by Leslie Langnau, Managing Editor
Test beds will ensure new network infrastructures support the Industrial Internet of Things.
As vendors develop networking infrastructures able to implement the Internet of Things (IoT), the testing of those networks becomes critical to ensure operability. In that regard, several institutions engaged in the IoT now plan to collaborate on developing a test bed for what’s called the Time Sensitive Network (TSN), which is based on a new IEEE 802 local area network standard. This new standard should address some of the shortcomings of existing IEEE 802 networks relating to the time-sensitive transmission of data. Examples include audio and video stream, where the delay of data packets or their arrival out of sequence can garble the content.
The organizations involved include the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC), National Instruments, Bosch Rexroth, Cisco, Intel, KUKA, Schneider Electric and TTTech. They aim to advance the network infrastructure to support the future of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and Industry 4.0.
Connecting to the edge
The IIoT promises to give more reliable and secure access to smart edge devices. To fulfill this promise, though, standard network technologies must evolve to meet the demanding requirements of next-generation industrial systems and improve machine operation, electrical grids and transportation systems.
“Standardized and open communication is a key feature in our drive and control automation solutions,” said Ralf Koeppe, VP of engineering and manufacturing electric drives and controls at Bosch Rexroth. “We regard the IIC TSN test bed to be an important contribution for further improvement of vendor interoperability and of exchanging data in an IIoT infrastructure.”
The TSN standard is an effort to support the new digital capabilities and the connected manufacturing enterprise. This standard encompasses an open network infrastructure with multi-vendor interoperability and integration, as well as guaranteed performance and delivery. The TSN will support real-time control and synchronization between motion applications and robots, for example, over a single Ethernet network. In addition, it will support other common traffic found in manufacturing applications, driving convergence between IT and operational technologies.
To ensure the TSN standard meets the needs of IIoT, the IIC is inviting vendors to use a test bed—a controlled experimentation platform. This platform will conform to the Consortium’s reference architecture. The platform lets vendors test their IIoT solutions in an environment that resembles real-world conditions.
The Consortium uses these test beds to explore technologies that have previously operated together. The test beds help determine requirements and priorities for standards organizations, and often culminate in new, potentially disruptive, products and services.
“TSNs are a critical attribute of a standard Internet model that enables the convergence of real-time control applications and devices onto open, interconnected networks,” said Eric Starkloff, EVP of global sales and marketing at NI. “This technology is necessary for the future of the IIoT. The IIC is providing a community, as well as enabling real-world test beds, where industry leaders can collaborate to make this a reality.”
Previously, many real-time control applications were deployed using nonstandard network infrastructure or unconnected networks that leave the devices and data hard to access, if accessible at all.
The Testbed Working Group helps create test beds for the Industrial Internet and serves as the advisory body for test bed proposals.
“Our test beds are where the innovation and opportunities of the Industrial Internet—new technologies, new applications, new products, new services and new processes—can be initiated, thought through and rigorously tested to ascertain their usefulness and viability before coming to market,” said Richard Soley, executive director of the IIC.
The TSN test bed will be an early implementation of TSN. As such, it will show the value of the technology as well as some of the challenges in implementations from vendors. It will also serve as a source of feedback to the relevant standards organizations on areas that need further clarification or improvement.
The test bed will:
• Combine different critical control traffic (such as OPC UA) and best effort traffic flows on a single, resilient network based on IEEE 802.1 TSN standards
• Demonstrate TSN’s real-time capability and vendor interoperability using standard, converged Ethernet
• Assess the security value of TSN and provide feedback on the ability to secure initial TSN functions
• Show ability for the IIoT to incorporate high-performance and latency-sensitive applications
• Deliver integration points for smart, real-time edge cloud control systems into IIoT infrastructure and application.
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