Advantages of Gigabit Ethernet in Industry 4.0 Applications

Advantages of Gigabit Ethernet in Industry 4.0 Applications

Industrial Ethernet, as its name implies, is a standard based on Ethernet technology and used to connect intelligent systems and devices in the industry. Currently, there are two communication standards that use this physical medium: Fast and Gigabit Ethernet. Today, we are going to know a little bit more about these communication models, their differences, advantages and why Gigabit Ethernet has gained more space each day in Industry 4.0 applications.

What is the Ethernet standard?

The standard was created by engineers at Xerox PARC in the 1970s to provide a stable interconnection between company computers. The effectiveness of it has brought tangible benefits, a solution for most existing computing architectures and the promise of simple scalability for networks of all topologies and sizes. Although it hasn’t been originally designed to work in industrial automation, it has been successfully improved to meet the requirements of data communication between industrial processes and, today, it’s the most used network in the world for exchanging information between devices.

Fast Ethernet vs Gigabit Ethernet

Most widespread pattern between LAN and WAN networks, the Fast Ethernet model, also known as 10/100 network, has a up to 100 Mbps nominal transmission rate, making it compatible with the vast majority of devices used both in industry and in the consumer market. Some of its advantages are the ease of implementation, management and maintenance. Another benefit is that networks and devices of this type are cheaper compared to current technologies.

Gigabit Ethernet connections, on the other hand, bring much more speed to data transfer. Also known as 10/100/1000 or Giga Ethernet, these networks support speeds of up to 1000 Mbps (1 Gbps), 10x faster than Fast Ethernet. In the consumer market, the standard is present in high-tech embedded devices, such as TVs and smartphones. This update brings more agility to file transfers and to applications such as high quality video streaming.

Gigabit Ethernet and Industry 4.0

The emergence of Industry 4.0 and the consequent evolution of PLCs, HMIs and other devices present in the most different applications had a direct impact on the volume of data transmitted by communication networks. Few years ago, the vast majority of sensors used in the industry emitted only one type of signal. Today, however, with the need for quick access to operation information for faster business decision-making, field devices have to deliver a much larger volume of data to the control system.

For example, in addition to indicating the heat level, a temperature sensor also communicates complementary information to the control system, such as lifetime and ambient vibration level. The most modern equipment even has an online diagnostics page and allows the device to be calibrated remotely, making them fully adherent to the connectivity concepts of IoT (Internet of Things) environments.

This increase in data volume demanded an increment in the network structure, requiring, in many cases, the implementation of Giga Ethernet architectures for communication between the PLC and other devices present in the application.