PROFINET: Feeding the Industrial Internet

The Industrial Internet is a term coined by GE and refers to the integration of complex physical machinery with networked sensors and software, according to Wikipedia.

10.15I read a GE white paper on the topic, The Industrial Internet@Work. It talks about “the economy,” but not about PROFINET. I can’t speak to “the economy,” but I can speak to “PROFINET.” So, what role does PROFINET play in the Industrial Internet? The Industrial Internet encompasses a huge space – from sensors to software. The software might be local or plant-wide; it might even be in the cloud or put information there. All PROFINET does is move data from IO, sensors, actuators, vision systems, drives, and similar devices to a controller and back. Not high profile, but very vital.

In the white paper, the first goal is “Towards Zero Unplanned Downtime.” This is actually a goal that PROFINET really contributes to. Diagnostics is a major benefit of PROFINET and a major differentiator from other Industrial Ethernets. In fact, it is one of the “Four Reasons to Pick PROFINET” as a previous post by that title explains. And diagnostics are the keys to spotting problems before they occur, preventing downtime, and providing rapid troubleshooting when downtime does occur.

PROFINET diagnostics cover devices and the network. PROFINET enables an alert to be issued if there is a problem with an individual sensor’s connection. For example, if an analog input is expected to be between four and 20 milliamps, but the actual signal is two milliamps, there’s a problem. And PROFINET can alert that, providing the chance to fix a problem before bad things happen to production. If a network connection goes down, PROFINET can alert that as well. Even if this results in downtime, PROFINET enables pinpointing the exact location of the fault, speeding repair time.

PROFINET may just be the pipe, but it provides a vital link in the movement of data. And PROFINET enables increased productivity by preventing and reducing downtime.

Carl Henning

Carl has had experience with a machinery maker, a process instrument company, several system integrators, an HMI company, and now with PI North America. He focuses on educating the industrial automation market about PROFINET. Carl blogs about industrial automation, fieldbus, and Industrial Ethernet at

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