Optimize cable’s role in the Industrial Internet of Things

Cover story: Internet of Things (IoT) is influencing the future of industrial automation with continuing convergence of information, automation, and operations systems (OS) in the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). With faster Ethernet speeds, cabling system integrity is more important, and cabling certification can help.

By Mark Knebusch June 6, 2015

Industrial automation will soon make up the majority of the installation base for devices connected to the Internet of Things (IoT). With forecasts of more than 60 billion Internet-connected devices within the next 10 years, the importance of industrial Ethernet is becoming more apparent. This is part of the June Control Engineering cover story on Industry 4.0 and Industrial Internet of Things to help make smarter factories.

For factory, industrial, and plant professionals, the on-going convergence of information and automation and operations technologies ultimately leads to more efficient communications, which can decrease labor costs and improve supply chain management. As the industrial channel continues to adopt the IoT concept, faster machines requiring more bandwidth are necessary.

Ethernet media with a variety of industrial protocols is the primary method for networking future IIoT initiatives. More facility managers are replacing fieldbuses with Ethernet entirely in an effort to accommodate the IIoT. With more connected devices and more information being transmitted, more is demanded of network cabling resulting in a greater impact if commissioning is delayed, or transmission is unreliable.

Cabling standards

Key organizations that govern standards for cabling include the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA), International Organization for Standardization (ISO), and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), and each is gearing up for faster speeds.

Increasing network frequencies mean impedance, crosstalk, and other parameters are more critical. More care will be required when choosing media vendors and cable installers.

The evolution of the TIA 568 cabling standards illustrates the rise in speeds as a result of increased demands on networks. While Category-5e cable (100 MHz) is common, increasingly Cat-6 (250 MHz) and -6A (500 MHz) are being installed in industrial applications. Category-8 cable (2,000 MHz), which will be widely used by data center applications, is currently in draft mode and is expected to be finalized as a new standard.

Smarter, faster factories

To accommodate the increase of IIoT devices coming online, factory automation systems need to adapt. The latest control systems have the ability to promote greater interoperability on the factory floor, providing more flexibility, faster response, better real-time data, and greater control over networked manufacturing equipment. This means physical media must stay ahead of industry standards, as it tends to stay unchanged longer than PCs, servers, etc. When pushing for automation affected by the IoT, cabling system designs and installations are more critical now in an effort to accommodate the higher network speeds of tomorrow.

IIoT increases network needs

Ensuring cabling systems are up to the task of managing all devices and control systems integrated within a factory automation infrastructure is paramount for optimal performance. By adopting efforts made by commercial cable installers, the industrial channel can reduce issues when connecting more devices. In anticipation of a heavier load and stress as a result of the IIoT, certification of all cabling is encouraged. Certifying a cable requires advanced testers that can adapt to rapidly changing standards. Each test can collect nearly 200,000 data measurements including resistance, crosstalk, return loss, and propagation delay.

The future of industrial automation is clearly affected by the IoT. With increased Ethernet speed, cabling systems become more important. By first ensuring the cabling is certified, the IIoT can be more effectively optimized.

– Mark Knebusch is the vice president of marketing for Softing Inc.; edited by Mark T. Hoske, content manager, CFE Media, Control Engineering, mhoske@cfemedia.com

Key concepts

  • Greater emphasis on IIoT increases the need for reliable networks.
  • Standards and cable testing can help increase reliability.

Consider this

Can your networks handle anticipated increases in information flow related to IIoT optimization? 

ONLINE extra

See "Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and Industry 4.0 webcast: Overview and practical advice for today." 

More about Softing

Softing Inc. is a provider of industrial communication products and technologies for manufacturing and process automation. Mark Knebusch is vice president of marketing for Softing, in Knoxville, Tenn. In May 2014, Softing AG acquired Online Development Inc. (OLDI), www.softing.us.

Click here for more information from the Industry 4.0 and IIoT June Control Engineering cover story.