Today's automation devices use a wide variety of different fieldbus systems and real-time Ethernet protocols to communicate on the control and field level. Although most of these fieldbus systems and real-time Ethernet protocols are standardised by IEC (61158/61784 series), many devices are not interoperable with each other. Many of these protocols support different network infrastructures; even if they do support the same infrastructure, they cannot coexist in the same network. Also, device information is structured using different syntax and semantics, making data analysis a labour-intensive and time-consuming task vulnerable to error, especially in multi-vendor and multi-protocol environments.
The trend towards Industry 4.0 and IIoT requires concepts for vendor-independent end-to-end interoperability from sensor to cloud, including field-level devices for all relevant industrial automation use cases, including real-time, motion, security, and safety. A standardised communication protocol from sensor to cloud supports the digital transformation across all industries, including process control and discrete manufacturing. End-users and system integrators benefit from easier Controller integration and cross-vendor Controller-to-Controller interoperability. Seamless access to production data and process conditions facilitates less downtime and optimisation of production processes.
This approach requires standardisation on different levels: semantics and information modelling, application profiles, communication protocols, and data link/physical level connections. An important aspect is the convergence of information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT), allowing a common network infrastructure to be shared by IT and OT traffic while guaranteeing different levels of Quality of Service demanded by diverse IT and OT applications.