PROFINET: Sadly, Not the Industrial Internet's Main Focus
The Industrial Internet, Industrial Internet of Things and Industrie 4.0 are grand and glorious visions which are being realized in more detail every day. Some even see these trends as the logical result of automation’s growth. I would like to see PROFINET as the main focus of these, but, alas, it’s not. Probably rightly so. Instead, the focus of these trends is measurable ROI. Knowing enough about the machines and processes being controlled provides the ability to analyze and improve them.
Of course, PROFINET does have a role to play here. PROFINET provides the data. Not the main focus. Not grand and glorious. But without the data, none of the rest is possible. So I was impressed to see on the GE website this quote from Jeff Immelt, GE Chairman & CEO: “Industrial Internet, an open, global network that connects people, data and machines.” [emphasis added]
How does PROFINET fit into that definition? Moving the data, of course, but let’s also look at “open,” “global” and “connect.”
PROFINET is an open standard, published by the IEC. Any company can use the technology with no licensing costs or burdens. Nor are licensing costs incurred to add the technology to a company’s product. This openness invites innovation and competition. End-users win in this situation: needed products proliferate at competitive costs.
PROFINET is created, maintained, and supported by PI (PROFIBUS and PROFINET International) with 27 Regional PI Associations, 50 PI Competence Centers, 27 PI Training Centers and 10 PI Test Labs. No other industrial Ethernet has this broad geographical footprint.
PROFINET provides a comprehensive Ethernet network backbone for connecting controllers, I/O, drives, vision systems and other automation devices. It provides the data at whatever speed is needed by the process, deterministically, with quality information attached, and arranged in vendor-independent “profiles.”
PROFINET—not front and center in the Industrial Internet (and Industrial Internet of Things and Industrie 4.0), but a vital foundation providing the data needed to analyze and feedback into the process.