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30 Years of PI

30 years ago, in December 1989, PI was founded out of a research project, funded by the German government. What happened afterward is well known. A success story in industrial automation. Of course, it took time in the beginning to establish the new fieldbus philosophy, but when PROFIBUS became an IEC standard, the node count skyrocketed and PROFIBUS became the world market leader. The story repeated itself 15 years later with PROFINET. Initially, there were many doubts that Ethernet would work in industrial environments, but eventually, users gained confidence in the technology. Today, PROFINET has not only surpassed PROFIBUS in newly installed nodes by far, but also it is the world market leader with almost 30% market share as IHS Markit | Technology (now a part of Informa Tech) stated in their latest market study.

Today, another 15 years later, the time seems right for the next level in fieldbus technology. But what does this look like? Unlike the transition from PROFIBUS to PROFINET, we will not see a new physical layer. Ethernet is here to stay but it will adapt further. With the advent of TSN (Time Sensitive Networking) we will have the chance for truly converged IT and OT networks. So this will be the first change. And as in the past, it will take time for TSN to establish itself in the market. The technology needs to be completed, many products need to be developed and users need to get their hands on them. It took PROFIBUS 10 years to become the market-leading technology and it took PROFINET the same 10 years to surpass PROFIBUS. So I wouldn’t be too surprised if it takes TSN a similar amount of time to be the number-one networking technology.

But this is only the transmission layer. On the protocol side, we will continue to see PROFINET for controller to device communication. The classical fieldbus use case, except over TSN or over today’s Ethernet. But additionally, we will see more protocols emerging for new use cases. OPC UA will likely take a big stance in vertical communication. Collecting data from the field and sending it to edge or IT devices for data-driven business cases including AI, for example. At first sight, complexity seems to increase in future systems. At PI, it is our task to manage this. As in the past, our top priority will be that we create the best and most versatile technology that is easily handled by our users. It is a great engineering challenge that will keep me motivated for years to come. I wish all of you a successful and fun year in 2020 and look forward to meeting and working with you in PI.

Karsten Schneider
PI Chairman

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