‘Single-pair Ethernet is a new and forward-looking cabling solution’--Simon Seereiner, an expert in Industrial Ethernet solutions at Weidmüller, explains why a new standard for cabling is urgently req
Why will a new standard for cabling be required in the future?
Let's take the automotive sector as an example – it can be used as a good model for industry. Cabling already accounts for most of a vehicle's weight, and the proportion is set to rise if self-driving vehicles take off. Because then vehicles will need even more sensors and electrical connectivity in order to be able to drive. This means that the sector is facing the prospect of enormous data volumes, for which it requires an infrastructure that can achieve a lot with as little cable as possible. The situation for industry is similar. This is because rising numbers of smart end devices around the world due to digitalisation will make networking increasingly complex. In real terms this means that smaller and lighter cable routes will be installed in machinery and equipment. The price will also fall because less material needs to be installed.
Can you explain in more detail?
It is already apparent that because of these trends, conventional Ethernet bus systems will only be able to meet the future requirements of automation technology in industrial applications to a limited extent. Digitalisation means that the number of devices will increase even more in the future. Current cabling solutions are no longer adequate for these requirements. Demands have risen particularly sharply in industrial applications, where large numbers of sensors are often installed in very small spaces. One major technical problem, for example, is the need for space, because decentralised, modular control and sensor systems usually do not have enough space for complex cabling.
What are the benefits of single-pair Ethernet technology in this regard?
Previous solutions require two (Fast Ethernet) or four (Gigabit Ethernet and above) cable pairs, while single-pair Ethernet only requires one. This development was driven by demand from the automotive industry, but interest in this technology is also growing in the field of automation. The simple arrangement, and the associated reduction in weight, space required and installation work, are very appealing to plant manufacturers. The technology also offers a number of benefits in smart building networks, which connect automation, illumination and other control and actuator networks with each other. In addition to data, single-pair Ethernet technology can provide up to 60 watts of power at the PSE (Power Source Equipment). This guarantees the economical, sustainable and consistent networking of a large number of end devices – from the device interface to the active networking of smart devices, from building systems and technology to sensors in the field.
What challenges do you currently see when it comes to its application?
There is still no standardisation for single-pair Ethernet technology and the associated connector system. Standardisation is however advantageous in an industrial setting in particular. The main focus here is on establishing a uniform and application-independent plug-in connector profile for the entire field. There are currently different approaches being followed, and we back the solution of building on established variants. We are working in this regard in a consortium with other partners in order to introduce a uniform standard. This standard will ultimately also benefit customers and the market as a whole.
Are you already in a position to present initial products and solutions?
We have used a technology demonstrator to show that the cabling and measurement technology works and meets the requirements of industry. Single-pair Ethernet is a new and forward-looking cabling solution for industrial applications.