Industrial Ethernet end devices, such as the sensors, I/O drives, and other components that reside at the lower tier of the automation hierarchy, play a pivotal role in the connectivity-enabled business improvement strategies of the future. This is particularly true in the case of both the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and Industrie I4.0 (I4.0), each of which relies heavily on integration of field and asset data with enterprise-level business improvement applications, many of which reside in the Cloud.
The value proposition for industrial Ethernet devices aligns well with that of the IIoT and I4.0 initiatives, further cementing its position as the industrial network platform of choice going forward. Both initiatives rely on connectivity and integration to fuel critical business drivers, such as reduced machine downtime and production flexibility, and both Ethernet and wireless will be primary enablers to those ends.
Industrial devices are now increasingly required to feed data into enterprise clouds and the applications that reside there, such as analytics. Escalating demands to serve data to cloud-based applications fuels the need for Ethernet-enabled end devices that enable large data throughput and standards-based integration, tasks that fall beyond the capabilities of most dedicated legacy automation networks.
Integration of design and production is a core concept behind initiatives such as I4.0 and digital twin. Ability to easily integrate information from devices at low levels of the automation hierarchy is increasingly necessary to further these objectives. Integration of design, configuration, and maintenance tools with higher level control and supervisory software will be key determinants of industrial Ethernet’s ability to capitalize on these trends.
The low hanging fruit of maintenance or asset health applications will continue to lead the IIoT business case for the near future. Remote monitoring and expert analysis enable proactive maintenance activities and deliver value by avoiding unnecessary downtime of in-plant or remote assets. Increasing integration of control systems with enterprise systems in furtherance of connectivity-enabled business objectives is necessary to leverage to leverage the benefits associated with remote monitoring and device access, driving connectivity requirements further down the architecture and increasing the need for Ethernet devices on the plant floor.
Emerging solutions are extending the reach of enterprise applications by applying analytic capabilities in various places in the architecture – including in machinery and their associated sensors, I/O, and controllers – to enable faster and better informed response actions in manufacturing and processing operations. Industrial Ethernet provides a standard, converged network platform capable of fulfilling these and similar connectivity requirements. Together these market and technological forces will result in greater use of industrial Ethernet end devices and edge infrastructure throughout the automation architecture.