Automation Evolutionary Trends

Industrial Evolution

Industrial automation continues to evolve along with the networks that support it. The newest trends are more than buzzwords: Industrie 4.0 and Industrial Internet of Things. These or similar concepts go by different names in different countries (for example, Smart Industry and China 2025). Here is a brief look back at the evolution followed by the impact and relationship of these new concepts.

In the earliest days of automation, the operator was the automation. He watched a gauge and manually adjusted a valve. He knew when the motor should start and he threw a switch to start it. In process applications, manual operations were succeeded by pneumatic controls using 3-15psig air. Electronic controls took over from there using 4-20mA. Logic was accomplished using relays until replaced by Programmable Logic Controllers running relay ladder logic electronically. Serial fieldbuses emerged to replace individual connections to each device (the “bus” in fieldbus). Fieldbuses gave access to additional information to configure devices and report potential problems. Finally, Industrial Ethernets took over from fieldbuses to leverage the advances in commercial Ethernet. They provide many of the same advantages of fieldbuses but provide faster updates, larger address spaces, and greater bandwidth.

Automation Evolution

Industrial Internet of Things

Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is the common denominator for Industrie 4.0 and the other national and international programs. This 47-second video shows the relationship:

The main purpose of IIoT is to analyze current industrial processes and determine how to improve them. there are four IIoT Automationsteps in this process:

  1. Collect the data
  2. Analyze the data
  3. Determine course of action
  4. Feedback improvements to the process




A subset of the Industrial Internet of Things is PROFINET, the PROFINET of Things. The next lesson begins providing the details of the PROFINET of Things.

For further study:

PROFINET of Things webcast

PROFIblog on IIoT

Profinews articles on Industrie 4.0 and IIoT