An Overview of Industrial Ethernet

An Overview of Industrial Ethernet
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Ethernet is a computer network protocol that has become the standard for most LANs. It offers many benefits over the older alternatives, such as improved speed and reliability. While Ethernet is mainly used in office settings, it is also finding its way into industrial applications. This is because computers now control many industrial processes, and Ethernet offers a more reliable connection than the older protocols.

If you’re unfamiliar with industrial Ethernet, this quick guide will give you an overview of what it is and how it works.

Ethernet Basics

Ethernet is a computer networking technology that connects devices using a system of interconnected nodes, or “stations,” via a shared communications medium. Ethernet was initially developed in the 1970s to connect computers in a local area network (LAN). Today, Ethernet is used to connect everything from personal computers and servers to printers and scanners.

Ethernet uses a bus topology, meaning all devices are connected to a standard communication line or “bus.” Data is transmitted across the bus in the form of packets, with each packet containing the destination address and the data to be delivered. When a packet arrives at a station, the station checks the destination address to see if it is intended for that station. If so, the data in the packet is extracted and used by the application; if not, the packet is ignored.

The original Ethernet standard, IEEE 802.3, specified a maximum data rate of 10 Mbps. Since then, several higher-speed Ethernet standards have been developed, including 100BASE-T ( Fast Ethernet ), 1000BASE-T ( Gigabit Ethernet ), and 10GBASE-T ( 10 Gigabit Ethernet ). These newer standards provide much higher data rates, up to 10 Gbps for 10GBASE-T.

Industrial Ethernet vs. Traditional Ethernet

Industrial Ethernet is a type of network designed specifically for industrial applications. It is typically used in factory automation, process control, and other similar environments. Traditional Ethernet is the more common type of network and is typically used in office and home networking applications.

There are several critical differences between Industrial Ethernet and Traditional Ethernet:

1. Speed: Industrial Ethernet networks can support speeds of up to 100Mbps, while traditional Ethernet networks are limited to 10Mbps.

2. Distance: Industrial Ethernet networks span much greater distances than traditional Ethernet networks, making them ideal for large factories or other industrial sites.

3. Protocols: Industrial Ethernet supports various protocols specific to industrial applications, such as Modbus and Profibus. Traditional Ethernet does not support these protocols.

4. Environmental Factors: Industrial Ethernet networks are designed to operate in harsh environments with high vibration and temperature variations. Traditional Ethernet networks are not designed for these conditions and may not function properly in these environments.

The Benefits of Industrial Ethernet

Industrial Ethernet is a type of computer network specifically designed for use in industrial environments. It is based on the same Ethernet standards as traditional office networks but is adapted to withstand harsher conditions in factories and other industrial settings.

The main benefits of Industrial Ethernet are its reliability and durability. Traditional Ethernet networks are not designed to operate in environments with high levels of electromagnetic interference (EMI) or where physical damage to cables is likely. This can lead to data corruption and lost connections. Industrial Ethernet networks are built to be much more resistant to EMI and physical damage, ensuring that data is transmitted reliably even in harsh conditions.

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Another benefit of Industrial Ethernet is its scalability. Traditional Ethernet networks typically use hubs to connect devices, which can limit the number of devices that can be connected. Industrial Ethernet networks can use switches instead of hubs, allowing a larger number of devices to be connected without sacrificing performance.

The Different Types of Industrial Ethernet

There are many different types of industrial Ethernet available on the market today. Each type has its unique benefits and features. Here is a quick guide to the different types of industrial Ethernet:

1. Ethernet over Copper: This industrial Ethernet uses copper cables to connect devices. It is a popular choice for many industries because it is affordable and easy to install.

2. Ethernet over Fiber: This industrial Ethernet uses fiber optic cables to connect devices. It is a fast and reliable option often used in mission-critical applications.

3. Wireless Ethernet: This industrial Ethernet uses wireless technology to connect devices. It is a flexible option that can be used in difficult-to-wire environments.

4. Power over Ethernet: This industrial Ethernet uses power over ethernet technology to connect devices. It is a convenient option that eliminates the need for separate power supplies for each device.

How to Choose the Right Industrial Ethernet for Your Needs

Like choosing the right tool for the job, selecting the best industrial Ethernet for your needs depends on the application and environment. Here are some factors to consider when making your selection:

1. Determine Your Application Requirements

The first step is identifying what your application or process requires from an Ethernet connection. Do you need a real-time network for time-sensitive data? Or is a more standard Ethernet connection with less latency sufficient? Other factors to consider include security, data throughput, and distance limitations.

2. Consider the Environment

Next, consider the environment in which your industrial Ethernet will be deployed. Will it be exposed to extreme temperatures, humidity, or dust? Industrial Ethernet solutions are available that are specifically designed to withstand harsh conditions.

3. Select the Right Protocol

Several different protocols are used in industrial Ethernet, so selecting one compatible with your equipment and applications is important. The most common protocols are EtherNet/IP, PROFINET, and Modbus TCP/IP. Ask your vendor or integrator for help if you’re unsure which protocol suits you.


Industrial Ethernet is becoming increasingly popular in factories and other industrial settings. It offers many benefits over traditional Ethernet, including increased speeds and reliability. If you’re considering switching to Industrial Ethernet, this quick guide will give you all the information you need to get started.

Kevin Peter