5 places (besides the factory floor) where industrial Ethernet is valuable

Industrial Ethernet switches are proving valuable in a wide range of industries.

By Max Burkhalter
February 11, 2016
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Industrial Ethernet is exciting in its ability to reside on your factory floor where it will be exposed to harsh conditions and still work exactly as it should. It can be left vibrating for hours as heavy machinery shakes the floor, and you won't have problems. It can be exposed to steam, dirt, dust and extreme temperatures, and your network will just keep on going. This ruggedness that is reminiscent to a great action-movie hero make industrial Ethernet switches and related technologies valuable in plenty of places beyond the factory. Five prime locations where the technology can pay dividends include:

1. Raw materials gathering sites
Mines, oil fields and similar locations are foundational for many businesses. As sectors like the oil and gas industry experience a technological renaissance, many organizations are ramping up their data gathering, storage and analysis plans. While these industries have long used specialized operations technologies to support everyday functionality, they are increasingly integrating IT tools with their existing OT systems to integrate analytics capabilities and keep workers in the office connected to those in the field.

These conditions come together to make industrial Ethernet systems invaluable at sites where raw materials are collected. These locations face many of the hardships of a factory floor, and rugged hardware can help organizations keep up with data-related demands through reliable hardware that will hold up to unusual environmental situations.

Raw materials organizations can benefit from industrial Ethernet systems in the field.Raw materials organizations can benefit from industrial Ethernet systems in the field.

2. Utility networks
Smart grid developments are making headway in the utility industry, creating a situation in which many energy delivery solutions depend on the network to provide reliable data transit in locations that may be exposed to harsh conditions. Transformer stations and similar destinations within the power grid require a network connection to take advantage of the intelligence offered by the smart grid, but they often lack the controlled environments needed to house typical network hardware. Furthermore, utility operations must be extremely reliable, secure and capable of holding up in unusual circumstances because power systems are critical to the nation's infrastructure. All of these factors come together to make extremely reliable industrial Ethernet switches a key technology.

3. Some data centers
Most data centers don't need industrial-quality components, but as organizations explore unique ways of operating data centers - such as submerged in controlled chambers, on barges in the ocean of in extremely cold regions with plenty of outside air being piped into the building - they may want to assess the potential benefits of industrial Ethernet systems that can maintain operations in harsh conditions.

Another issue facing data center operators is the temptation to ramp up temperatures in the data center. Many companies have begun stretching temperature thresholds within their data facilities to reduce energy costs associated with keeping chillers operational. As they experiment with these strategies, the envelope for heat thresholds on hardware keeps increasing. Preventing network failure in such environments is critical, and industrial Ethernet systems can be extremely valuable in avoiding problems.

4. Surveillance networks
Making cable runs from telecommunications rooms to surveillance cameras can be extremely expensive, especially when the location of the telecom closet relative to your cameras forces you to invest is particularly complex cabling setups. The situation only gets more complicated if you are trying to connect with cameras at locations like bridges, tollbooths and similar outdoor facilities. Being able to put network infrastructure as close to cameras as possible, such as in protected enclosures on the exterior of a building, goes a long way toward simplifying the network project.

While a good outdoor cabinet will protect your network systems from damage from a direct impact or theft (except in the most extreme circumstances), the hardware will still face extreme temperatures, widely varied environmental conditions, exposure to vibrations and similar issues that are common in a factory. Industrial Ethernet switches ensure your system will remain intact for the long haul.

Surveillance networks often benefit from industrial-class network equipment.Surveillance networks often benefit from industrial-class network equipment.

5. Defense settings
Military units are incredibly dependent on connectivity, and hardware at bases and camps can play an essential part in keeping soldiers in the field safe and informed. The reliability and ruggedness of industrial Ethernet systems are invaluable in these settings. They provide the performance punch needed to ensure data gets where it needs to go without problems, even when the equipment is exposed to harsh conditions. Furthermore, the rugged hardware will be better prepared to be packed up and moved frequently as units break camp and change locations on an ongoing basis.

Data is central to almost any type of organization. The result is a situation in which network connectivity needs to be delivered to a wide range of unconventional locations. Even if wireless connections are an option, wired Ethernet solutions are needed as a backhaul. Because of this, many entities need to put Ethernet switches in harsh environments, making the technology valuable beyond the factory floor.

Perle has over 516 models of Managed Industrial Ethernet Switches with the vast array of options including 10/100/1000 Ethernet, PoE, fiber and combo ports. Perle IDS Industrial-grade Ethernet Switches are ideal for the harsh environments found in industrial factory systems and outdoor applications.


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