By Ruud van den Brink • Product Manager for Industrial Communications • TE Connectivity
Industry 4.0 is all about enhancing efficiency and productivity. Part of these improvements can be realized in a more optimized communication infrastructure in industrial networks.
Modern-day industrial automation systems are complex. Different layers in the network use different communication standards. A mix of Ethernet, industrial Ethernet, fieldbus and analog communication is used today, creating a communication infrastructure that is not fully transparent. This interoperability challenge makes it difficult to make data-driven decisions about machines and factory operations in real time.
Now there is a solution: using Single Pair Ethernet (SPE) with existing Ethernet and industrial Ethernet on the network edge. SPE technology enables the network infrastructure to be IP-based and fully transparent, eliminating the need for expensive gateways that reduce transparency and add delays to communication.
SPE found its roots in the automotive industry, triggered by the growing amount of communication nodes in a car network and the corresponding demand on data. Now, it’s finding its way into the industrial space for the same reasons: the need for transparent communication, space savings, high-performance and shared-weight solutions.
SPE replaces communication technologies on the network edge, part of the industrial network not serviced by Ethernet today. This means that SPE connectivity solutions are targeted for this application and configured differently than Ethernet solutions.
SPE uses a single signal pair rather than 2 or 4 pairs, reducing the size of cables, improving flexibility, and requiring fewer contacts for the interface. This simplicity reduces overall costs. In addition, SPE also addresses typical industrial specifications, including requirements like a 10Mbps connection, 1-kilometer reach, and a high-power, single-cable solution — requirements not covered in current Ethernet standards.
SPE enables transparent IP communication from the sensor to the cloud, eliminating communication barriers and increasing network transparency. Combined with a reduced cost and complexity, it provides a flexible solution complementing existing Ethernet solutions used in an industrial network.
As industry trends move toward smarter and more autonomous solutions, SPE technology will serve as an important complement to existing Ethernet technology and the myriad of devices that continue to connect to the IIoT network. Meeting these demands that shape tomorrow requires integrating SPE into the industrial space today. DW