Industry Foursight

Industry 4.0 has a lot of requirements and it’s an exciting time to be involved in industrial automation. New solutions are taking shape and stand to make automation networks easier to manage, faster to run, and most importantly, provide value like never before. Concepts like TSN, OPC UA and APL are making headlines and the race is on to leverage each in order to gain sustainable competitive advantage. There’s no silver bullet, but PROFINET plays a key role. Industry Foursight is a PI North America initiative to promote PROFINET applications and implementations with Industry 4.0 technologies. PI North America created a dedicated site for users to gain knowledge of such technologies. The site divides into 3 main sections: TSN, OPC UA, and APL.

TSN: Time Sensitive Networking

Ethernet communication is based on the best effort principle. Delays and throughput are situation dependent (empty network vs crowded network). With Ethernet, each device operates independently and on its own local clock making sending data in a precise time frame difficult. TSN refers to a set of IEEE 802 standards that make Ethernet deterministic by default. It is a technology that sits on Layer 2 of the ISO/OSI Model and adds definitions to guarantee delays and throughput. TSN integration into the Ethernet basic standard promises long time availability.


PROFINET is optimally complemented by OPC UA. The two standards work together to smooth the path to seamless communication in the world of automation and IT. With Industry 4.0, there is the need to publish data to IT systems like MES, or Asset / Condition Management applications. Today this requires a lot of configuration effort and manual steps to make this data available. Since there is no standardized data semantics specified, often the data is not usable in an economically meaningful way. For this reason, PI supports OPC UA as a complementing service in PROFINET networks.

APL: Advanced Physical Layer

The goal of APL is to bring Ethernet down to field level instruments in hazardous areas. Nowadays, existing field devices typically rely on limited fieldbus network infrastructures. Taking process industries into the future requires a new network standard to transfer process data with standard Ethernet and IP technologies. Ethernet at the field level will make digitalization for process industries a reality. Ethernet adds its universality and speed to existing field device installations. APL will limit current and voltage in a physical layer to have an intrinsically safe solution for Zones 0 & 1 / Div 1. The physical connection will be a rugged two-wire connection with power over this cable. Finally, APL will exceed the 100m limit of 100BASE-TX Ethernet networks to be suitable for large process manufacturing facilities.

Follow the link below to visit the Industry Foursight site. We will be growing continuously during the year with articles, videos, and more resources.

Industry Foursight™

-Nelly Ayllon