Wired and Wireless Networks Advance in Power

Wired and Wireless Networks Advance in Power
Wired and Wireless Networks Advance in Power
Behind all the integration and application of these technological advancements are the networks that connect them all together. Both wired and wireless networks have been undergoing a significant evolution during the past decade, enabling greater opportunities to those who leverage the advancements in the next one.

The Ethernet Evolution

Ethernet, both wired and wireless, has become the workhorse network of choice throughout manufacturing and production. Ethernet has been used for all forms of communications including data, audio, video, and industrial control networks leveraging shared infrastructure. Speed and performance continue to increase with Gigabit Ethernet (GbE or 1 GigE) and accelerated use of fiber optic networks. With the increase in power, there have naturally been some interesting developments.

Advanced Physical Layer (APL)

The Advanced Physical Layer is based on IEEE802.3. The IEEE P802.3cg 10 Mb/s Single Pair Ethernet Task Force Working Group is focused on using a single pair cable operating at 10 Mb/s with power delivery. This is envisioned to conform to requirements for use in hazardous locations up to Zone 0, Division 1.2.1 5G Wireless. The focus is on a replacement for legacy point-to-point & point-to-multipoint, which includes 4-20 mA, HART modem, RS-232, RS-485, CAN (Controller Area Network, and FlexRay.
Key characteristics of the APL include short reach and up to 1 km distance, on a single pair of wiring, that can survive fault conditions and harsh automotive and industrial environments. There is work being done to define the requirements and develop the necessary technology meet requirements for use in hazardous locations up to Zone 0, Division 1.2.1 5G.

The FieldComm Group, ODVA and PI (Profibus & Profinet International) are working together to promote developments for Industrial Ethernet to expand use of EtherNet/IP™, HART-IP™ and PROFINET™ into hazardous locations in the process industry leveraging the work currently underway in the IEEE 802.3cg Task Force.
There is a great deal of discussion and (in some quarters) excitement about the prospect of Time-Sensitive Networking (TSN), that some believe will become the single unifying deterministic network shared by all applications throughout the computer industry. Since TSN is a totally-managed shared network architecture, all network traffic - including all industrial protocols in the plant - would need to conform and be compliant with the TSN set of standards; in order to achieve deterministic and reliable communications. Based on interviews and discussions I’ve had with people involved in the IEEE committees, they report the entire standard will be completed in a few years.
Creating a practical multi-vendor TSN architecture has challenges and adds new layers of complexity for industrial ethernet networking. Network timing has been tightly coupled to network configuration and management. One network like this, in my experience, was the Allen-Bradley and The ControlNet network. This was a tightly timed scheduled and managed network dedicated to industrial control and monitoring, with those tight-scheduled communications yielding high determinism. While complex, the scope of the issue was dedicated to industrial automation applications, with one set of software and controllers from a single vendor, Allen-Bradley.

In contrast, TSN is seen as a common multivendor shared network for multimode communication for general computing, VOIP, professional audio, video, file transfer, industrial automation, building automation, and any other data communication.
In order to take advantage of TSN time scheduling, it would seem that control programming software and controller firmware will have to be redesigned to accommodate the definition of I/O point and variable timing specifications.
Since the goal is to support multiple industrial network protocols along with data multimedia applications this will require an industry-wide shared network manager and API standard to which all vendors need to conform. Yet, when asking multiple people about standardization in this area, it is clear that there is no open defined standard and certainly no identified certification group on the horizon.
Before the entire standard is completed in a few years, there  are likely to be offerings by industrial automation suppliers, but I suggest buyers beware it’s those solutions could become “white elephants”.

The Rise of 5G Wireless and What it Means for Industrial Automation

Wireless networks, in particular, are advancing in ways which are driving many possibilities for industrial automation. The idea of wireless industrial automation has long been an elusive goal on the wish list of many users. But it might not be as elusive soon, as 5G is starting to make this goal a reality. Companies are already starting to deploy private 5G networks within plants and are seeing increases in performance, determinism, low latency, and reliability. One example of this was a demonstration at the 2018 Hannover Messe, where Beckhoff and Huawei demonstrated high-speed and deterministic coordinated motion over 5G wireless communications. With the power of 5G, it will likely not be the last example.

