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The history of the FDT Group is one of advancement and innovation, as the organization has kept pace with the changing requirements of industrial measurement and control, and the diverse needs of automation suppliers, end users and other industry stakeholders.

In 1998, an initiative within the ZVEI (the German association for electro technical and electronic industry) started with the discussion on how to simplify the integration of field devices into distributed control systems (DCSs) with the availability of modern software component technologies. The PROFIBUS User Group adopted the specification results and later transferred the rights to the FDT Joint Interest Group, which was established shortly thereafter.

The FDT Group itself was started in early 2003 as an informal association by a number of leading automation firms: ABB, Endress+Hauser, Invensys (now Schneider Electric), Metso, and Siemens. With a growing number of members, it was decided to formally organize the group as a legally independent entity.

The FDT Group was officially founded in September 2005 as an International Not-For-Profit Association (AISBL) according to Belgian law. All major leading manufacturing companies are now members of the group and contribute to a wide range of technology development and standardization initiatives.

From the beginning, the objective of FDT supporters was to standardize the communication and configuration interface between all field/communication devices and host systems. The FDT standard has continued to adapt to the realities of the process, hybrid and factory automation sectors, and today, it plays a vital role in the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) – optimizing industrial communication networks, automation systems, and device suppliers.

Today, hundreds of thousands of FDT/FRAME’s and millions of FDT/DTM’s exist in the market. The FDT architecture focused on comprehensive integration ensures continuous innovation, optimizing reliable operations of plants, fabs, machinery, etc., all over the world.

FDT Standard Versions

The FDT 2.1 standard released in April 2018.  The specification enhances both industrial automation developer and end user experiences focused on security, performance, ease of use, and investment protection. The key technological embellishments in 2.1 set the stage for FDT’s transformation towards a complete, standardized Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) architecture enabling sensor-to-cloud, enterprise-wide connectivity for next-generation automation solutions.  FDT 2.1 is based off Microsoft .NET technology and maintains FDT Group’s true backward compatibility commitment – allowing FDT 2.1 FRAME™ applications to have a seamless integration capability with all generation DTMs. Forward compatibility also allows FDT 2.0 FRAMES to integrate with 2.1 DTMs and legacy versions, thus protecting investments for the large, global FDT installed base. Additional enhancements include:

  • Security offerings, allowing validation of signatures for installed Device Type Managers™, known as DTMs™, protecting against the possibility of malware in control systems.
  • Faster retrieval of static and process values from input/output (I/O) devices.
  • Extended support for array data types, improving the organization of larger volumes of structured data and providing users with improved performance for reading more operational data from advanced devices.
  • An environment to control how a DTM connects to a device, resulting in a significant enhancement for communications – especially OPC Unified Architecture (UA) Server monitoring performance.
  • Protection for the FDT installed base, allowing a topology scan to automatically assign a 2.0 and 2.1 DTM to a device found with a legacy DTM. For end users, this means device assignments can be made in a mixed topology environment with 1.2, 2.0 and 2.1 DTMs.

With announcement of the updated FDT 2.0 (aka, FDT2™) standard as the FDT Group’s “active” technology, there is an even more promising future for automation suppliers. Developed to leverage modern Microsoft.NET technology, FDT2 supports an enhanced user interface with graphical representations of device parameters. It maintains proven FDT heritage, but includes numerous performance improvements. It provides backward compatibility with the existing installed base eliminating “rip and replace” scenarios when utilizing different eras of field equipment allowing new and existing software to coexist.

The FDT 1.2 standard was released in 2001. Since that time, there has been one major enhancement – the downward compatible FDT 1.2.1 version, as well as several fieldbus protocol specific adoptions that opened FDT Technology to fieldbus device manufacturers beyond HART and PROFIBUS. FOUNDATION fieldbus, Interbus, DeviceNet, and IO-Link were among them. Version 1.2.1 of the FDT specification uses COM and ActiveX as its basis technologies.

For developers of advanced industrial automation products, the release of FDT 2.1 standard sets the transformation path for a connected industrial enterprise.

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