The availability of accurate and comprehensive data is critical for the success of Industry 4.0 (I4.0). For this reason, cloud computing and Ethernet connectivity are key enablers for the technology. Ethernet provides the best architecture for the required volume of data flow in real time. Using Ethernet for industrial automation systems could make vast numbers of new sensors accessible to the network. Therefore, it is useful for analysis and decision-making. In addition, it makes all the information from smart sensors available rather than giving a single analogue reading.An industrial Ethernet standard is imminent and is expected to be adopted rapidly. Known as IEEE 802.3CG, this standard is based on Single Pair Ethernet (SPE). This technology offers communications and power transmission for lengths of up to 1000m at speeds of 10 megabits per second.There is just one fly in the ointment: plant instrumentation is traditionally disconnected from Ethernet systems. In computerised plant automation, individual control loops dominate the architecture. Legacy control systems use analogue protocols to communicate with plant instruments. Some optimisation of multiple loops is possible at the central level, but the architecture is built around individual loops.The existing installed base of conventional analogue architecture will not be replaced overnight. System integrators need a transition solution so they can deliver at least some of the benefits of I4.0 without the capital outlay of a complete system overhaul. Let’s explore some of the technical solutions available to bridge the gap between I4.0 systems and plant automation systems.
Read the full article in the July issue of PBSI
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