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Ethernet omnipotence

We think the internet is a wonderful thing, but if only it wasn’t so restrictive … By Philip Ling.

To suggest the web is restrictive is, perhaps, provocative; or at least it may have been before the current debacle surrounding Google’s self imposed censorship of its Chinese site. But, in the context of this article, the restrictions relate to how useful it may or may not be to embed web technology in your next application.
Monitoring and controlling industrial applications remotely has never been more popular, exemplified by the ‘Machine to Machine’ movement. Underpinning this momentum is the ease with which machines can be meaningfully networked, with the operative word here being meaningfully.
Moving data around an office is one thing; controlling large and expensive equipment is another and where the two meet, you are increasingly likely to find an instance of industrial grade Ethernet.
Of course, there exist solutions for electronic communications within an industrial environment, developed specifically to cope with the harsher than normal conditions. And, yes, these solutions can be integrated with the more salubrious office environment. But fundamentally, the two are distinct and different. Bridging that gap is Ethernet, the omnipotent standard that is now making its way out of the office and onto the work floor.
Because of the harsh conditions under which it must operate, it has become known as ‘industrial Ethernet’. But what is industrial Ethernet? From a standards point of view, it is difficult to define; it isn’t necessarily that different from ‘standard’ Ethernet – it may merely be the addition of some environmental hardening to make it more suited to an industrial application. This could be as simple as changing the connector to one that includes screws, or as sophisticated as hermetically sealing the electronic components. Whatever the implication, the point is Ethernet is no longer restricted to a desktop; it’s branching out.

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Vanessa Knivett

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