Time sensitive networks (TSN) making standard Ethernet deterministic

Time sensitive networks (TSN) making standard Ethernet deterministic

In a recent blog, Schneider Electric considered how TSN Standards will open the door to new levels of industrial productivity. It works by regulating the Layer 2 data communications to make standard Ethernet deterministic.

One of the important benefits of digitisation is the ability to analyse captured data to derive business value and profitability. Yet, until recently there was little priority to capturing and retaining data or using it to drive business value.

In the current era of digitisation and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), most businesses have problems extracting or making use of data. The result is that most of it are either idle or lost.

Obstacles like the lack of openness of hardware technologies and proprietary software are major factors. These and the cost and complexity of data mining and interpreting data have stopped many organisations from making progress. Significantly, most leading automation technology suppliers have been using a multitude of different, incompatible Industrial Ethernet protocols. This is a continuation of what has become known over the years as a “field bus war.”

Since most end users rely on more than one automation supplier to build a solution, the need for cost-effective interoperability and integration is acute.

Importantly, progress on standardising interoperability of the various Ethernet protocols is now happening. It uses Open Platform Communication Unified Architecture (OPC UA) and the expanded use of Time Sensitive Networks (TSN).


Time sensitive network (TSN)

OPC UA is a machine to machine and OT to IT communication protocol designed specifically for industrial automation. TSN is the IEEE 802.1Q standard technology that provides deterministic messaging on standard Ethernet. Its use includes low latency, high availability transmissions like real-time Audio/Video streaming and real-time automotive control.

TSN and the associated joint IEC/IEEE 60802 TSN Profile for Industrial Automation ensure information can travel between two points in the network in a fixed and predictable time. The new IEEE 802.1AS-2020 standard makes it easier for networked devices to meet these requirements across a variety of time-sensitive applications.


Expanding OPC UA to a field device level

Interestingly, the leading global industrial automation technology providers are members of the TSN Working Group collaborating in an open environment. The strength of OPC UA to both access and interpret data is driving the development and deployment of OPC UA. This will provide a universal language across all the areas of the automation to link field level, control level, supervisory level, planning level and management level data. It can then provide the networking framework that supports the expansion of Industry 4.0 / IIoT.

OPC UA has already been successfully tested and implemented in the field to address machine level and process level interoperability. Attention is turning to more robust and open communications from the controller layer down. This includes the field device level (like sensors and actuators), where the storage of much of the data is in silos.

All major automation suppliers are supporting the OPC Foundation sponsored Field Level Communication (FLC) initiative. This initiative goes beyond just exchanging data between different types of automation equipment. It will also standardise the configuration, management and diagnosis of automation devices and actuators.

Companies like Schneider Electric are helping OEMs and end-users to recognise the value of the new OPC UA and TSN standards with its open EcoStruxure Plant & Machine architecture.


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