For a long time, industries have desired to leverage Ethernet technology to devices in areas that generate noise or static. This dream is often impeded by the standard Ethernet’s lack of intrinsic safety features. Happily, organizations that once struggled can now deploy high-speed Ethernet-enabled instrumentation thanks to the introduction of Ethernet-APL (Advanced Physical Layer) technology in June 2021. This latest Ethernet physical layer technology is set to deliver power and data to a new world of powered devices and enhance the quality of the work life for end users in noisier environments.
What Is Ethernet-APL?
Ethernet-APL is a new physical layer (PHY) designed to bring Ethernet to field-level tools in hazardous areas. The Ethernet-APL helps make the digitization process for several industries a reality. It is not only intrinsically safe, but it also boasts unmatched universality and speed. With the introduction of the Ethernet-APL, users will now enjoy a single Ethernet physical layer that provides a longer cable reach, guaranteed safety, and application-level support that enhances productivity and output.
How Is Ethernet-APL Beneficial?
Ethernet-APL provides several advantages to optimize the future of process automation. The following are some of the reasons why businesses should be interested in Ethernet-APL:
Provides a Future-Proofed Technology
Ethernet-APL is a full Ethernet standard that supports all current and future top-level communication protocols and services. As a future-proofed technology, Ethernet eliminates the requirement for protocol conversions and gateways. When integrating newer devices into legacy networks, it provides barrier-free and parallel accessibility. In other words, a single cable provides power and data to a device, while also delivering the additional speed needed in today’s highly competitive data-driven economy.
Supports Remote Single Device Installation
Ethernet is designed to enable seamless field transition to cloud-connected process automation for installations in hazardous locations due to higher power availability. Ethernet-APL can support remote single-device installations using only one cable. It also boasts several other enhanced features and functions that enable devices to unlock rich datasets for cloud computing. These include valuable data analytics and actionable insights that help drive process automation.
Ethernet-APL removes the need for complex power-consuming gateways while allowing the convergence of Ethernet networks across your entire IT infrastructure. The converged networks provide simplified installation, easy management of devices, and faster network commissioning and configuration.
Efficient Communications Across All Levels
Since Ethernet-APL enables a direct connection of various field devices to higher-level systems, it delivers a uniform communication infrastructure cutting across the entire process management and company levels. It allows for the transmission of enormous amounts of data over long ranges thanks to a 10 Mbit/s capability.
Cost-Effective Plant Automation
Ethernet-APL supports the trunk-spur technology leveraged in most process industry applications. It is also applicable to any industrial Ethernet protocols like PROFINET, HART-IP, and Ethernet/IP. This provides a simplified and cost-effective interaction for plant operators, designers, and planners because existing installations and infrastructures can still be leveraged, thus protecting existing investments.
Increased Plant Availability
Apart from enhancing process values, the Ethernet-APL enables modern field devices to offer valuable data. This enhancement allows plant operators to maximize the devices in real-time for monitoring the performance of their components and identifying specific maintenance requirements early. This doesn’t only help avoid costly downtimes; it also increases plant availability significantly.
The new Ethernet advanced physical layer is compliant with the established IEEE and IEC standards, making it flexible for use worldwide. It allows communication that can be certified in all corners of the world. Ideally, the testing and certification of the products guarantee interoperability that allows even devices from different manufacturers to work together seamlessly without any issues.
Ethernet-APL is intrinsically safe, meaning it provides a secure, high-speed powered Ethernet networking solution. It is designed to deliver seamless integration of complete HIMA safety platforms with little engineering effort. With Ethernet-APL, connections can be initiated on the manufacturer’s floor or main building and safely extended across campus or hazardous environments. This makes automating networks in hazardous facilities and environments safe.
Considerations When Applying Ethernet-APL
The following are some of the factors to consider when applying Ethernet-APL to business operations:
- New requirements for devices: It is important to provide field devices with write protection to prevent risks of accidental or intentional manipulation and interference of the parameters. Ideally, devices should have hardware and software write protection selectability. It would be best to differentiate acyclic diagnostics queries between pure diagnostics and test routines. Pure diagnostic functionalities must be available with activated write protection, while test routines should undergo a write protection deactivation.
- Unified device concept: Since plant devices come with a longer useful lifetime compared to field devices, businesses may need to replace field devices during the plant’s life cycle. The replacement may involve exchanging current devices with similar devices of a new generation.
- Availability of measuring principles: Ethernet-APL field devices are being adopted widely. IT administrators should ensure all typical measuring principles are available with this technology. This encompasses optimum pressure, temperature, level, and flow. To reap maximum benefits from Ethernet-APL infrastructural investment, operations should ensure at least 80 to 90 % of field devices in a plant are connected via Ethernet-APL.
- Certification of field devices: additionally, the components of Ethernet-APL field devices should be developed and certified to ensure they meet the IEC 61508 for use in a safety application.
As many industries are turning to process automation to optimize their operations, cut costs and lighten the load on lean workforces, a top-notch Ethernet standard is emerging, promising to revolutionize communication in industrial environments.
The Ethernet –APL is a new communication protocol designed to support more sophisticated devices while paving the way for lower power consumption and easier installation. Ethernet –APL cables deliver both power and data over the same cable, thus enabling a more prudent utilization and management of resources. They are also simple to install and do not require the services of an electrician.
Systems like the Gridd Adaptive Cabling Distribution system can take IoT accessibility to the next level, thanks to the latest Ethernet physical layer technology. Having the ability to more freely implement the technologies that Ethernet-APL supports, is at the heart of this new level of productivity and responsiveness.