Industrie 4.0, IIoT, OPC UA, & PROFINET

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The SPS/IPC/Drives Show just closed its doors and I must say it was an exciting show. Of course, Industrie 4.0 and IIoT dominated the fair from the 30 thousand foot view, but the terms tend to be too vague and everyone has their own views about what these describe. On the other side, TSN (time sensitive networking) is a technology that created a lot of buzz at the fair as well and one could get the feeling, TSN is ready to be used in your plants. While certainly TSN is a very promising technology to bring deterministic behavior to standard Ethernet, it is promoted mainly by those, who lack this feature in their Industrial Ethernet solution. For PROFINET, we can use IRT for deterministic motion control while still allowing other Ethernet traffic. So, this will not bring us any closer to Industrie 4.0.

Another contender for the biggest hype at the fair was OPC UA. And with this one, I fully agree. OPC has proven numerous times that it can provide vendor independent access to data in your shop floor. At PI we have preached for a long time that OPC UA is the way to get your data to Condition Monitoring, Asset Management, or any other IT System. Whether in the cloud or in your plant, it doesn’t matter. So it is good to see that others are jumping on the bandwagon as well. But you don’t need to wait until TSN is ready, as some of them suggest. OPC UA as it is today already provides value. And there it is again: The PROFINET advantage. While most of the other Industrial Ethernet Systems propose it as an additional system from the controller up only, at PI we believe that there should be only one network. PROFINET provides the infrastructure; the user decides which protocols to use on this infrastructure. Just one example: Using a welding robot in your plant, it is controlled by a PLC most certainly. This is done by PROFINET. But this robot can provide condition monitoring data as well. This can be done by OPC UA over the same network as the PLC is communicating PROFINET.

But wait, there’s more. While real time communication is certainly necessary in your plant, it doesn’t really matter whether you use IRT or TSN in the future. The real value for the user is in the data. If you want to create new business models e.g. by using Big Data Analytics you need first of all data. That’s a no brainer. What’s more surprising is that people tend to judge a network by the speed or other technical means. They should judge a network by the quality of data they get from it. Because the more information you get from the field level, the better your analysis will be in the end. This is why PI puts a lot of emphasis on Application Profiles. At the fair, we just released the Asset Management Data Record. With this little helper, you get all the Identification and Maintenance Data of your devices in a meaningful and well-structured way. It is cross-vendor and without effort of course. Useful data is what will enable Industrie 4.0 applications in the end. Within PI this is where we put our focus to deliver the best value network to our users.

I wish everybody peaceful holidays and a quiet time to spend with your families.

Karsten Schneider2 (Custom)Karsten Schneider
PI Chairman