Guest Commentary: Industry 4.0 Sustainable interfaces

Keith Ogboenyiya, B. Sc., Texas Instruments
Keith Ogboenyiya, B. Sc., Texas Instruments

Missing interfaces and too low data rates hinder industry 4.0. Instead of rebuilding everything, powerful interfaces will be retrofitted in the future, predicts Keith Ogboenyiya, Vice President and General Manager of the Interface Products business unit at Texas Instruments.

Internet of Things (IoT) technologies allow devices to share, interpret and adapt to data in near real time, leading to greater insight that can optimize efficiency and productivity. The world of industrial automation, fueled by Industrial IoT and Industry 4.0 solutions, is applying these advancements for large-scale connectivity between devices, machines and people on factory floors.

Adding connectivity to traditional industrial systems in various ways, engineers are designing smarter factories of the future by solving system-level challenges through both wireless and wired connectivity. While sensor-to-cloud technology is important, there’s also a growing trend to implement wired communications innovation in buildings and smart factories.

The common interfaces are at their limit

Traditionally, engineers used familiar wired communications, like 4-20 mA current loops and RS-485 interfaces, and they will continue to be widely used. For existing systems and high-volume applications, our broad portfolio of RS-485 transceivers offers improved electromagnetic interference immunity, smaller size and the capability to withstand higher voltage transients and electrostatic discharge events. But now engineers are also looking to build systems that can communicate at higher data rates beyond RS-485.

Industrial Ethernet and IO-Link complement each other

For the new generation of smart factories, engineers are transforming systems that were mechanical or electromechanical by adding improved, forward-looking wired communications for connectivity, such as Ethernet and IO-Link. Industrial Ethernet protocols have become popular for their high bandwidth, long physical connections, low latency and deterministic data delivery.

TI’s broad portfolio of Ethernet PHYs can support fiber-optic, copper and Gigabit Ethernet communications. For sensors and actuators, Ethernet is often more robust and powerful than required. These systems usually require point-to-point communications, and their bandwidth requirements are normally low. An innovative solution is IO-Link, a bidirectional communication protocol based on standard cabling and physical interconnection.

IO-Link brings data from the factory floor to the programmable logic controller efficiently, while supporting improved setup, diagnostics and maintenance — and it’s complementary to the existing fieldbus cabling.

Reliable function despite harsh industrial environment

Industry 4.0 systems are better understanding their environments, from an electromechanical emissions perspective, and demanding higher isolation for immunity to high-voltage spikes and electrostatic discharge protection. TI’s capacitive isolation technology enables the industry’s highest isolation ratings and longest lifetime reliability for robust and reliable operation.

Smart factories need powerful interfaces

As designers examine how best to enhance their industrial systems for the future — by advancing wired communications at higher speeds and over longer distances — they can significantly improve them by implementing Ethernet and IO-Link solutions. Wired connectivity will only increase with the proliferation of smart systems and smart factories.


Keith Ogboenyiya, B. Sc.

is the vice president and general manager of the Texas Instruments Interface Products business unit, where his team is responsible for designing, manufacturing and marketing TI’s wired connectivity solutions such as transceivers, high-voltage isolation, and analog switches and multiplexers. He holds a B.S. in electrical engineering from Georgia Tech and a B.S. in Mathematics from Morehouse College.