field devices.

The ECT was formed in 2003 when three fieldbus organisations – the Profibus User Group, the Fieldbus Foundation, and the HART Communication Foundation – agreed to develop a specification for graphical visualisation and data storage based on the Electronic Device Description Language, or EDDL. A key backer has been Emerson.

While the FDT technology covers both factory and process automation, EDDL has been used mainly in the process sector.

FDT EDDL diagram

The two groups will now work together using a subset of the OPC Unified Architecture technology to develop a new system that "incorporates the best aspects of each technology and eliminates redundancies where they may exist". A joint working team has been set up and hopes to deliver draft specifications for the proposed "Future Device Integration (FDI)" architecture, as well as prototypes, by the end of 2008. The aim is for FDI to become an IEC standard.

FDI will be independent of the operating system and the host and will be compatible with all fieldbus systems. It will be equally suitable for factory and process applications. The ECT and the FDT Group will each develop migration strategies for their installed bases.

"This agreement, once brought into reality, is a major step forward for device integration in several areas," says ECT chairman, Hans-Georg Kumpfmueller. "It eliminates double efforts for customers and vendors and preserves backwards compatibility and operating system independence."

"After much discussion, we have reached commitment to work together and protect the investment of each technology for the benefit of end-users," adds the FDT Group’s managing director, Flavio Tolfo. "The FDT Group is looking forward to bringing its broad experience of integrating software applications in conjunction with device descriptions to bear, by joining the ECT to solve end-user needs."

The FDT Group emphasizes that the new agreement does not affect its existing technology development programmes and that the ECT member organisations will remain separate, with their own objectives, memberships and organisational structures.

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