“Communication” is the backbone of Industrial Automation”

 Manufacturers over the years have invested billions in installing smart systems and machines in a bid to mechanize discrete production tasks and continuous processes. These systems included automatic control and operation management platforms that allowed industries to run, observe and optimize OT performance while maximizing capital asset utilization efficiently. The link that facilitates communication between the IT and the OT systems in an organization are the industrial communication technologies.  These technologies have helped to reduce cost, latency and production cycle time, and data collection errors. 

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Around the world. Mobile technologies and the IoT are ruling the present advances of top industrial companies globally. Industrial automation is more than just communication technologies like Wi-fi or other low-frequency systems


The key to efficient IIoT in automation, manufacturing and information technology is a consistent, high-performance communication and connectivity network. Only a robust and flexible communication system can help machines talk to one another, collect, collate, analyze and report on the data you need. The physical assets in industrial operations, which gather and allow the broadcast of data – cables, patch cords, switches, sensors, connectors, etc. – that endure exacting settings and high-performance expectations is what Industrial Ethernet is all about.


What is industrial Ethernet?

Industrial Ethernet can be considered the backbone that joins all portions of a manufacturing enterprise – from the commercial office to the shop floor to distant sites. These systems offer both Internet and enterprise connectivity, whenever and wherever required.


Industrial Ethernet is growing faster than ever before and now accounts for 38% of the market.

Ethernet/IP holds the 1st place in industrial Ethernet globally, followed by Profinet. However, typical field buses still control the fragmented bio-sphere of manufacturing networks while Profibus is one of the most extensively used industrial network. Moreover, the Internet of Things (IoT) is driving wireless technologies.

Growing Fieldbus market: Considering the newly fit nodes within factory automation globally, field buses still hold the top spot with 58% of the market share. Fieldbuses are still rising by roughly 7% a year since users look for a simple, traditional and reliable network. The 3 leading Fieldbus vendors are Profibus with 17%, Modbus with 7% and CC-link with 6% of the total world market including industrial Ethernet.  EtherCAT continues to create a noteworthy name for itself with industries showing early signs of adopting CC-Link IE Fieldbus.  


Digitization has steered in dramatic changes right from network architecture i.e. network design to their planned usage and how they are installed across industries. That is because the traditional network approaches have reached the end of their tether whether it is managing the ever-increasing number of devices or customers, their persistent appetite for bandwidth, and the increasingly complex nature and safety fears in today’s connected world.


 From an industrial automation point of view, here are a few interrelated trends that will shape the networking scene in 2017

Major Network Trends:

1.Wide Area Network Restructure: Many companies have been shifting their applications to the cloud storage while making significant changes to their WAN design. The old-style demilitarized sectors at their data centers will be improved, and in a few cases substituted, by PoP i.e. point of presence accommodated in co-location services. This means companies would no longer have to backhaul traffic meant for the cloud service to the data center and then to the Internet.


2.Gigabit Wi-Fi enters the next stage: Though Wi-fi has been in use for some time, the technology enters the next phase of WAVE 2 Wi-Fi – true Gigabit, though it has been rarely used till now.  This year expect this trend to change drastically.

Reasons like a growing demand for high-speed Wi-Fi, the increasing number of Wave 2-enabled movable devices like the laptop computers, tablets, smartphones and options like Bring-your-own-Device (BYOD) and the all-wireless office, will thrust the implementation of Gigabit Wi-Fi and the demand for Multi-User MIMO WAVE 2-enabled AC entree points.


3.Network Functions Virtualizations in Enterprise:  Virtualization is a trend right now. Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) will spread from service providers to the enterprise – starting in the branch. This technology will allow those cutting-edge network teams with a host of branches deliver, chain and scale branch network services more easily.


4. The Age of the Internet of Everything:  IoT will become more widely used in the operational technology (OT) part of the organization.  Recent surveys predict a massive growth of the IoT industry in the next couple of years.  The number of devices per person is set to increase to 3.5 with a total of 33 billion connected devices worldwide by 2020.


5. Diverse Wireless Family: The growth of the Internet of Things(IoT) will involve the growth and implementation of alternate radio protocols and wireless machinery. Though the current 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi, as well as Bluetooth technologies, play a significant role in digitization, they are unable to meet the demands when it comes to real-time applications, such as in Industry 4.0, and power consumption as most IoT devices will run on batteries. Foremost among radio standards will be low-energy technologies such as Bluetooth Low Energy, ZigBee and Z-Wave along with the new long-range, low-bandwidth Wi-Fi standard by the IEEE, 802.11ah (Wi-Fi HaLow).  BLE can run on a small battery for years. ZigBee and Z-Wave are also low-energy consumption technologies. All of them are low-bandwidth technologies, which confines their application to simple devices like motion sensors, smart light bulbs or other simple smart-home functionalities.  


6. SDN Changes Outside of Data Center: Traditional network architectures today are facing larger trials and advanced complications and they have become cumbersome, where the installation is time intensive and prone to error. The kernels of SDN i.e. software-defined networking have quickly becomes a part of data centers and now are moving to the Wide Area Network. You can look forward to SDN being used for both wired and wireless environments.  


  Gartner, ventures that 30 percent of enterprises will install SD-WAN technologies by 2019. Other industry analysts like IHS Markit are positively forecasting implementation rates of 60% and higher.


7. Programming Transfers from Device to Regulator: While device-level automation is the basis for maintainable mechanical networking, there will be more emphasis on moving to regulator-based programmability. This will enable further simplification, scalability, and sophistication of the network. Most of the innovations in programming will happen at the regulator level with a direct effect on the facilities navigating the network instead of single devices.


Forbes forecasts that “security will drive almost every decision”. Additionally, network security will be the chief “driver for SDN adoption” in the 2017 edition of its annual “What to Expect from Networking”


 You Can Change the Game

There are as many opportunities as pitfalls for industrial networking. With everything being digitized, it will augment the growth, usage, and acceptance of new technologies while taking productivity to a new and unfamiliar level. Yet, it will make industries more prone to security threats that will create a demand for completely new network design concepts and management. Whether it is new low-energy technologies for IoT and IoE, Gigabit speed in wireless environments, dependable infrastructure solutions with a “backdoor-free” guarantee, or a complete SDN- and cloud-based network management solution on the market the solutions will be available, you only need to take it. It is your decision to change the game this year.