Digital network: With 20 million nodes, Profibus is now mainstream technology

Profibus Trade Organization (PTO) general assembly in Scottsdale, AZ, earlier this month took as its theme “20 million,” commemorating that many installed nodes world-wide, as of April 2007.


Scottsdale, AZ —The Profibus Trade Organization (PTO) general assembly in Scottsdale, AZ, earlier this month took as its theme “20 million,” commemorating that many installed nodes world-wide, as of April 2007. Organizers made the point that the Profibus digital industrial network, and by implication fieldbus technology in general, should now be considered mainstream for general applications.

Examining the total installed base of fieldbus platforms at the end of 2006, Profibus claims a 46% market share by node count. For purposes of that count, the PTO includes platforms that cover the same instrumentation level, specifically Interbus, DeviceNet, CCLink, Ethernet, Foundation Fieldbus, Profibus DP, and Profibus PA. All of these platforms are also growing, according to PTO. Specifically not included for various technical reasons are Profinet Ethernet protocol, HART, Modbus, AS-i, CANopen, and others.

In early 2004, the installed base of Profibus devices had passed 10 million, and PTO predicted it would double within four years, so the 20 million level passed ahead of schedule. The growth rate continues to climb, and if it maintains the current trajectory the organization projects the 30 million node milestone could be passed as early as March, 2009. Node counts are compiled through ASIC production that is subject to royalty agreement and must be reported by participating vendors.

PTO executive director Michael Bryant estimates that when all the instrumentation and peripheral equipment to support those networks are included, the total market value for those 20 million nodes exceeds $50 billion.

While node counts are useful for organizations like PTO to judge success, what do they mean to an end user? “Anyone who still thinks fieldbus technology is experimental and sticks with hard wiring is missing a huge opportunity,” says Bryant. “The numbers should tell an end user that fieldbus technology is mainstream. It is operating today in all types of plant environments. If you need proof, consider that there were 3.4 million Profibus nodes installed in 2006 alone. Profibus is the world’s largest fieldbus organization with more than 1,400 members. We have 25 regional organizations around the world and 35 competence centers. Right now a user can choose from more than 2,500 individual devices with Profibus connectivity. The ultimate operational and diagnostic benefits for end users are well documented and available through our organization.”

For more on networks from Control Engineering , read:

Product Research: Industrial Networking

Peter Welander , process industries editor, Control Engineering Weekly News

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