ODVA General Meeting October 2018

The ODVA had its annual general meeting in Stone Mountain Georgia on October 10 and 11. It’s an event that is always well run with great technical information. They have a good mix of social events and hard technical sessions. You may remember that when ODVA was founded, it was called the Open DeviceNet Vendor Association as it roots were in DeviceNet. Then it changed its name to Open Device Vendor association, dropping the NET. Now it’s simply ODVA, reflecting that the technologies it supports have evolved to comprise a group of CIP (Common Industrial Protocol) technologies: EtherNet/IP, DeviceNet, ControlNet and CompoNet (the lost stepchild that is kept in the closet when company comes over).

The biggest non-surprise at the event was the huge attendance at the multiple sessions on TSN – Time Sensitive Networking. That technology is attracting a lot of interest and, as I have described in other articles, unfortunately seems to be the direction that many vendors of industrial networking products are moving.

If you don’t know what TSN is, the concept (not the detail) is very simple. TSN is an IEEE 802.1Q standard that provides deterministic messaging on standard Ethernet. TSN technology is centrally managed and delivers guarantees of delivery and minimized jitter using time scheduling. I’ve objected to it for many reasons, chief among them the centrally managed part. It is a critical piece of infrastructure that is not only not in place but is going to be extremely difficult to implement, complex and possibly very costly. I’ve said that as speed and bandwidth go up, the time synchronization that we already have in place will work well enough for the vast majority of applications.

One of my favorite sessions is always the recap of what the special interest groups (SIGs) have done over the past year and what’s planned for the next year. ODVA has a lot of SIGs but that’s a reflection of the membership. It’s a credit to ODVA that it has members that are so engaged with the organization and the technology that they want to contribute time and energy to advancing the technology. Not many organizations have that.

There are a couple of the SIGs that have activities that are worth mentioning here:

PROCESS INDUSTRY SIG – This SIG is focused on getting the ODVA technologies more integrated into the process industries. This SIG announced that they had completed work on a specification for how HART devices can be integrated with CIP.

IO LINK SIG – This SIG finished its specification on integrating IO Link devices into CIP systems. There are mechanisms where the IO Link device can be accessed like it was a CIP device or where a scanner of multiple IO Link devices can be the interface for the IO Link devices. There is a lot of activity in this area.

CLOUD SIG – Not much activity in this SIG it seems. Probably not a lot of interest in directly connecting CIP to the Cloud. There are other, better technologies for that already.

MACHINERY SIG – This SIG seemed to be duplicating a lot of work that is going on at other trade associations: ISA 95 and OMAC (PackML) for example.

PHYSICAL LAYER SIG – This SIG has real engineers in it discussing physical signaling and what technical advances could enhance Ethernet media operation. 1Ghz was a subject they addressed over the last year.

DEVICENET OF THINGS – This SIG is working on enhancing DeviceNet: making it more functional, simple and economical. It appears that this effort is focused on making DeviceNet more attractive for low end applications and better able to compete with IO Link and AS-Interface.

MODBUS SIG – A SIG working on integrating Modbus more easily into CIP. Didn’t seem to be a lot of interest in this.

The big SIGs are the CONFORMANCE SIG and the SYSTEM ARCHITECTURE SIG. These are the two main SIGs that accomplish the real work of enhancing EtherNet/IP. Some of the work going on there includes efforts to simplify the way diagnostics in an EtherNet/IP device can be accessed, the addition of application profiles and giving users the ability to assign Ethernet ports for specific uses.

It was another worthy event with a lot of great comradery and technical information.