PROFINET lays the foundation for innovative edge concepts
In addition to a classic control system, additional devices or applications are increasingly required, e.g. for optimization purposes. However, integrating these quickly and easily is sometimes anything but easy. Today, 90 percent of the data still remains unused because some technologies are too complex or impractical and because questions of security remain open. In addition to the actual measured value, these data also offer the possibility of identifying trends, such as energy consumption or other long-term diagnostic values.
Just five years ago, it was considered a good solution to channel as much data as possible into the cloud, where it would then be processed. In the meantime, however, it has been recognized that it makes perfect sense to process at least part of the data as close as possible to the point of origin, i.e. at the edge of the network, for example in terms of latency or required bandwidth. Edge components convert additional data from production into usable information - and this in real time directly at the point of origin with minimal network load.
PROFINET technologies provide support here. Each of these edge applications requires data, not just any data, but data that must be standardized and usable and exploitable. Typically, the required data is either already stored as data records standardized by PROFINET or as optional additional manufacturer or device-specific data records. The great advantage for device manufacturers is therefore that they do not actually have to do anything when their customers apply edge concepts.
And: If specific protocols from the edge to the devices are required, this is easily possible in PROFINET networks.
MinutePROFINET: Edge Computing
PROFINET structures huge amount of data
Edge Computing builds a bridge between automation and the cloud. However, the need for functioning, secure, fast communication in edge applications should not be underestimated. PROFINET has been focusing more on consistency and modularity for several years now. Identification & Maintenance (I&M) data, diagnostic data or the various profiles such as PROFIdrive or the PA profile have always been prepared in PROFINET in such a way that they can also be used by other nodes. This means that data from the automation network can be made available in real time almost anywhere in the company.
How does it work in practice?
Thanks to the harmonious combination of PROFINET and OPC UA, any edge component can be integrated. Data is typically mapped using the object modeling capabilities of OPC UA, either according to corresponding standardized OPC UA Companion Specifications such as PN-OPC or with your own specifications. Here, data collected from PROFINET devices in real time is aggregated and analyzed. The data is thus pre-processed on site without disturbing the actual processing. If the existing PLC does not support OPC UA, external edge gateways can be used as an alternative. In process automation, this is the principle behind the open architecture (NOA) of NAMUR.
If nothing can or should be changed in the control program, external edge gateways can provide additional data services. In the meantime, the first edge applications with PROFINET are available and the infrastructure is being further developed. From PI's point of view, a lot of homework has already been done. PROFINET ensures that several nodes can be accessed simultaneously in addition to the controller. An edge application can also access OPC or TCP/IP devices directly via PROFINET networks. Since OPC UA has become the de facto standard for interoperable information exchange from the shop floor to the top floor (vertical communication), this is the most efficient way to move semantic information around a plant. This fits perfectly with PROFINET with its ability to operate different protocols independently of each other in the same Ethernet network.
However, as industry is constantly changing, technologies must also remain dynamic. Therefore, in the future there will not be just one technology, but the user will choose the most practical one for themselves - edge, controller, and/or cloud. The most important aspect in the future will remain the issue of security, which will be implemented either in the edge itself or on the level above. Above all, security by design will become more important in order to cover all security aspects from the very beginning.
Irrespective of how the topic develops, the basic architecture of PROFINET (with parallel data traffic and a high level of data standardization) is a necessary and solid foundation and thus ensures the future viability of systems and production.
90 percent of the data generated goes unused - edge concepts based on PROFINET open up new diagnostic and optimization options here:
- Many controllers basically require only one yes/no decision. However, other useful data is usually available that can be easily evaluated separately via an Edge application. This includes diagnostic or maintenance data, for example. Edge components can collect this data over a very long period of time, so that a more detailed evaluation is possible.
- Edge solutions do not require complex reprogramming or updates of the control system. It is therefore easy to add to existing systems to obtain additional information.
- It is possible to pre-process data and transfer it to a cloud to access larger computing capacities or to avoid using a continuous cloud connection.
- During commissioning, PLCs or other functions may not be available yet, but data from devices is already required. Edge concepts can also work without a PLC for those instances.
- Edge concepts offer the possibility to develop new intelligent digital solutions offers in an easy way. The integration works similar to apps on mobile devices. In the course of operation, an upload of additional functions, as known from apps on mobile devices, is possible at any time.
- New levels of coordination/cooperation with the control system are possible. Edge concepts can also be integrated directly next to the controller. Close cooperation between these systems is also possible if the evaluation of the data requires close congruence with the state of the control program or machine.
Here you can find several frequently asked questions:
- The big advantage for device manufacturers who have implemented PROFINET is that they do not actually have to do anything when their customers use edge concepts. The background is that PROFINET is already standardized. The same applies if OPC UA is also implemented.
- Implementation is also very simple, since reading out data via the PROFINET services has been defined from the beginning and is therefore included in the corresponding technology packages.
Thanks to the useful cooperation between PROFINET and OPC UA, any Edge component can be integrated. Data is typically mapped using OPC UA object modeling capabilities, either according to corresponding standardized OPC UA Companion Specifications such as PN-OPC or with your own specifications. Here, data collected from PROFINET devices in real time is aggregated and analyzed. The data is thus pre-processed on site without disturbing the actual processing.
Security measures are implemented either in the edge itself or on the level above it. In the future, the topic of 'Security by Design' will become even more important in order to cover all security aspects right from the start.