PROFINET – Backbone of IIoT and Industry 4.0

  • Post category:Australia / PI NEWS
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In August 2015, Rafael Koenig, Chairman of Profibus Australia, presented at the Future Networks Forum, part of the Westwick Farrow ACI Connect event, to an audience of automation, control, and instrumentation professionals, about Profinet’s role in Industry 4.0 and the Industrial Internet of Things.

The conference included an opening keynote by John McGuire, Global Industry Director of Aurecon, who talked about using data-driven customer insight to transform manufacturing, as well as a keynote about predictive asset optimization from IBM Analytics’ Ross Collins.

Introduction to the Future of Industrial Production

Koenig started his talk, titled “Profinet – Backbone of IIoT and Industry 4.0”, with an introduction to Industry 4.0, which covers three aspects:

  • Horizontal integration across value networks, creating new business models and ecosystems
  • End-to-end engineering across the entire value chain, to integrate the product and production lifecycles
  • Vertical integration and networked production systems for increased configurability and adaptability

The future of industrial systems, Koenig said, would see the combination of Information Technology and physical engineering, creating an “Internet of Things and Services”. Needless to say, robust connectivity and network technology will play an essential role, providing the linkages that enable this vision.

Connectivity Requirements for the Future of Industry

According to Koenig, the required connectivity solutions will be influenced by the particular requirements of an Industrial Internet of Things, which differs from the typical consumer IoT because it:

  • Needs to be able to communicate with existing legacy systems
  • Needs to support existing and legacy devices and standards
  • Is mission critical
  • Deals with a lot more data
  • Features structured connectivity, rather than ad hoc connectivity

Given that Industry 4.0 and IIoT is about fast and dynamic production thanks to interoperable communications between devices, software, and systems, Koenig says any connectivity solution would need to successfully address the challenges of standardization, while bridging Fieldbus and Industrial Ethernet.

In fact, Koenig says, the linkage technologies behind Industry 4.0 and IIoT will need to move beyond pure data or communication interoperability, but allow for “semantic interoperability” – the transmission of meaning and data, as well as security levels, between different information models.

One possible way forward is the OPC unified architecture (OPC UA), an IEC 62541 standard which maps the information models of multiple organizations.

Profinet: Addressing the Future

In this aspect, Koenig claims Profinet is ideally suited for Industry 4.0 and IIoT. In fact, Profinet is essential for the operation of OPC UA, controlling and gathering data from devices within the production systems, and thus providing real-time data that OPC needs to process in order to function.

But Profinet also provides other benefits that will be essential for upcoming approaches to industrial networks:

  • Unlimited node count for scalability
  • Easy and familiar Ethernet cabling
  • Full TCP/IP, Internet, and web compatibility
  • Integrates all popular automation networks
  • Strategic links with PROFIBUS

In particular, Koenig focused on the interoperability and security features of Profinet.


Considering the various fields of application – Process, Motion, and Factory Automation, Koenig pointed out that Profinet provides the same standard across different industries – and in fact achieves both real-time and IT communications using the same cables.

For Process Automation applications that require response times in the range of 100ms, Profinet’s exclusive TCP/IP layer enables this simple exchange of data. For Real-time applications like Factory Automation, Profinet’s RT feature handles cyclic signal exchange of I/O data with response times in the range of 10ms. On the other end of the spectrum, Profinet also provides the Isochronous Real Time (IRT) communications needed by Motion Control applications, allowing a short and deterministic reaction time of up to 31.25 μs, with a jitter of less than 1μs.


According to Koenig, Profinet’s security guidelines address the requirements of future networks:

  • provide security for systems without their own security functions
  • allow real-time operation and deterministic behavior
  • provide easy and cost-efficient integration of security functions
  • able to withstand high data loads

The robust security measures allowed by Profinet means it is able to address the requirements of a converged network, successfully balancing the priorities of business systems and automation systems for confidentiality, availability, and integrity.

The Future Networks Forum was moderated by Glenn Johnson, editor of What’s New In Process Technology and Besides Rafael Koenig, the forum also featured Steven Sischy, Managing Director of BECKHOFF Automation (EtherCAT), Daniel Hancock, Systems Technical Expert and Industrial Communications Specialist at Schneider Electric (ODVA) and Kaveh Fanian, Product Manager Pepperl+Fuchs representing the Fieldcomm Group.