Industrial enterprises are transforming their businesses by combining their computer and shop-floor automation domains, an initiative known as Industry 4.0. A key to this transformation is the new time-sensitive network (TSN) technology that connects these domains despite their diverging requirements. NXP’s new LS1028A processor integrates this technology and a host of other features, helping to enable next-generation manufacturing equipment meet the needs of these industrial enterprises.
To get an inkling of the impact of converging disparate networks, think back to when many enterprises adopted voice over IP (VoIP). The shift required a change in organizational structure and technology. Companies until then had separate computing and telecommunications groups to manage the networks and phone systems that until then had been separate. Telecom folks had greater concern about reliability (think “five nines”) and cost (outside lines and service were expensive). The technical side paralleled these business issues. VoIP required greater reliability and determinism from the network — attributes that are the antithesis of the founding principles of Ethernet. In this case, adding basic QoS features to Ethernet switches and raising their per-port bandwidth 10x to 1Gbps overcame the technical barriers.
Today, industrial enterprises are embarking on an even more significant change. They seek to broadly merge information technology (IT) and operations technology (OT). The former is the systems used to make data into useful information. The latter is the systems used to make materials into products. For a manufacturer, IT includes common systems like accounting, email, and customer-relationship management, and it also includes manufacturing-specific systems for planning and logistics. These are computer-based systems without hard real-time constraints and can use the best-effort approach of regular Ethernet. On the other hand, OT are real-time embedded systems for process control, workflow management, and process monitoring.
In support of the development of Industry 4.0 technology, OT has been borrowing technology from IT. Some OT systems use Unix-like or Windows operating systems instead of purpose-built real-time OSs. They also often use an Industrial Ethernet technology that adapts standard Ethernet to deliver real-time response and work with legacy industrial communication protocols. Unfortunately, the many Industrial Ethernet protocols neither interoperate with each other nor with standard Ethernet, limiting the economies of scale for technology suppliers and thus slowing innovation. A single machine in a factory may connect to different Industrial Ethernet networks, each running its specific protocol, for different control functions. The manufacturer must deploy gateways to pass data among the different networks or to IT systems.
Moreover, industrial enterprises seek to analyze data generated by their production equipment, to manage operations remotely, to enable machines to coordinate among themselves autonomously, and to gain efficiencies from linking production data and IT systems such as those for enterprise resource planning. In short, they want to mirror the commercial IoT and create an industrial IoT in their production facilities. The industrial IoT requires machines and computers to communicate directly with each other to share data. Data analysis can be done in the cloud or locally for improved latency, reduced bandwidth or improved security.
Because of their limited interoperability, Industrial Ethernet protocols are not well suited to Industry 4.0. At the same time, standard IT-oriented Ethernet does not deliver the real-time performance that control systems demand. The IEEE®, however, in 2004 had formed a group for audio/video streaming for consumer applications, later extending its efforts to meet professional standards. This group developed a family of audio/video bridging (AVB) standards for time synchronization (borrowing from IEEE® 1588), traffic shaping, and admission controls. Although not perfectly suited to industrial applications, these standards provided a framework for managing Ethernet traffic.
Recognizing the potential to adapt AVB for industrial use, the IEEE group changed its name to Time-Sensitive Networking (TSN) and began revising the 802 standards family to address the needs of industrial and automotive applications, as well as improving features for professional audio-video use. New standards define time-aware traffic shaping and policing to enable scheduling critical traffic. To facilitate scheduling, new standards enabled the preemption of non-critical frames. A new standard for redundant network paths improves network reliability.
The technology-development efforts of the TSN group have been a lot more substantial than that required to get voice traffic on the enterprise network, and the result of these efforts will be more profound. Industrial companies can now deploy a single IEEE-standard Ethernet network that carries both the time-critical control traffic of OT systems and the regular best-effort traffic of IT systems. Now that pivotal networking technologies are defined, these companies can focus on the strategic benefits of OT-IT convergence and Industry 4.0.
NXP is proud to enable Industry 4.0 equipment manufacturers to incorporate TSN technology in their equipment. We designed our new QorIQ® Layerscape LS1028A processor for the industrial IoT. To support IT-OT convergence, this SoC integrates an Ethernet switch and two additional Ethernet ports, all implementing protocols from the TSN family. Two powerful 64-bit ARM CPUs provide the computing performance required for modern industrial applications. The processor’s GPU and LCD interface allows its use in human-machine systems with next-generation interfaces. NXP software includes an open-source industrial Linux SDK with real-time performance and support for TSN standards. Importantly, the processor integrates NXP’s trust architecture, intended to enable bullet-proof IoT security. Built on proven NXP technology and part of the NXP 15-year product longevity program, the LS1028A is a processor industrial OEMs can count on for years. OEMs can begin developing TSN-enabled systems today using the NXP LS1021ATSN reference platform.
1 QorIQ® Layerscape 1028A Industrial Applications Processor
2 Industrial Ethernet (Wikipedia)
3 Time-Sensitive Networking Task Group (part of the IEEE 802.1 Working Group)
4 IoT security at blog.nxp.com
5 LS1021ATSN: Time-Sensitive Networking Solution for Industrial IoT