IP Technology-The Future for Industrial Automation

  • July 17, 2014
  • Rockwell Automation
  • Rockwell Automation
  • Feature

By Mike Hannah, Rockwell Automation An IHS Technology report forecasts that industrial automation will make up the majority of the Internet of Things by 2025, and Internet Protocol (IP)-addressable devices are the key enabling force that will get industry there. Industrial automation accounts for slightly more than half of the installed base for all Internet-connected devices in 2012, according to the IHS report, “Industrial Internet of Things – 2014 Edition.” By 2025, the industrial automation sector will account for nearly three-fourths of all connected devices. Equally impressive is the pace at which that installed base is expected to grow. The report estimates that the number of Internet-connected devices in the industrial automation sector will increase more than fiftyfold from 2012 to 2025 – at a compound annual growth rate of 36.3 percent.

“Many of these devices will be equipment that is currently unconnected but expected to incorporate connectivity and processing technology and be IP addressable,” the report said. IHS defined an Internet-connected device in the report as any device (ranging from a sensor to a powerful computing system) that can directly connect to the Internet and has a unique IP address. Such devices are the “foundation for the idea of the Internet of Things,” the report said. This is an important distinction because organizations risk falling behind their competitors if they don’t make the choices that are best for their networks – and more importantly best for their businesses – when upgrading their infrastructures. This diagram illustrates how central IP-based devices are to the Internet of Things, and affirms the decision made by many leading manufacturers and industrial operators to use IP-technology. Only the end-to-end connectivity of an IP-centric infrastructure can ensure the scalability and harmonious coexistence of all Internet-connected devices, regardless of whether they were originally designed for industrial or commercial use. The exclusion of non-IP addressable devices and closed networks suggests that manufacturers and industrial users who want the full value of the Internet of Things must move toward communications that use standard Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP), or risk falling behind their competition. This decision reduces design complexity, ensures the seamless integration of both industrial and commercial devices across the entire value chain, and enables users to leverage continued industry investment and innovation in compatible technologies (such as 1 GB, 10 GB Ethernet, video and voice over IP).   Nodes Will Dominate So what will the breakdown of these billions of connected devices in industrial automation look like as they’re deployed in the coming years? Internet-connected devices can be segmented into three different device classes: nodes, controllers and infrastructure. Among the three, the IHS report estimated that nodes, which include devices such as drives, I/O blocks and sensors, will account for roughly 80 percent of all Internet-connected devices shipped in 2018. This is due to the use of smart, connected devices in a broadening mix of market segments, such as transportation and building automation. On the other hand, shipments of infrastructure devices, while significantly lower in total number, will grow at the highest rate in that timeframe, with the total number of devices more than quadrupling from 2012 to 2018. This indicates that converged network architectures will become more and more prevalent in industrial applications. Looking at wired versus wireless devices, wired devices are expected to dominate, accounting for more than 90 percent of all devices shipped in 2018. However, shipments of all types of wireless devices in 2018 are expected to increase three to four times from their 2012 levels – an indication that the demand for wireless continues to grow. Unifying Operations and Business Systems Manufacturers and other industrial organizations have long used automation to improve productivity, reduce costs and deliver consistent quality. This looming surge in Internet-connected devices has the potential to deliver even greater capabilities and improvements to today’s automated industrial operations, from the shop floor to the top floor. ‘The counter to economic slowdown is the continuing pressure for businesses to be more efficient and productive and, therefore, more profitable. This is good news for the industrial sectors, as it increases the incentive to employ more automation. This in turn has an effect on the need to network this technology.’ Source: Industrial Internet of Things – 2014 Edition, IHS Technology A truly connected enterprise allows for the complete integration of information across both manufacturing and business operations. It also enables the collection, coordination and sharing of valuable data from virtually every aspect of a company’s operations so workers can make better, more-informed decisions at every level. Still, companies have a long way to go. A 2013 IndustryWeek survey of U.S. manufacturing executives and professionals found that a mere 14 percent of respondents said their plant-floor data is completely integrated with their business systems. One of the core components of a connected enterprise is the deployment of a single, unified network infrastructure. As companies evaluate design options for the network on which they will base their connected devices, standard Ethernet is the world’s most common computing network and a logical choice given advances in the technology for industrial use. Indeed, the IHS Technology report confirmed that previous industry concerns about Ethernet-based systems are being put to rest as modern industrial Ethernet systems prove fully capable of real-time and reliable communications. The use of network-based integrated safety systems and a growing reliance on wireless communications in industrial settings also have helped increase confidence in and promote use of Ethernet-based network technology. Multiple Forces at Work As the IHS Technology report points out, multiple forces are at play in driving industry to join the Internet of Things revolution. Industrial Internet, Industry 4.0, the Industrial IP Advantage (IIPA) and other initiatives around the world are helping industry better understand the benefits of connecting their industrial automation and business systems so they can unleash new gains in productivity and efficiency. After all, there’s plenty at stake: The Internet of Things is expected to generate a $3.88 trillion in potential value for global manufacturers. However, while the benefits of a converged network are clear, how everyone will get there has not yet been decided. Those who remain undecided about the direction they will take should look to the IHS report for a simple truth: IP is undoubtedly the future of industrial automation.

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