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New Ethernet Protocol Keeps the Industrial IoT in Sync

Factory machines will use time-sensitive networking to coordinate their work

spectrum.ieee.org, Dec. 19, 2018 – 

Timing is the unsung hero of the Internet. Timing enables syncing databases halfway around the world, trading stocks from thousands of miles away and allowing calls and data to traverse mobile networks undistorted. Understanding when a packet of information is sent and how to reassemble packets in the correct order when they're received is crucial to our modern networks.

And now timing has to take the best of the Internet and marry it with the rigors and reliability of the factory-automation network as manufacturers bring in more information technology to their existing factory-automation systems. One way to do that is through an emerging standard called time-sensitive networking, which embeds a shared understanding of time into devices connected by Ethernet.

Traditionally, for highly accurate timing, you place quartz timing chips in every piece of equipment or force each machine to call back to the cloud to get the time. But quartz-based clocks on every machine in a factory would be too expensive, and calling back to a cloud-based clock is not secure. That's why engineers are turning to Ethernet and time-sensitive networking.

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