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Ethernet/IP can now connect to simple devices like switches

06 May, 2021

The industrial communications standards organisation ODVA has extended its EtherNet/IP specification, allowing the network to connect with “resource-constrained” in-cabinet devices such as pushbuttons and contactors. Previously, cost, size, and power restrictions have limited the use of EtherNet/IP at the edge, where many nodes are still hardwired.

ODVA says that extending EtherNet/IP in this way will dramatically increase the return-on-investment of adding the simplest devices to networks.

Falling semiconductor chip prices have made it easier to connect simple devices, as evidenced by the rapid expansion of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). Now, the growth of EtherNet/IP, combined with accelerating IT/OT convergence, has made it possible to use EtherNet/IP to connect simple devices in control cabinets.

The in-cabinet EtherNet/IP bus will reduce the need for interface components by using single-pair Ethernet (SPE) and will cut node costs by using multidrop cabling that spans a cabinet with one interface per device and one switch port that supports many devices. Costs will be further reduced by using cables that combine network and control power, thus avoiding the need for separate runs.

Configuration switches will be eliminated by enabling discovery based on relative position and allowing direct connection with programming tools for parameterisation. Assembly time will be reduced by eliminating the need for most wire or cable preparation using insulation displacement (piercing) connectors. Plug-and-play replacement of nodes with compatible devices of the same type will be possible without needing engineering tools.

ODVA president Dr Al Beydoun: opening up a tremendous opportunity

“Expanding the connectivity of EtherNet/IP to include devices with the smallest physical footprint and most limited hardware resources opens up tremendous opportunity for further digital transformation within automation at the edge,” says ODVA’s president and executive director, Dr Al Beydoun. “The ability to obtain diagnostic, prognostic, and asset identity information remotely from more devices will further drive down incidents of unplanned downtime and improve the efficiency of existing assets.

“The connection of resource-constrained devices to EtherNet/IP increases the value of existing networks for end-users and reduces the need for secondary lower-level networks and associated gateways,” he adds.

• ODVA has also added has added support for resource-constrained devices to its CIP Security cybersecurity network extension for EtherNet/IP. CIP Security can now provide device authentication, device identity via Pre-Shared Keys (PSKs), device integrity, and data confidentiality for resource-constrained devices such as contactors and pushbuttons.

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