PI Germany has just wrapped up its first virtual PI Konferenz. The biennial event is a cornerstone for PI in Germany to educate our users and the community about the latest developments and the strategy of our technology portfolio. The four-day conference program included around 70 lectures, 8 workshops, and a podium discussion. Almost 80 experts from a vast range of companies got down into the nitty-gritty about our technologies in their speeches. And our community proved to be very alive and active. Almost 1200 people registered for the event and registration is still ongoing, since all lectures were recorded and are still available to the audience. Certainly: a big advantage of a virtual event.
Panel discussion on the PI Konferenz
Process Goes Digital
The main theme of the event was “Process Goes Digital”, reflecting the fact that Ethernet-APL will hit the market later this year. This is the missing link for PROFINET to cover all areas of Process Automation. So far, PROFIBUS PA was needed for hazardous areas. There was no standardized Ethernet solution to cover the requirements for intrinsic safety. With Ethernet-APL, there will be a 2-wire intrinsically safe solution that can provide power to devices in the field over a long distance. The feedback of end-users in process automation during the conference gave a very optimistic view that PROFINET with Ethernet-APL can replace today’s 4–20mA solutions. Even after decades, they still exist and are widely installed mainly because of their simplicity. Ethernet-APL is the key to innovation and the enabler for the usage of PROFINET in chemical, pharmaceutical, and other process-oriented plants.
Network of the Future
The second important message was about the network of the future. Already a topic of the last conference in 2019, when looking at trends in modern plants – e.g., IIoT, Digitalization, or Industrie 4.0 – the requirements to succeed with digital transformation were discussed. This year we could report on the improvements made towards this goal of providing the network of the future. The presentations circled around two main areas: the basic communication transport layer and the information layer. A future-oriented network like PROFINET needs to adopt new technologies like TSN or 5G. The speakers demonstrated the state of play and what was achieved within the last two years. To make a long story short: PROFINET is well prepared!
Information models, on the other side, are considered to be the enabling piece for achieving your return on investment when implementing digitalization use-cases. In many areas, digital transformation is delayed in its application for real-life business models because getting to the data is just too much effort. Using standardized information models is a way to increase reuse in projects and therefore lower the time and cost. They are a core requirement for a successful implementation. During the conference, we introduced a modular approach in combining PROFINET and OPC UA to fix the issue.
These were just some aspects of the PI Konferenz 2021. Many lectures were given about IO-Link, PROFIsafe, PROFIdrive, and our latest addition omlox as well. For us at PI, it is now the foremost goal to spread the word internationally. Therefore we are already planning international online events and workshops in cooperation with our regional associations. So stay tuned for updates on our technologies and above all, please stay safe and healthy!