ARC attended the ODVA annual meeting and conference February 21-23 in Palm Harbor, Florida. Before and after the event ODVA conducted numerous meetings of its working groups and committees. The ODVA defines its mission as advancing “open, interoperable information and communication technologies in industrial automation”. The leading member companies are Rockwell Automation, Schneider Electric, Endress + Hauser, Omron, Bosch Rexroth, and Cisco. These are supplemented by a large ecosystem of other suppliers, system integrators and end users.
The conference sessions focused on ODVA’s growth and prospects in the process industries and on emerging Ethernet technologies. There was a palpable sense that the direction of technology would soon boost ODVA into a number of new applications and greatly expand its use in process industries. Let me explain why.
For years ODVA members have advocated the use of “standard unmodified Ethernet” in industrial applications (in contrast to organizations that took their products beyond IEEE Ethernet standards in order to achieve particular industrial performance metrics). ODVA member companies argued that using “SUE” was the best insurance against technology obsolescence -- that ODVA-based automation systems would be better able to ride the waves of new software and network technologies as they migrate from IT and telecom into industrial automation. They now believe this case is getting stronger, and here are 3 reasons why they are probably right:
First, new markets. The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and especially the efforts to develop intelligent and autonomous vehicles require a 1000x improvement in edge (in-car) network technologies, and only Ethernet has the potential to deliver this. Adoption of advanced technologies by the vast automotive supply chain will deliver a huge boost to these same products in the industrial automation market.
Second, new applications. Automotive Ethernet requirements are driving new network physical layers (“PHYs”), and these same PHYs will also become available -- and inexpensive -- for adoption in industrial automation. One new industrial PHY that is riding this wave, called 10SPE, could vastly expand the reach of Ethernet to field devices in the process industries. This could make the Ethernet network convergence vision reach many new industries with the same influence that has been so powerful in factory automation for years.
Finally, new networks. The developing IEEE “TSN” or time-sensitive networking capability is a perfect fit for ODVA (and for other industrial Ethernet groups as well). But there is more afoot than just TSN. For decades Internet and networked industrial applications have abstracted networks as being “dumb pipes” even though that abstraction has not reflected the underlying reality. In the 5-year horizon, technologies like TSN and software-defined networking (SDN) will bring a new level of both performance, flexibility, and security to automotive and industrial networks. And these networks will employ new types of IEEE “standard unmodified Ethernet”.
Fasten your seat belts. The industrial ride is about to become much more exciting.
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About the Author:
Research Director, Automation
Harry leads ARC research in topics of industrial networks and electric power. He also covers the emerging "Open Process Automation" initiative led by ExxonMobil and The Open Group. Harry also contributes to ARC research in DCS and the Industrial Internet of Things