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Change is the Essence of Progress

“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes” (Samuel Clemens). We all know quotations like that. Maybe we should say that history doesn’t repeat itself, but people often do… That bring us to the question how to learn the lessons from the past?

Looking back on human history, it is also apparent that there are parallels between civilizations or cultural development and the progress in communication or the ability to exchange information. I would even see the latter as causal.

Solutions for communication and data exchange in the industrial environment: that is what PROFIBUS and PROFINET International (PI) embodies – serving us with sustainable international standards. The latest market studies (see last issue of PROFINEWS 184) have shown that end-users trust the PI technologies across industries, especially PROFINET as a state of the art and future-proof communication technology.

When we look at Process Automation (PA), we come to the conclusion that extensive experience and a deep technological know-how is key, but we learned also that every new communication technology has to undergo an acid test with a focus on compatibility, availability, and maturity for decades.

In the worldwide pursuit of economic growth, profitability, and progress, plant process automation is challenged at every corner. This means that the entire automation infrastructure must not only meet the core requirements but must demonstrate its future sustainability over the next 20 years or sometimes even more. That’s exactly what PI is aiming for. Starting from PROFIBUS-based bus communication to 100% Ethernet-based plant digitalization with PROFINET, this is true no matter if it is a power-, refinery- chemical-plant or an offshore application. With numerous built-in functionalities of the PROFINET standard including:

  • System redundancy (S2 and R1/R2) paired with highly available controllers
  • Self-diagnostics in each communication node, delivered by each network device
  • Any network topology support (line, star, ring, tree)
  • Flexible distance extension (up to several kilometers with fiber optics or wireless) of

the network becomes a solid highly scalable base for any application.

With simplified device replacement (automatic device naming and PA Profile 4), PROFINET moves the next dimension of planning, commissioning and maintenance effectiveness forward. Gone are the days of small data blocks, a limited number of connected devices or inflexible networks. Troubleshooting moves more towards software than to electrical measurement

And that is only the beginning, because the story does not stop here. The next generations of communication are at our doorstep: 5G, 1…50Gbit/s links, WiFi 6, 7, … TSN, etc. They all will support Ethernet-based technology 100%, so PROFINET can take advantage right away. As communication in general becomes more powerful, performance gains are consumed through new/more applications or increased data traffic. But so far, nobody claimed to stop this trend; as long as a 2.2 kHz HART modem on a 4-20 mA wire can still be accessed over 100 Mbit/s PROFINET via proxy like before. The new industry hype named I4.0, IIoT or AI is just a continuation of a change started long ago and actively contributed to by PI and thus it is already addressed within the PROFINET specification. That’s why it doesn’t matter if OPC UA, MQTT, OPC Companion Specifications or NOA shaped PA-DIM data models come around the corner; they all only make sense when there is digital data coming from field devices, sensors, signals, converters, proxies etc. And what are they all connected to? A PROFINET network.

Of major importance to PI is to support existing technologies in cooperation with other bodies using e.g. FDI packages/descriptors. Also important is providing new technologies like Ethernet Advanced Physical Layer on self-powered 2-wires for even hazardous areas. Intelligent proxies or remote I/O devices serve brownfield installations currently using 4-20 mA, PROFIBUS, or HART in a transparent way using PROFINET as a foundation for investment protection. At the same time the PROFINET technology is a real-time protocol open for next generation connectivity supporting alternative data streams or protocols on the same cable like HTTP or OPC UA.

Publicly available white papers, guidelines and specifications with international standard quality, offer knowledge at every level of detail. Every PROFINET labeled device has 100% PROFINET inside – certified and interoperable. That is usability by design.

Without changing anything, nothing will get better – in this sense I wish you many new ideas with PROFINET knowing that it is prepared for the future (no risk) and if you like, we will see you in one of the our workshops.

Joachim Czech
Process Automation Marketing Working Group,

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