The significance of industrial networking for the IIoT

The Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) focuses on the role of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) in industrial networking.

By Dr. Michael Hilgner January 11, 2019

Industrial networking connects devices and systems and is critical to the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). Application and deployment considerations—along with existing and emerging technology options—adds complexity to network planning and technology selection according to the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) white paper “Industrial Networking Enabling IIoT Communication.”

When trying to understand and resolve networking issues, consider:

  1. Future IIoT scenarios high-level descriptions of requirements and design considerations can vary by industry.
  2. Various standards can apply and help.
  3. The IIC is developing a technical document, the Industrial Internet Networking Framework (IINF). The core element of the document will be a conceptual toolbox designed to provide guidance for selecting the appropriate network infrastructure (see Figure 1).

The Networking Task Group (NTG), a sub-group under the IIC’s Technology Working Group, is responsible for the three lower layers of the Industrial Internet Communication Stack as defined in the Industrial Internet Connectivity Framework (IICF), which are identical to the lower three layers of the OSI model: Physical layer, (data) link layer, and network layer.

In industrial automation, these layers are impacted by the transition from traditional field buses to Ethernet-based protocols. Such industrial Ethernet technologies are defined by international user groups such as Profibus Profinet International, ODVA (Ethernet/IP), the EtherCAT Technology Group, the Ethernet Powerlink Standardization Group and the CC-Link Partner Association (CLPA). Some technologies use standard Ethernet without modifications to layers 1 and 2 of the foundational IEEE 802.3 standard, whereas others define deviations in the data link layer.

These Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) standards define the physical layer and data link layer’s media access control (MAC) of wired Ethernet. A set of common and technology-specific definitions is made available through the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) 61158 and IEC 61784-5 series.

Companies implementing software stacks for these technologies or gateways to exchange data between them or between industrial Ethernet network and fieldbus segments need to follow the definitions by the user groups—especially those for the application layer. The emergence of the IIoT and the possibility to perform advanced analytics in higher-level IT systems have led the demand for interfaces providing access to additional data. Furthermore, for the sake of quick and reliable operational technology/information technology (OT/IT) integration, there is a request for standardized semantics, which is often implemented through an additional “user layer” performing the conversion to a rich data model.

Dr. Michael Hilgner, manager consortia and standards, TE Connectivity Germany GmbH, works on international standardization activities and industrial user groups in the areas of industrial networks, fieldbuses and cabling systems. For the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC), a CFE Media content partner, he leads the smart manufacturing connectivity for Brown-field Sensors Testbed, and contributes to several Industrie 4.0 working groups. Edited by Emily Guenther, associate content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media,


KEYWORDS: Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT),

Industrial Internet of Things’ (IIoT’s) role in industrial networking.

The Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) is developing a technical document to provide guidance for selecting the appropriate network infrastructure.

There is demand for streamlined semantics to help with operations technology/information technology (OT/IT) integration.

Consider this:

Are you aware of the proper network architecture for an Industrial Internet Networking Framework (IINF)?


See IIC’s white paper, “Industrial Networking Enabling IIoT Communication,” for more information.

Author Bio: Manager consortia and standards, TE Connectivity Germany GmbH