Ethernet grows but Fieldbus is alive and well!

Ethernet is on the rise and is growing faster than Fieldbus, but overall Fieldbus usage is still greater than Ethernet.

12/09/2011


Another year of information gathering is concluding with the issue of the communications reports. Ethernet, in its various guises continues to increase its share of the market. Just looking around at the publicity and products on view at exhibitions might lead you to believe that it will swamp the market in a few years and fieldbuses will be consigned to the history books. My view is that this will not happen; the evidence for a wholesale switch to Ethernet based technologies is not there. Sure a few companies have seen good growth, I don’t doubt that but node-for-node, Ethernet will gain a few per cent share over the next 5 years.

Figure 1 shows for fieldbuses and Ethernet based protocols, the number of nodes estimated to have been installed in industrial automation networks in 2010 worldwide. At first glance it seems that fieldbuses are expected to forge ahead but in fact their share of the total market is falling.

Figure 1 shows for fieldbuses and Ethernet based protocols, the number of nodes estimated to have been installed in industrial automation networks in 2010 worldwide. At first glance it seems that fieldbuses are expected to forge ahead but in fact their sh

Figure 2 shows the forecast growth rates for 2011 to 2015 and these clearly show that Ethernet growth will slow only a little till 2014 then start to show signs of levelling off. Over the same period the fieldbus growth rate is expected to fall each year, picking up a little in 2015.

Figure 2 shows the forecast growth rates for 2011 to 2015 and these clearly show that Ethernet growth will slow only a little till 2014 then start to show signs of levelling off. Over the same period the fieldbus growth rate is expected to fall each year,

It may come as a surprise to some people that fieldbuses are still growing as fast as they are but there are several reasons why this might be.

  • Ethernet has yet to make an impact at field level; despite high growth rate being reported, the actual numbers are low when compared to nodes connected at control and supervisory level. Ethernet is frequently seen as over complex for use at field level as well as adding extra cost to the device. There are a lot of devices at field level!
  • Fieldbuses are generally much simpler to use.
  • Fieldbuses were in common use 20 years before Ethernet was considered seriously for industrial use, hence there are a lot of legacy systems and the associated knowledge base.
  • New “non-Ethernet” communication technologies and enhancements to existing ones are being added to the list all the time, e.g. I/O Link, AS-Interface, USB, FireWire etc. Some industries have their own favourites: machine vision has CameraLink and CoaXpress; building automation has BACnet and LonWorks.
  • There are many proprietary communication technologies in use today. This is particularly true in Asia, especially Japan, where the adoption of Ethernet in industry has been slow. 

Profile photo of John Morse, a senior analyst for IMS Research. Courtesy: IMS ResearchSo in conclusion; Ethernet grows but fieldbus is alive and well! All the signs are that this will continue for the foreseeable future. Ethernet and its many variants is another story, subject to its own set of rules and trends. Watch this space for the next exciting chapter!



No comments
The Engineers' Choice Awards highlight some of the best new control, instrumentation and automation products as chosen by...
The System Integrator Giants program lists the top 100 system integrators among companies listed in CFE Media's Global System Integrator Database.
The Engineering Leaders Under 40 program identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
This eGuide illustrates solutions, applications and benefits of machine vision systems.
Learn how to increase device reliability in harsh environments and decrease unplanned system downtime.
This eGuide contains a series of articles and videos that considers theoretical and practical; immediate needs and a look into the future.
Intelligent, efficient PLC programming: Cost-saving programming languages are available now; Automation system upgrades; Help from the cloud; Improving flow control; System integration tips
Smarter machines require smarter systems; Fixing PID, part 3; Process safety; Hardware and software integration; Legalities: Integrated lean project delivery
Choosing controllers: PLCs, PACs, IPCs, DCS? What's best for your application?; Wireless trends; Design, integration; Manufacturing Day; Product Exclusive
PLCs, robots, and the quest for a single controller; how OEE is key to automation solutions.
This article collection contains several articles on improving the use of PID.
Learn how Industry 4.0 adds supply chain efficiency, optimizes pricing, improves quality, and more.

Find and connect with the most suitable service provider for your unique application. Start searching the Global System Integrator Database Now!

Special report: U.S. natural gas; LNG transport technologies evolve to meet market demand; Understanding new methane regulations; Predictive maintenance for gas pipeline compressors
Cyber security cost-efficient for industrial control systems; Extracting full value from operational data; Managing cyber security risks
Drilling for Big Data: Managing the flow of information; Big data drilldown series: Challenge and opportunity; OT to IT: Creating a circle of improvement; Industry loses best workers, again

(copy 5)