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Profibus and Profinet International celebrate 30th birthday

Feb. 7, 2020

Just over 30 years ago, PI (Profibus & Profinet International) was founded in December 1989 after growing out of a research project funded by the German government.

"What happened afterward is well known: a success story in industrial automation," stated Karsten Schneider, PI's chairman, in an open letter in its latest ProfiNews online newsletter. "Of course, it took time to establish the new fieldbus philosophy, but when Profibus became an IEC standard, its node count skyrocketed, and Profibus became the world market leader. This story repeated itself 15 years later with Profinet. Initially, there were many doubts that Ethernet would work in industrial environments, but eventually, users gained confidence in the technology. Today, Profinet has not only far surpassed Profibus in newly installed nodes, but it's also the world leader with almost 30% market share, according to IHS Markit Technology (now part of Informa Tech) in its latest study."

Another 15 years later, Schneider reports there won't likely be a new physical layer because Ethernet is here to stay, though it will adapt further. "With the advent of time-sensitive networking (TSN), we'll have the chance for truly converged IT and OT networks," he explains. "This will be the first change, and as in the past, it will take time for TSN to establish itself in the market. The technology needs to be completed, many products need to be developed, and users need to get their hands on them. It took Profibus 10 years to become the market-leading technology, and it took Profinet another 10 years to surpass Profibus, so I wouldn’t be too surprised if it takes TSN a similar amount of time to be the number-one networking technology."

Schneider added this history only addresses the transmission layer. "On the protocol side, we'll continue to see Profinet used for controller-to-device communication. This is the classic fieldbus use case, but now it happens over Ethernet or TSN. In addition, we'll see more protocols emerging for new use cases. OPC UA will likely take a big stance in vertical communication. Profinet will collect data from the field, and send it to edge or IT devices for data-driven business cases, including artificial intelligence (AI). At first sight, complexity seems to increase in future systems. At PI, it's our task to manage this. As in the past, our top priority will be creating the best and most versatile technology that's easily handled by our users. It's a great engineering challenge that will keep us motivated for years to come."