The Sharing Industrial Model

As the Internet of Things (IoT) and the Industrial IoT (IIoT) gain traction, Time Sensitive Networks (TSNs) are causing Ethernet networking to evolve, making it fit for the sharing industrial age.

Automating the manufacturing environment is the natural extension to connecting devices via the Internet of Things (IoT). Connected sensors, measurement devices, cameras and meters make up the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), enabling ‘smart’ and automated factory environments.

Among the benefits of the IIoT are improved efficiency, in terms of inventory as well as less down-time if a production line has to change over from manufacturing one product to another. As well as improvements to productivity and asset management, IIoT can improve reliability as optical-based analytics can perform quality checking and assurance and the use of real-time data can be used to compile production schedules that can be managed around the factory. The same data can be used to minimize waste and increase sustainability, with energy or lighting not in use in downtimes or areas that are temporarily unused. Safety can be improved as sensors report where personnel or machinery are in close proximity. Sensors can also highlight any areas that may need maintenance; if it can be carried out before equipment fails, that saves time and cost. The IIoT can also reduce labor costs, to make production plants competitive with low-labor cost countries and regions, and even to bring some manufacturing back to an area from which it had moved due to rising staff costs.

Figure 1: The IIoT relies on low latency, low jitter communication to improve reliability and efficiency (Picture: Automobile production © DEPRAG SCHULZ GMBH U. CO.)

IIoT Needs Bandwidth
Businesses from agriculture to manufacturing, and from software integrators to microprocessor vendors, are embracing the IIoT. Analyst firm Markets and Markets predicted that it will see a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 7.89 percent between 2016 and 2022 and that the IIoT market will be worth nearly $200 billion by the end of that period.

For all of this data from sensors, optical systems, and analytical systems to come together in a single network will take more than the existing Ethernet Local Area Networks (LANs) used in factory environments today.

The ‘smart factory’ has increasing requirements for real-time data from sensors and optical data, as well as for analytics as part of the IIoT. This increases the amount of networking traffic in a time-sensitive network, where data has to be delivered securely with minimal latency and without increasing the processing load.

“The IIoT requires convergence and interoperability between IT systems and end control systems,” said Todd Walter, Chief Marketing Manager, National Instruments. Interoperability is critical to ensure that all the data collected is accessible by operators and managers for control and access to analytics for decision making. Control data and IT traffic have to share the network, points out Walter, which has led to different vendors working to ensure that nodes on the network interoperate correctly. Today’s factory environments, for example, may include video data as well as monitoring data. This level of data could saturate a network, leading to missed packets of data, which can introduce errors and/or increase latency. The solution, says Walter, is a Time Sensitive Network (TSN).

Time Sensitive Network (TSN)
TSN, or IEEE 802.1Q, is being developed by the IEEE’s Time Sensitive Network Task Group. It is the Ethernet standard that defines the distributed time synchronization, low latency and convergence characteristics for deterministic messaging on standard Ethernet. It allows for data to be sent every millisecond but in a deterministic and protected way. It sends data from one point to another in a fixed, predictable timeframe. Using time scheduling minimizes jigger for real-time applications in the manufacturing, transportation, aerospace, automotive, and utilities sectors, where deterministic communication is needed for increased levels of connectivity. The predictability increases efficiency and allow time-synchronized, low latency data streaming over a distributed network for real-time control and communication. It also means that components can be added without altering either the network or equipment.

TSN allows users to synchronize devices without the need for signal-based synchronization to schedule traffic. Also made possible by TSN is the deterministic transfer of data to meet the demands of low latency and minimal jitter of closed-loop control applications, such as process and machine control.

Many suppliers are investing in supporting TSN for the IIoT. At Ni Week 2016, National Instruments (NI) introduced an early access technology platform for TSN, developed with Cisco and Intel. Today, suppliers are building the TSN for Flexible Manufacturing Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) testbed. The testbed is located at the NI headquarters in Austin, Texas. A second testbed is at a Bosch facility in Germany.


This year, NI announced that it has released two multi-slot Ethernet chassis that introduce time-based synchronization to advance TSN. The cDAQ-9185 and cDAQ-9189 are four- and eight-slot Ethernet chassis that provide synchronization with TSN and improve scalability of the distributed systems. They have an operating temperature range of -40 to +70 degree Celsius, shock resistance up to 50g and vibration resistance up to 5g, for operation in harsh environments.