5G is the fifth generation of cellular mobile communications, targeted to succeed the 4G (LTE/WiMax), 3G (UMTS) and 2G (GSM) systems. 5G performance targets high data rate, reduced latency, energy saving, cost reduction, higher system capacity, and massive device connectivity. The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) IMT-2020 specification demands speeds up to 20 gigabits per second. The first phase of 5G specifications in Release-15 will be completed by March 2019 to accommodate the early commercial deployment. The second phase in Release-16 is due to be completed by March 2020 for submission to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) as a candidate of IMT-2020 technology.
There are three major benefits of 5G networks, according to IEEE:
  • High Data Rates (1-20 Gbit/s)
  • Low Latency (1 ms)
  • Larger Network Capacity & Scalability
Another example of use is Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz Cars division’s effort towards establishment of a local 5G network to support automobile production processes at its “Factory 56” in Sindelfingen Germany. SNS Telecom & IT estimates that as much as 30% of investments approximately $2.5 Billion will be directed towards the build-out of private 5G networks, which will become preferred wireless connectivity medium to support ongoing Industry 4.0 revolution for the automation and digitization of factories, warehouses, ports and other industrial premises, in addition to serving other applications.
Corning and Verizon have installed 5G Ultra-Wideband service in Corning’s fiber optic cable manufacturing facility in Hickory, NC. Corning will use Verizon’s 5G technology to test how 5G can enhance functions, such as factory automation and quality assurance, in one of the largest fiber optic cable manufacturing facilities in the world. The companies are also working together to co-innovate 5G-enabled solutions that can potentially revolutionize the way goods and services are produced. 5G’s low latency, fast speeds and high bandwidth
can improve the manufacturing process, enhancing capabilities like machine learning, augmented reality and virtual reality (AR/ VR). Engineers from Verizon and Corning will explore how the factory of the future can use 5G to speed data collection, allow machines to communicate with each other in near real time, and wirelessly track and inspect inventory using 5G-connected cameras. They’ll also test how 5G can improve the function of
autonomous guided vehicles (AGVs) by helping them move more efficiently around the factory floor.

Supporting the Growth of 5G

There are many who are working to support the growth of 5G wireless in industrial organizations. The 5G Alliance for Connected Industries and Automation (5G-ACIA) serves as the central and global forum for addressing, discussing, and evaluating relevant technical, regulatory, and business aspects with respect to 5G for the industrial domain. The 5G Alliance notes that one of the main differences between 5G and previous generations of cellular networks lies in 5G’s strong focus on machine-type communication and the Internet of Things (IoT). The capabilities of 5G thus extend far beyond mobile broadband with ever increasing data rates. In particular, 5G supports communication with reliability and very low latencies, while also facilitating massive IoT connectivity. The organization comments that manufacturing, in particular, may see 5G having a disruptive impact as related building blocks, such as wireless connectivity, edge computing or network slicing, find their way into future smart factories. The organization has published the 5G-ACIA White Paper, 5G for Connected Industries and Automation providing an overview of 5G’s basic potential for connected industries, in particular the manufacturing and process industries, and outline relevant use cases, requirements, and other information.

This article is part of Bill Lydon’s Top Trends, his Automation & Control Trends Report for 2020-2021. Download the full report here

About The Author

Lydon brings more than 10 years of writing and editing expertise to Automation.com, plus more than 25 years of experience designing and applying technology in the automation and controls industry. Lydon started his career as a designer of computer-based machine tool controls; in other positions, he applied programmable logic controllers (PLCs) and process control technology. In addition to working at various large companies (e.g., Sundstrand, Johnson Controls, and Wago), Lydon served a two-year stint as part of a five-person task group, where he designed controls, automation systems, and software for chiller and boiler plant optimization. He was also a product manager for a multimillion-dollar controls and automation product line and president of an industrial control software company.

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