The standard in industrial communication: Consistent through to the field

Industrial communication standards

One for all, all for one

A new, cross-manufacturer communication standard for automation.

Back to Technologies


  • Ethernet-APL
    Continuous use of Ethernet in the process industry

    Ethernet APL enables the direct two-wire Ethernet connection of devices and sensors in the Ex zones of process technology applications (“Ethernet in the field”).

  • Industrial 5G
    Wireless networking in communities and the industrial sector – with Industrial 5G

    The new Industrial 5G communication standard enables powerful networking and connectivity ranging from production to logistics.

  • Single Pair Ethernet
    Single Pair Ethernet

    Phoenix Contact is your key partner for the integration of Single Pair Ethernet, including the device interface, the cabling, and active network components, from sensors in the field to the PC in your office.

  • Time-Sensitive Networking (TSN)
    Real-time communication for Industry 4.0

    Standards for real-time-capable Ethernet in the industrial automation of the future.

The basic framework for the future of industrial communication technology is currently being developed across a large number of committees and standardization projects. New communication standards such as OPC UA, TSN, SPE, and 5G will be far superior to previous systems in terms of costs, data throughput, latency and determinism. Phoenix Contact, the technology leader with more than 30 years of experience in the field of industrial communication technology, is involved in all of the key standardization committees. In these committees, we are designing a new, cross-manufacturer communication standard for automation for you.

The communication of the future – an overview

Where previously just a few devices were networked via Ethernet, large networks have already been developed. Within the framework of digitalization, Industry 4.0, and IIoT, many more field devices will be integrated in the future. In addition to control data, these will also transfer demand-oriented data to various destinations within the network and in the cloud. New technologies are necessary in order that these data volumes can be managed and in order that real-time-critical applications can continue to be operated:

Where the new communication standards are used in the network  

The new technologies TSN, SPE/APL, 5G, and OPC UA, are not to be considered as being independent of each other – rather, together they will form the communication of the future

The OPC UA communication standard is already well established within superordinate communication layers. This standard is now being developed further for direct field communication, such that consistent, cross-manufacturer communication is also possible at this level. In combination with Time-Sensitive Networking (TSN), OPC UA enables real-time-capable and convergent communication through to the field, and even between controllers.

The transmission physics are also being developed at the same time. In the future, single-pair Ethernet (SPE) will enable Ethernet transmission via just two wires for the Ethernet connection right through to the sensor. With 5G, a new mobile network standard is being specified which will be significantly more reliable and performant – for reliable connection to the ever increasing mobile applications. In all of these projects, the issue of cyber security is always to be considered, which must be continuously adapted to the new systems and threats. All of these newly emerging standards taken together form the basic framework for the future of industrial communication technology.

Our opportunity: A common standard for automation

In order to implement the visions of Industry 4.0 and IIoT, comprehensive networking is necessary – from the sensor, through the machine and superordinate systems, right through to the cloud. Until now, however, this consistent networking has been difficult to achieve, because incompatible fieldbus systems and profiles for automation devices such as safety and motion control have been developed in different fieldbus organizations. Currently, the use of gateways as interfaces is therefore often necessary.

In order to change this, Phoenix Contact is committing itself to defining a uniform, cross-manufacturer communication standard of the future through participation in all of the influential working groups. To our delight, we have already been able to see great progress in various projects within this framework.

OPC UA – the uniform communication standard, also in the field

OPC UA becomes the preferred choice  

OPC UA becomes the communication standard of the industry

OPC UA is already used as the superordinate communication standard in systems. OPC UA is now being expanded through the addition of standardized application profiles in the field, for example for I/O, safety, and motion.

Furthermore, standardized device models are being defined for the uniform configuration and uniform device diagnostics in the network. The conformity tests necessary for a high degree of compatibility are also being described. Taken together, this will enable the widespread connection of field devices to the cloud in the future, thereby permitting the consistent and universal connection of IT and OT.

