Future Electronics – Real-time industrial Ethernet’s time has come with introduction of the latest reference design platform

One of the most striking characteristics of the new era we have entered, the phenomenon that we call ‘Industry 4.0’, is the profusion of data with which industrial equipment designers have to contend.

Of course, the availability of data about a piece of equipment and the application it runs is of tremendous benefit both to equipment manufacturers and to their customers: it can support predictive maintenance initiatives, inform product development efforts and provide valuable information about the way that equipment is used. Many companies exhibiting at the Hannover Messe trade show in April 2017 demonstrated the value of these functions.

But equally, such a flood of data can be a problem: somehow, it has to be transmitted, stored and processed. The Design Note on page 16 of this issue of FTM highlights interesting new products for the Industrial Internet of Things introduced by NXP Semiconductors to help with industrial data communication. While much of the industry’s attention is devoted to wireless methods of data communication, for industrial equipment, wired communication is often much more appropriate. This is because wired networks are robust, and offer the high data rates required to cope with the very high volumes of data traffic generated by industrial processes.

To meet industry’s need for real-time wired network communication, the IEEE has drawn up a set of standards for Time-Sensitive Networking (TSN), an extension of the familiar Ethernet networking protocol. NXP has now introduced a reference design platform based on its LS1021 applications processor which provides a ready-made implementation of TSN networking equipment. It is backed by an industrial Linux software development kit which supports real-time operation. NXP is also now promoting its LS1028, a new version of its application processor for TSN Ethernet applications, and this is also described in the Design Note. The LS1021 reference design was shown at the Future Electronics/NXP stand at Embedded World (Nuremberg, March 2017), where NXP also introduced the LS1028.

It is also worth making a diary note for the TSN/A conference to be held in Stuttgart (20-21 September), an event at which Future Electronics and NXP will be jointly exhibiting.

Also on the theme of real-time Ethernet, this issue of FTM features a clever new RJ45 jack from TE Connectivity, featured on page 20.

Featuring integrated magnetics, an industrial temperature range and surface-mount capability, this jack is a convenient option for the time-pressed designer, and also helps save board space in end-product designs.

TSN and data communication, then, is one big theme in the industrial world today: another, much in evidence at the SPS-IPC Drives show at the end of 2016 and at PCIM in May 2017, was miniaturisation and integration.