Ethernet-APL: Closing Industrial Digitalization Gap

Ethernet-APL: Closing Industrial Digitalization Gap
Ethernet-APL: Closing Industrial Digitalization Gap

Industrial networks have been leveraging ethernet for a number of years. Now, Ethernet-APL connect sensors using standard IEEE 802.3cg communications managed with IP protocol are directly achieving high-speed uniform sensor information transfer throughout the entire manufacturing and process business to accomplish the goals of Industry 4.0 and Industrial Digitalization. Ethernet-APL, using universally accepted IT and IoT methods and framework, closes the last communications gap to achieve holistic manufacturing and process business operations. 

The ACHEMA Pulse Live Days the Ethernet-APL organization, with members FieldComm Group, OPC Foundation, ODVA and Profibus & Profinet International showcased Ethernet-APL joint activity demonstrating, “IT-centric Instrumentation,” for process control, including hazardous areas. The Ethernet-APL strategy achieves a common sensor and instrument physical and transport but does not converge and harmonize communication protocols, which remain separate and unique.

This initiative leverages the work of the IEEE 802.3cg Task Force, including amendments to the IEEE 802.3 Ethernet standard for an Ethernet physical layer operating at 10 Mb/s over single-pair cable with power delivery. Ethernet at the field level will make digitalization for process industries a reality with its universality and speed, achieving IT-Centric Instrumentation. Current and voltage will be limited to have an intrinsically safe solution for zones 0 & 1 / Division 1.  The APL Project team has also cooperated with semiconductor manufacturers, who will offer 10BASE-T1L Phys for Ethernet-APL enabling sensor manufacturers to support the standard. Additional developments define the requirements and develop the necessary technology to achieve an Industrial Ethernet suitable for use in hazardous locations up to Zone 0, Division 1. Just like standard ethernet, this is a common transport for multiple protocol and messaging types.


Ethernet-APL allows wiring to screw-type or spring-clamp terminals, thus supporting cable entry through glands. Additionally, well-defined connector technology ensures simplicity during installation work.


In the ACEMA demonstration, Ethernet-APL devices were connected to Ethernet switches that provided Single Pair Ethernet IEEE 802.3cg ports that provide entry the APL networks. Ethernet APL defines two types of switches: the power switch in the field switch.

In hazardous areas, an Ethernet-APL trunk can communicate up to 1,000 meters using an Ethernet power switch. Field devices are generally connected to APL field switches, and up to 200-meter cable length is allowed for the spur connections.

Ethernet-APL conforms to the IEC  2-WISE standard for 2-Wire Intrinsically Safe Ethernet. This IEC technical specification, IEC TS 60079-47 (2-WISE), defines intrinsic safety protection for all hazardous Zones and Divisions. For users, this includes simple steps for verification of intrinsic safety without calculations.

“The APL Project” creates the concept of Ethernet-APL by defining port profiles for multiple power levels with and without explosion hazardous area protection. Markings on devices and instrumentation indicate power level and function as sourcing or sinking. This provides a simple framework for interoperability from engineering to operation and maintenance.


The ACHEMA demonstration included devices that communicate over ethernet APL via ethernet IP, ProfiNet, HARTIP, and OPC UA. The demonstration included 12 field instruments and devices from ABB, Emerson, Endress+Hauser, Krohne, Pepperell & Fuchs, Phoenix contact, Rockwell Automation, Sampson, Siemens, Stahl, Vega, and Yokogawa.

ACHEMA Working Ethernet-APL Demonstration


The multivendor demonstration displayed during ACHEMA Pulse illustrated interaction across different product vendors and networks highlighting the multiple options and interoperability that Ethernet-APL will offer end users. The ACHEMA Working Ethernet-APL demonstration included:

  • Rockwell, Siemens, and Emerson Process Controllers
  • ABB Industrial PLC: ABB
  • ABB, Emerson, Endress &Hauser, and Siemens Asset Management Software

OPC UA impact

Sensors with embedded computing support an integrated digital manufacturing architecture, enabling smart sensors to incorporate use case-based OPC UA contextual data models to communicate and intelligently with control, asset management, optimization, and business systems directly, eliminating gateways and middleware simplifying system architecture with higher reliability and availability. The NAMUR Industry 4.0 for Process and other initiatives envision how the distributed control across field devices performing in situ control, optimization, and diagnostics. These field devices also communicate non-control operations data (i.e. quality, production efficiency asset monitoring, etc.) directly to enterprise and cloud systems. This was illustrated in the demonstration with the ABB LLT100 Level Transmitter in using the Ethernet-APL physical communications uses OPC UA data models to send information directly to applications using an embedded OPC UA Server. Using OPC UA directly from a field instrument enables communications directly with enterprise and cloud applications. I first saw this product in prototype form at the 2019 ARC Orlando conference and was very impressed.

Certification & conformance

Ethernet-APL is the physical layer, with each individual standards organization responsible for its own conformance tests and Ethernet-APL certifications for devices supporting the protocol. In the press conference at ACHEMA, it was stated that some of these registrations will probably be defined and available by the end of the year.

About The Author

Bill Lydon brings more than 10 years of writing and editing expertise to, 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. Working at a large company, Lydon served a two-year stint as part of a five-person task group, that designed a new generation building automation system including controllers, networking, and supervisory & control software.  He also designed software for chiller and boiler plant optimization.   Bill was product manager for a multimillion-dollar controls and automation product line and later cofounder and president of an industrial control software company.

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