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Network advances key as edge devices get incorporated into the IIoT

By Donna Donnowitz
May 6, 2016

The Industrial Internet of Things movement is entering full swing as more companies consider ways they can move data between devices to improve operational efficiency and productivity. This isn't to say that the IIoT is visible everywhere in manufacturing, but it is beginning to emerge as a very real, tangible part of operations. This is especially evident in the edge devices that reside on the outer fringes of your productivity and data network.

A recent Plant Engineering report explained that edge devices - sensors, servo drives, variable frequency drives, valves and monitoring solutions - are playing a growing role in IIoT strategies. Being able to gather data from these sources and, in some cases, program systems to respond automatically to different conditions, is enabling manufacturers to quickly integrate IIoT capabilities into their everyday operational strategies.

Taking advantage of edge devices
According to the news source, the wide array of data points collected by edge devices can be extremely valuable to different processes, making every point of data equally important to the business. This creates a situation in which companies must carefully consider how they are capturing information, how they are moving it to various destinations and how they are controlling different devices on the edges of the network.

"Ethernet is becoming the de facto connectivity ecosystem in industrial settings."

The problem is that many of the devices on the edge of the network, and the controllers that interact with them, use analog communications formats to move data. The report explained that tools within the architecture will eventually shift this analog transmission into digital form, allowing the data to contribute to operations. Ethernet is at the center of these functions.

Using Ethernet to connect edge devices
Specialized networks are still popular in a wide range of industrial settings, but the report said that Ethernet is becoming the de facto connectivity ecosystem as manufacturers explore more diverse, ambitious technology strategies. The key here is to configure the Ethernet network to be able to interact seamlessly with controllers and similar solutions on the network's edge. This is possible through tools that are built into Ethernet systems and can give manufacturers the flexibility they need to use the network protocol across a wide range of functional areas.

Finding success with Ethernet
Industrial Ethernet switches and similar tools are vital when building out networks that must withstand operations within a factory environment. Equipment on your factory floor will be exposed to vibrations, a wide range of temperatures, humidity, dust and similar environmental conditions that can have an adverse impact on electronic devices. This is important when considering the sensors, monitoring devices and similar solutions used in the IIoT, but is especially essential when putting your network into place.

Industrial Ethernet switches are specifically designed to withstand these conditions, making them an ideal option for manufacturers working to develop new IIoT strategies. Hardy, reliable industrial Ethernet systems provide the combination of interoperability and ruggedness that manufacturers need to get devices on the edge of the network involved in the IIoT.

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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