IHS Industrial Ethernet Market
quote start Among the companies with a network in place, the three most-used protocols are IP-based. quote end

Survey: IP-Based Protocols Dominate Today’s Industrial Ethernet Networks

Industrial operators cite IP-based protocols as the three most-used Ethernet protocols

Findings from a new IHS Technology survey reveal that most industrial operators that have implemented an industrial Ethernet network utilize the Internet Protocol (IP) for their industrial control systems, field devices or machinery.

Nearly 70 percent of survey respondents said a wired or wireless industrial network is already implemented at their plant, according to the IHS Technology report, “Mobility and networking in industrial automation: An end user perspective,” that summarized the findings.

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Among the companies with a network in place, the three most popular protocols use IP. This should hardly come as a surprise as IP-addressable devices are considered to be the key enabling force that will help manufacturers and industrial operators capture the value of the Internet of Things in the years to come.

Of the respondents who said they have implemented an industrial network, more than 75 percent said they use Ethernet TCP/IP.

Ethernet TCP/IP is the same protocol used in most office environments for email, business systems and Internet connectivity. It can be useful for applications such as scheduling, data collection and email on the plant floor, but because information delivery is not determined in Ethernet TCP/IP, it has limited benefits in industrial environments, where real-time, deterministic communication is critical.

About 45 percent of respondents said they use the EtherNet/IP. Already establishing itself as a highly used protocol for industrial environments, EtherNet/IP is compatible with all IP and standard Ethernet devices available today for easier data access and exchange. EtherNet/IP implements the Common Industrial Protocol (CIP) at the upper layers of the Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) model, which translates to better communication between automation and control devices for end users.

An engineer in the pharmaceuticals industry interviewed as part of the survey mentioned a unique situation in which EtherNet/IP and a proprietary protocol technology were used side-by-side within a single facility. The proprietary technology was implemented first on the facility’s manufacturing lines, and EtherNet/IP was implemented when new lines were added. The engineer said EtherNet/IP eased connectivity and was more affordable than the proprietary solution, and the facility is expected to completely switch to EtherNet/IP in the coming years.

The third most-used protocol among respondents is Modbus TCP/IP, cited by around 35 percent of respondents. None of the proprietary industrial Ethernet protocols included in the survey exceeded 25 percent. IHS comments “The respondent demographic may have influenced the survey results, as the US was heavily represented in comparison to respondent numbers from EMEA and Asia Pacific. As a result, some of the proprietary technologies are likely to be under represented. However, this is not to deny the strong adoption of IP-based technologies.”

Among the respondents whose companies don’t have an industrial network in place, nearly one-third said they plan to implement a network in the next three years. When asked which Ethernet protocols they plan to use, IP protocols again topped the list. About three-fourths of respondents said they plan to use Ethernet TCP/IP, while slightly more than 40 percent said they expect to use EtherNet/IP, and just less than 30 percent said they plan to use Modbus TCP/IP.

More than half of respondents with an industrial network in place said speed is the top benefit of using Ethernet-based technology over fieldbus-based technology. Network simplification and remote access are the respective second and third top-cited benefits.

That bodes well for Ethernet’s future in the industrial space because respondents said they also consider speed to be the most important attribute when implementing an industrial network. Simplification was cited as the second most-important attribute, while cost came in third.

“Speed of the network and devices is clearly a major factor of importance to users,” the report’s analysis said. “This is no doubt of importance to companies as a whole as well as they seek to minimize downtime and inefficiency to maximize productivity and reduce cost.”

Wireless and Mobility Findings

The survey also provided a snapshot of where industrial operators are today regarding wireless and mobile technology adoption.

Of the respondents with an industrial network already in place, nearly six in 10 said they are also using a wireless network in the industrial environment. About 90 percent of those with wireless networks use Wi-Fi, making it by far the most popular wireless technology. This is “not surprising considering its widespread adoption in consumer markets,” the report said. “It has been proven possible that Wi-Fi could be used reliably in a factory environment if the proper precautions were taken.” For best practices on deploying wireless, see [insert IIPA training landing page]

The No. 1 concern with wireless technologies among those who already have it in place is signal reliability, followed by security and range. Only about one-third of respondents said cost was a concern, ranking it fourth. Yet cost was cited as a concern among more than half of the respondents who said they plan to implement a wireless network in the next three years. The disparity between these two groups could be the perception that wireless networks are costly to implement and/or maintain

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On the mobility side, personal devices (smartphones and tablets) and commercial tablets are the most commonly used devices on the factory floor, followed by company devices and industrialized laptops. As could be expected, email/communications is the top use for mobile devices. More than 85 percent of respondents said they use mobile devices for data collection, while slightly fewer use the devices for on-site visualization and accessing databases.

These findings illustrate that industrial operators are reaping the benefits of key enabling technologies to extract, analyze and share valuable information from their operations. They also show the benefits that wireless and mobile technologies can provide in other applications, such as safety.

For example, mobile/wireless e-stops, as the report pointed out, are intrinsically safe because a production line will immediately stop when the signal is lost. Employee tracking via mobile technology is another example. Industrial operators can use employee tracking to improve plant security, and also as an additional employee-safety measure. Of course, these technologies can only be fully realized if industrial operators’ top wireless concern – signal reliability – is addressed.

Yet this is only a glimpse into how wireless and mobile technologies can improve and reshape industrial environments. Just as we’ve seen tremendous growth of devices in the consumer world to help improve people’s lives – from wearable devices to smart cars and appliances – industrial wireless and mobile capabilities will only increase as the number of devices grows. Those who are adopting the technologies now are reaping the benefits today and positioning themselves to take advantage of an even greater potential in the future.

About the Survey

IHS Technology and IHS GlobalSpec conducted the survey, which included more than 1,000 respondents from around the world. Responses skewed slightly toward the North American market, the report mentioned, as North American respondents accounted for more than one-third of the total response population. As a result, some Asian- and European-favored technologies may have been underrepresented.

Respondents included control engineers, maintenance technicians, corporate management professionals, system architects/designers, purchasers, consultants and IT professionals. More than half of the respondents came from the manufacturing, process or energy industries, while other professions included consultants, machine builders, systems integrators and EPC contractors.

An IHS Engineering360 webinar discussing the survey results and trends in industrial mobility is available online at http://www.globalspec.com/events/eventdetails?eventId=694