Industry 4.0 – Interoperability & Time Sensitive Networking

Industry 4.0 – Interoperability & Time Sensitive Networking


Traditional automation systems have always
seen the PC, PLC and the RTUs as the central part of the system. However, today’s connected world and the
fourth industrial revolution demand the network to become the backbone, for better delivery
of value and savings to the end-users. OPC UA has addressed the interoperability
challenges at the higher layers. However, when it comes to the field level
and at the sensor level, there have been up to 30 different networks, designed by different
companies from different parts of the world. They are in wide use today and they create
a number of information islands. Just like we use the English language as a
common medium of communication, we need a common network. Choosing one of the 30 options available today
is going to be an advantage for a few and a disadvantage for many. Inventing a new network is also not an option
unless it offers something significantly new as people will always have an inertia to switch. This is where TSN (Time Sensitive Networking)
comes into the picture. After the 1990s, Ethernet and TCP/IP became
the de-facto standard for communication in the office network. But unfortunately, they had their shortcomings
when it came to the machine world. Machines expected deterministic communication,
and TCP/IP and Ethernet by design could not do that. Every attempt made by the companies in the
machine world to address this challenge in a standard manner resulted in the creation
of a new so-called-standard, complicating the very issue they tried to address. Something big had to happen and help came
from an unrelated market – the ‘Audio Video Broadcasting’ industry. Ethernet technology was invented by XEROX
in the 1970s and it was maintained by IEEE under two standards 802.1 and 802.3 from the
1980s. Traditionally ‘Audio Video Broadcasters’
were using analog point-to-point cables for designing Live Concerts. They felt that it was rather complicated and
expensive. In 2009, they began exploring ways to simplify
streaming through the use of the Ethernet cable. They started an initiative to upgrade the
Ethernet standard as they wanted time bound delivery of packets for high quality audio
and video transmission. Automotive and Industrial groups saw that
they had similar use-cases and joined this project in 2012 and the working group name
for this project was changed from Audio Video Broadcasting to Time-Sensitive Networking
(TSN). Today, everyone sees OPC UA including TSN
as the only way for machines to talk to each other (M2M) and talk to cloud (M2C). This is a major breakthrough for innovation,
and this will change the way technologies like digital twin, blockchain, AI and AR will
impact our lives. In the future, apart from smart factories,
TSN & 5G will also enable use-cases like driverless cars, drone deliveries, smart utilities, smart
buildings and smart supply chain management.

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