While fieldbus continues to be the dominant network control system in industrial automation, it faces encroachment by Ethernet systems, and within 10 to 15 years, the latter will be the dominant networking technology in industrial environments.
That was IMS Research’s determination in its new report, The World Market for Industrial Ethernet and Fieldbus Technologies – 2013 Edition. According to the U.K.-based researcher, now a unit of Englewood, Colo.-based researcher IHS, the need for both unified and simplified networking approaches will push growth in industrial Ethernet adoption at a faster pace than the continuing use of fieldbus protocols.
“While fieldbus solutions offer connection speeds that may be fast enough for certain applications, they do not offer a unified networking approach,” says Tom Moore, IMS Research’s analyst for industrial Ethernet, fieldbus, and wireless technology.
IMS Research believes it is “undeniable” that Ethernet growth will outpace fieldbus because of the lower overhead that can be realized through integrated IT. However, long product life-cycles and conservatism in industry will keep fieldbus use atop the market in the near term, the firm says.
Still, compared with the 75 percent of all new industrial automation component network connections accounted for by fieldbus protocols in 2011, by 2016 that figure will dip to 69 percent. By that time, Ethernet technology will be progressing at a 15 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR), while fieldbus will be hovering around 9 percent CAGR, according to a chart created by IMS Research (shown below).
As industrial automation vendors continue to roll out products using Ethernet connectivity, machine builders and end-users will have to follow suit and switch from fieldbus technologies, IMS Research notes. By the middle of the next decade, Ethernet connectivity will be standard among all IT-capable industrial components.