|The World Market for Industrial Ethernet & Fieldbus
Ethernet node growth comes largely from fieldbus' share, which itself also is growing.
In 2016, Ethernet nodes in process industries will be nearly double what the level was ending in 2011, according to a new study from IHS/IMS Research entitled, "The World Market for Industrial Ethernet and Fieldbus Technologies – 2013 Edition." It's evident today that the technology increasingly challenges fieldbus for leadership in the industrial networking market.
Industrial Ethernet nodes in process industries are projected to rise to 8.7 million units in 2016, from 4.4 million in 2011. According to the study, this means that industrial Ethernet will account for 45% of networked nodes connected in process industries in 2016, up from 39% in 2011. This growth will come at the expense of fieldbus, itself anticipated to expand by 51% during the same five-year period.
"The process industry is renowned for being slow to adopt new technology," said Tom Moore, analyst for industrial Ethernet and fieldbus technologies at IHS. "However, in some key areas, industrial Ethernet adoption is beginning to overtake fieldbus as the mainstream networking technology."
A good example within the process sector, reports Moore, is safety. Although not always driven by compulsory legislation, process safety systems — i.e., safety integrated systems — are updated regularly by companies that want to ensure operator safety and maximize line uptime. This shorter lifecycle means that new technologies can break into the market more quickly and are easier to implement, given greater opportunity for refreshing the network upon refitting.
Better Be Connected
"There is also a move to greater connectivity," Moore continued. "Networking is becoming more of a commodity, which means that remote monitoring and control are more accessible. This is also true of discrete automation."
Process components and systems, such as remote terminal units and distributed control systems, are already widely networked. Approximately 95% of new-unit shipments are projected to be network enabled in 2016, up from 90% in 2011. "The increase is projected to be relatively slow, but is likely to reach 100%," Moore states. "Network-enabling products are now almost seen as a commodity and are expected by the process industry. As networking ability increases, the number of average nodes is also increasing. This enables the use of more elaborate networks and topologies."
The use of industrial Ethernet is expected to grow across industrial automation. IHS projects a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of just north of 14% to 2016 for new process-automation networked nodes. The growth rate is well above that for new fieldbus nodes, envisioned to be less than 9% to 2016.
As adoption of industrial Ethernet increases in process industries, it seems that an industrial Ethernet-based network is a wise choice for those looking to upgrade networking infrastructure in the near future. While fieldbus adoption is still growing, several advantages from industrial Ethernet can be enjoyed, including unification and simplification of networks that can result in lower costs and greater up-time.
Still, Moore recognizes, that fieldbus has some advantages. HART, a big part of process industries, is able to overlay signals on 4-20 mA wiring, a major advantage for those with existing infrastructure. There is also the sizable legacy of some fieldbus solutions, which means that a large amount of machinery still uses older protocols.
Industrial Ethernet will have to overcome these hurdles, but IHS says it has largely replaced fieldbus in many applications in the past 10-15 years. Reduced overheads, more accessible data and decreased downtime are major advantages that will drive adoption of industrial Ethernet in the longer term.