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Trends in Network Protocols

The trend in protocols for industrial networks is moving away from vendor-specific solutions.

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Plants are now deploying the best solution for each individual function. “A common trend in utilizing industrial networks is the picking of best-of-breed networks for the application,” says Scott Saunders, vice president of sales and marketing at Moore Industries-International Inc., an automation products supplier in North Hills, Calif. “In prior years, it was quite common for a customer to choose a major automation supplier and leave it up to the supplier to decide and install their proprietary networks.”

Saunders notes that plant engineers now recognize that no one industrial network effectively meets all of their needs. He explains what protocols typically go with individual functions:

•   On/Off valves are usually handled more efficiently with protocols such as AS-interface, DeviceNet or Profibus.
•   Control valves and process transmitters usually are installed with Foundation Fieldbus, Hart Communication Foundation or Profibus PA.
•   Remote input/output (I/O) devices and motor control centers usually incorporate DeviceNet, Modbus RTU, Modbus TCP or Profibus DP.
•   Security, fire protection and even remote data gathering requirements are usually installed with wireless technologies such as frequency hopping spread spectrum. They are usually proprietary and encrypted—or even over standard but encryption-capable Wi-Fi (Wireless Fidelity) networks.

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