ABB Intelligent Projects and xStream Engineering

By Larry O'Brien

Last week, we reviewed ABB’s new Select I/O offering, which offers intelligent, single-point I/O for process automation systems that reduces both the footprint and time to project completion.  Technologies like Select I/O were born of end user initiatives like ExxonMobil’s “It Just Happens” initiative, which aims to reduce the complexity and interdependencies involved with automation projects to radically reduce time to project completion and remove customized engineering and overall customization.

But the hardware is only part of the story.  ABB also introduced its new approach to automation project engineering at Customer World two weeks ago.  ABB’s Intelligent Projects approach is designed to eliminate the interdependencies between the Select I/O hardware from the control system software, which allows the system to be developed in a virtual environment where it can be merged with the physical system after the full system has been developed and any late changes to the system have already been made.  Unlike the traditional automation project execution model, which is completely linear from design to commissioning, Intelligent Projects allows project phases to be completed in parallel.  Hardware build, for example, can be completed in parallel with software configuration.  

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Intelligent Engineering Approach Allows Key Project Tasks to Run in Parallel

Ethernet I/O Wizard & “Configure, Check, Connect”

ABB’s Intelligent Engineering approach also allows for some new tools that can aid in reducing time to project completion and overall project cost.  Under the name “xStream Engineering,” ABB has introduced an Ethernet I/O Wizard that is primarily used to read the “as built” hardware configuration from the Select I/O and S800 I/O over Ethernet.  This includes HART device information such as tag number, manufacturer, etc.  

xStream Engineering tools allow end users to decouple tasks that would traditionally be intertwined or depend on preceding tasks.  With xStream engineering, loops can be checked at the I/O level before the rest of the system is delivered.  While application code is developed, field work can be done any time after standard cabinets are delivered to the site and installed.  

Much of this functionality speaks to the desire of the ExxonMobil “It Just Happens” initiative for  I/O with  automatic Detect, Interrogate, Configure, Enable, and Document (“DICED”) capabilities..  This is

exemplified in ABB’s “Configure, Check, Connect” approach, in which Select I/O can be configured in place in the field using data from the I/O list.  Once the I/O is configured, a test configuration is downloaded to a field controller.  This allows field equipment to be verified and the results auto-documented.  The I/O structure can then be imported into Control Builder, enabling the signals to be automatically marshalled to the application.  Any conflicts can be quickly identified and corrected.  

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