Microprocessor Support
A large part of the IIoT is data mining to track goods and personnel, manage inventory, and reduce energy and material waste. For this reason, microprocessor vendors are also investing in the ecosystem for Ethernet protocols and networking.

At this year’s SPS IPC Drives, in Nuremberg, Germany, Renesas Electronics announced the RZ/NI microprocessor solution kit , which is based on its RZ/N1S microprocessor to help developers reduce the time spent in integrating industrial Ethernet protocols and to accelerate industrial Ethernet development.

The microprocessor integrates an Arm® Cortex®-A7 core, with 6-Mbyte of Static Random Access Memory (SRAM) in either a 324-pin or 196-pin Low Profile Fine Ball Grid Array (LFBGA) measuring 15 x 15mm and 12 x 12mm respectively. The microprocessors reduce the peripheral component count for Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs) and Human Machine Interface (HMI) applications in industrial equipment.

Figure 3: Renesas aims to reduce industrial Ethernet integration with the RZ/NI microprocessor solution kit.

The kit (Figure 3) has hardware and software to prototype EtherCAT, EtherNET/IP and other Ethernet protocols. The company claims that it can reduce network protocol integration development time by up to six months.

The kit includes sample applications, development tools, drivers and evaluation versions of the protocol stacks.

The kit’s Central Processing Unit (CPU) development board is based on the processor and is accompanied by a software package that includes all the drivers, middleware, sample protocol stacks, U-Boot and Linux-based Board Support Package (BSP). To develop the industrial Yocto-based Linux OS, there are instructions provided in the kit to build file systems. Developers can use Express Logic’s ThreadX industrial grade Real-Time Operating System (RTOS) for the applications sub-system as well as Linux. The former is designed specifically for deeply embedded, real-time applications and has scheduling, communication, synchronization, timer, memory management and interrupt management that can be used to suit the project’s requirements and to support industrial Ethernet protocols.

There are also communications software and tools to generate C-code header files to ease pin configuration to further reduce development time.

Texas Instruments is also working on ways to make Ethernet connection more streamlined and has added the weight of its SimpleLink platform to that end.

It has introduced the SimpleLink MSP432 Ethernet microcontrollers, to reduce automation gateway development time (Figure 4).


Figure 4: Bridging the wired and wireless worlds of an industrial Ethernet network, the SimpleLink MSP432 microcontrollers are from Texas Instruments.

The microcontrollers are based on the Arm Cortex-M4F with an integrated Media Access Controller (MAC), PHY (physical layer), Universal Serial Bus (USB), Controller Area Network (CAN) and cryptography accelerators for secure end-to-end communications.

Using the microcontroller’s integrated serial interfaces, developers can combine wired communications with wireless connectivity technology options, such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Sub-1 GHz to connect end nodes to the cloud, using the SimpleLink Software Development Kit (SDK).

The microcontroller is application code compatible with the wired and wireless Arm microcontrollers in the company’s portfolio. The same code base can be used for end node and intelligent gateways, saving rework and building on legacy blocks in the industrial network. Networks can mix wired and wireless technology, as the SimpleLink wireless microcontrollers can be used in gateways that are added to existing wired installations. Up to 50 secure sensor nodes can be connected to a single gateway that uses the microcontroller as a central management console. The console processes data and transfers it to the Cloud via the Ethernet network. Operators can access real-time data to monitor and manage activity in a factory setting, mixing wired and wireless components on the network without interruption.

The MSP432 microcontrollers are in mass production now. As part of the SimpleLink platform, there is an accompanying development kit, the MSP432E401Y MCU LaunchPad™ development kit (MSP-EXP432E401Y).

As the ecosystem for the IIoT grows and as the Ethernet standard evolves to take into account the increased data usage and real-time data demands, the growth of the IIoT looks set on a steady course to increase productivity and efficiency.

Caroline Hayes has been a journalist covering the electronics sector for more than 20 years. She has worked on several European titles, reporting on a variety of industries, including communications, broadcast and automotive.

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