Industrial Single Pair Ethernet (SPE) Update: Industrial Ethernet Week 2023

Industrial Single Pair Ethernet (SPE) Update: Industrial Ethernet Week 2023
Industrial Single Pair Ethernet (SPE) Update: Industrial Ethernet Week 2023

The Industrial Ethernet Week 2023 presentations provided an update on the technology and the importance of connectivity to achieve the goals of industrial digitalization/Industry 4.0. Single Pair Ethernet (SPE) delivers standard unmodified Ethernet built on the IP (Internet Protocol) to enable intelligent field devices including sensors, motor controls and actuators to achieve higher data rates and standard messaging leveraging routable communications based on open standards.

Using IP (Internet Protocol) from the Cloud to the control system to the field sensor is highly efficient in supporting industrial digitalization. There are compelling advantages of a harmonized industrial network to the edge based on Ethernet, Internet Protocol (IP) optimize the plant and extend its life, leveraging techniques from Industrial Internet of Things, Big Data, Cloud and Analytics. The HARTING Technology Group hosted the event and has a full range of SPE products. 

The big takeaways I have from attending the February Industrial Ethernet Week 2023 are:

  • The fundamental standards supporting SPE are complete.
  • SPE infrastructure products exist including communications chips, connectors, cabling, routers & gateways.
  • The adoption or SPE in the automotive industry should drive prices down an increase functionality. This is the same thing that drove Ethernet and Controller Area Network (CAN) adoption for industrial networking.
  • The first SPE based products are process industry instruments using Advanced Physical Layer (APL) Ethernet.
  • Where does Single Pair Ethernet (SPE) best fit in industrial automation? Hardwired vs Networked I/O?
  • When will other industrial devices become available incorporating SPE? Control & automation vendors participating in the event are in the early products planning stages with no immediate plans.
  • Transporting multiple protocols over SPE alone does not accomplish multivendor interoperability.
  • Is SPE the ideal communications that makes OPC Foundation Field Level Communications (FLC) pervasive.

Hardwired dominates industrial automation

During the event, it was reported that in 2023, automation networks connecting industrial controllers and complex devices, such as motor drives and HMI panels, are networked 66% industrial ethernet and 27% fieldbus. The next opportunity may be networking the vast majority of end field devices including sensors, contactors, motor controls, pushbuttons, etc. that are hardwired to industrial controllers today. The value proposition to network these devices varies depending on the application and type.

Today, these data points and relationships must be programmed into industrial automation middleware, such as HMI servers, historians and asset management systems and manually maintained. The exceptions are devices using the HART protocol primarily used in process applications and IO-Link primarily used for discrete applications providing application, asset, and other information from sensors. 

SPE has the potential to become the mainstream Ethernet IP communications more economically to field devices that have embedded information, including the ability for a device to self-describe over the network its role in applications, its operating properties, and its asset management properties. This increases system integrity, yielding higher reliability, availability, and lower maintenance costs.

APL Advanced Physical Layer Ethernet in the lead

Ethernet APL based on SPE is advancing as illustrated by a multivendor demonstration at ACHEMA 2023. Vendors are adding Ethernet APL to products because major users are asking for this communications method.

On Aug. 23, 2022, after almost 4 years of collaboration between the four leading standards development organizations, FieldComm Group, ODVA, OPC Foundation, and PROFIBUS & PROFINET International (PI), combined with significant support from 12 major industry project partners the successful completion of the APL Project was announced. The result is Ethernet-APL adhering to the IEEE 802.3cg (10BASE-T1L) specifications are completely available 10Mbit technology for a new two-wire conforming to Intrinsically Safe industry standards.

ACHEMA Working Ethernet-APL Demonstration

ACHEMA Working Ethernet-APL demonstration

The ACHEMA 2023 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. The video of the ACHEMA 22 Ethernet APL information can be viewed here

Some end user some companies have already completed successful field trials including BASF and Procter & Gamble demonstrating Ethernet-APL has very good suitability for use in process applications through their internal testing.

Participating standards development organizations have agreed to jointly maintain the technical and marketing assets and to continue international standardization efforts. This group has created a set of materials to support interested parties in adopting Ethernet-APL available here.

Single Pair Ethernet (SPE) basics

Single Pair Ethernet (SPE) Ethernet network technology IEEE 802.3cg technology provides communications over two wires using the Internet Protocol (IP). SPE delivers standard unmodified Ethernet built on the IP (Internet Protocol) to enable intelligent field devices including sensors, motor controls and actuators to achieve industrial digitalization and accomplish the vision of Industry 4.0.

  • Standard Internet Protocol (IP) message routing to deliver data anywhere in an ethernet architecture.
  • Easier and lower cost installation with over 75% smaller cable diameter, reduced weight, cost, and 30% more bend radius than CAT 5. 
  • Potential to reuse existing installed twisted pair field wiring to carry SPE communications simplifying plant and machine retrofits. 
  • Power over Data Line (PoDL) option with up to 50 watts. 
  • SPE Multidrop 802.3cg with auto negotiation at 10<bits/s, Power over Data Line (PoDL), 16 devices and 50-meter length. Multidrop for sensor networking has tremendous installed cost advantages over point to point networking.
  • SPE also is the basis for the Advanced Physical Layer (APL) to bring Ethernet to field-level instruments in hazardous areas.

Hardwired sensor I/O vs. networked I/O

The vision is the value added of SPE control & automation sensors I/O provides will offset the cost of hardwired devices without intelligence. Today the IO-Link IEC 61131-9 standard introduced in 2006 is being adopted by some using intelligent sensors to simplify project engineering, installation, maintenance, and asset management. IO-Link has a unique point-to-point communication interface based on the long established 3-wire sensor and actuator connection without additional requirements regarding the cable material. SPE has a technology advantage based on Ethernet and IP communications interface, but the cost differential is unclear.

The SPE Multidrop 802.3cg could be a real advantage similar to DeviceNet an Profibus. This would also accelerate the industrial automation industry drive towards plug-and-play self-describing intelligent devices that can also provide contextual information.

SPE does not achieve multivendor interoperability

SPE does not achieve multivendor interoperability because it is simply a transport mechanism. This is the same issue running on a standard ethernet network trying to share it with multiple protocols, for example EtherNet/IP and PROFINET that creates more engineering and complexity. Similarly, Ethernet-APL also does not achieve multivendor interoperability. Industrial protocol organizations have worked together to be sure they can each run on these Ethernet topologies. As with existing industrial ethernet protocols routers and gateways can be used accomplish systems that have different protocols on different network segments.

SPE Industrial Partner Network

The SPE Industrial Partner Network is an alliance of companies that promote Single Pair Ethernet technology as the basis for rapid and successful growth of IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things). The SPE Industrial Partner Network website is a resource for all SPE information including product database, technology information, application information and news.

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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