Where Schneider Electric leads, will others follow?

Most end users rely on more than one automation supplier to build a solution and the need for cost-effective interoperability and integration is strong. Obstacles like the lack of openness of hardware technologies and proprietary software are major factors but. Schneider Electric may have the answer.

Two wish list items from factory automation users pursuing IIOT are vendor neutral Industrial Ethernet and portability of plc code. There are growing expectations that time sensitive networking (TSN) addresses the former, but will IEC 61499 address the latter?

Schneider Electric, recognises that both open doors to new levels of productivity, but where Schneider goes, will others follow?

Time sensitive networking (TSN)

TSN works by regulating the Layer 2 data communications to make standard Ethernet deterministic. Importantly, progress on standardising interoperability of the various Ethernet protocols is now happening. It uses Open Platform Communication Unified Architecture (OPC UA) and the expanded use of Time Sensitive Networks (TSN).

Attention is turning to more robust and open communications from the controller layer down. OPC UA has been successfully evaluated and implemented in the field to address machine level and process level interoperability. This includes the field device level (like sensors and actuators).

OPC UA is a machine to machine and OT to IT communication protocol designed specifically for industrial automation. TSN is the IEEE 802.1Q standard technology that provides deterministic messaging on standard Ethernet. It uses low latency, high availability transmissions.

Interestingly, the leading global industrial automation technology providers are members of the TSN Working Group collaborating in an open environment. This initiative goes beyond just exchanging data between diverse types of automation equipment. It will also standardise the configuration, management and diagnosis of automation devices and actuators.

IEC 61499

Unlike in the IT world, automation software applications written for one system will not run on another system. It makes proprietary systems a barrier to innovation where users cannot improve their production systems at reasonable cost. They are also unable to mix and match competitive offers from different hardware suppliers. In effect, the suppliers of the proprietary platforms impose their rate of innovation on their users.

To address these points, IEC 61499 defines a high-level system design language for distributed information and control systems. The standard allows encapsulation of functionality, graphical component-based design, event-driven execution, and distribution of automation applications for execution across a broad range of automation & control and edge computing devices.

IEC 61499 sets a foundation for industrial automation application portability to progress IT/OT system convergence and improve ROI on software applications. It can run independent of any hardware platform, and its engineering design efficiency radically speeds up new product time-to-market.

For manufacturers it supports moving to open industrial automation systems with engineering teams moving away from the hardware-centric business models. It takes the  application of software-based innovation to OT problems and supports a move from hardware-driven to software-driven business values.

Early Schneider Electric field tests of tools based on the IEC 61499 standard suggest that engineering gains of three to four times compared to conventional programming approaches.

Where does that leave IEC 61131

IEC 61499 for distributed control and automation came out in 2005 and built on the IEC 61131 plc programming model. Adoption of IEC 61131 amongst the PLC producers is high, whereas for IEC 61499 it has been far slower. It remains to be seen whether the PLC makers lend their support to the later standard.

Schneider Electric helps OEMs and end-users to recognise the value of the new OPC UA and TSN standards with its open EcoStruxure Plant & Machine architecture.





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