OPC UA and TSN – Convergent networks

Convergence as a necessity for reliable communication between IT and OT  

TSN enables convergent networks

For networks with distributed, time-critical applications, additional TSN mechanisms enable time synchronization and prioritization of the data streams. TSN refers to a variety of standards within the IEEE 802.1 working group aimed at making the standard Ethernet real-time capable. This is of particular importance where several people responsible define data streams with multiple engineering tools in one convergent network. Thus, everybody can be certain that their respective partial solution does not interfere with the communication of others, and vice versa. This increases the reliability and availability of your network.

To ensure interoperability, all layers of communication are specified based on TSN and OPC in various working groups. To this end, all of the definitions being set by the working groups are based on the TSN profile for industrial communication (TSN-IA profiles), which is being managed within the standardization committee IEC/IEEE 60802. Phoenix Contact is contributing to the working groups initiated by the OPC Foundation with both financial and human resources, and is thus helping to define nothing less than the industrial communication standard of the future.

SPE and APL – Ethernet connection through to the sensor

DNA string  

The two-wire technology SPE will run like a DNA through the network in the future

Another condition necessary for integrated networking from the sensor through to the cloud is that it must be possible to connect intelligent sensors and actuators to the network easily. Single-pair Ethernet (SPE) enables this not only to be easier, but also significantly more compact and cost-effective. In contrast to the previous method of connecting via four wire pairs, just one wire pair is necessary for data transmission thanks to SPE. Within the IEEE, various working groups are working on the development of transmission standards of 10 Mbps to 10 Gbps and transmission lengths of up to 1000 m. The two-wire technology will also enable the powerful supply of end devices with data and energy over just one wire pair.

The Advanced Physical Layer technology (APL) is based on SPE technology. It has been developed specially for use in areas of intrinsic safety in process technology. This enables IP-based communication through to the sensor without system breaks or gateways. The standards necessary for this technology are being developed in a collaborative project between three fieldbus organizations (Fieldcom Group, ODVA, and PI) and eleven industrial partners. As one of the initiators of this project and as an industrial partner, Phoenix Contact is also involved with both financial resources and with human resources.

5G – Reliable mobile network for mobile applications

Alongside cable-bound communication, wireless communication is also becoming ever more important for state-of-the-art and flexible production. Developments in the fields of driverless transport systems (DTS), mobile end devices (smart devices), and human-robot collaboration demand reliable wireless communication. Previous mobile network standards do not provide guaranteed reliability, there is no diagnostics facility for the connection quality, and they vary from country to country.

In various working groups, the 3GPP (3rd Generation Partnership Project) is therefore developing the system specifications for the next generation mobile network, commonly referred to as 5G. The global initiative 5G Alliance for Connected Industries and Automation (5G-ACIA) was founded by the ZVEI – the German Electrical and Electronic Manufacturers' Association – at the beginning of 2018 with the objective of designing 5G to be industry-capable from the outset and to quickly establish it in production. As one of the pioneers in the use of wireless technologies in automation, Phoenix Contact helped to initiate this project and provides appropriate resources to the working groups.

Cyber security – the foundation of all communication

Locks connect network segments together  

Where anyone or anything can communicate with everybody or everything, data needs to be protected at a particularly high level

Without corresponding security measures, consistent communication is not possible. This is because your data must be protected, especially in large, open systems, against unwanted modifications and theft. Thus, even though it is theoretically possible for everyone and everything to talk to each other, only the communication actually desired should be permitted.

Along with its participation in numerous other working groups, Phoenix Contact also supported the IUNO research project, set up as the national reference project for IT security in Industrie 4.0. The objective was to identify threats and risks to the intelligent factory of the future and to develop appropriate protective measures. Together, general-purpose solutions for the challenges facing IT security in the industrial environment were developed and tested. These can now be used as the blueprint for IT security in Industrie 4.0. The project was successfully completed in September 2018 and the final report was submitted to the German Ministry of Education and Research.

GmbH & Co. KG

Flachsmarktstraße 8
D-32825 Blomberg
+49 (0) 5235-3 00