Integrate Your Field Data

Standardization provides the basis for digitizing the process plant

  • Integrate Your Field Data
    Integrate Your Field Data
  • Junction Box that can hold Remote I/O and Ethernet-APL switches near the instrument.
    Junction Box that can hold Remote I/O and Ethernet-APL switches near the instrument.

Digitizing the field level of a process plant presents its operators with special challenges. They are faced with the challenge of condensing data into information with concurrent operation of several generations of devices and communication technologies. This article describes approaches to standardizing and implementing the data integration of different technologies.


Semantics define a common representation of like data. The NAMUR Open Architecture or Open Process Automation define frameworks. A main feature of NOA is definition independent of basic process control architectures, which can remain untouched while deploying digitalization to enable state of the art maintenance and operations procedures with legacy and existing field instruments. Cloud protocols with ingredients such as REST API, MQTT, keys, certificates, etc. are all IT standards enabling dash boards based on large data bases derived from the instruments.

With Ethernet as the physical language in homes, offices and manufacturing, the field of process plants now has its standardized physical layer dialect named: Ethernet-APL. It ruggedizes Ethernet to meet the needs from the field of process plants with long cable lengths, sturdy installation technology, power and communication over one cable and integrated and simple explosion protection with intrinsic safety. Finally conformance testing, which is mutually developed, agreed and accepted by the four major standards organizations serving process industries, provides users with the assurance of compatibility and thus reliable operations of both, hardware and software. 

As a specialist for infrastructure, sensor technology, and communication, Pepperl+Fuchs is committed to all topics and is thus actively driving standardization. Only a stable footing rooted in open and accessible standards will provide benefits of all market participants.


Ethernet as transmission media provides the basis for industrial IT beyond the controller. It offers parallel access for standardized protocols with semantics. Data acquired from the field originates from classic 4‑20 mA signals, field devices with fieldbus and soon native, Ethernet-based communications. To gain the benefits of data analytics, the user challenge is to gather this data with a minimum of interfaces and convert it for transfer to any system. 

Remote I/O installed in the field solve demanding tasks of adapting information from the installed field device based to the new M+O tasks to achive investment protection. They are designed for challenging environmental conditions requiring intrinsically safe explosion protection and the associated power limitation. Remote I/O are ideally suited to provide all M+O data from field devices via Ethernet. Edge gateways or other IIOT components can then process this data and pass it on to applications in the cloud e.g. via OPC UA. This enables users to deploy the NOA information model and the NOA diode in the field for legacy devices.

Cloud infrastructures provide both, storage capacity and computing power in a scalable manner. Now, suitable procedures and architectures must be agreed upon in order to provide the M+O data in a structured and uniform manner for processing in data platforms. The Reference Architecture of the Open Industry 4.0 Alliance provides a vendor-independent solution to easily implement end-to-end communication from the field device to the cloud, even in heterogeneous environments

Finally, Ethernet-APL has the potential to establish itself as a new, sustainable and trend-setting infrastructure for new installations and expansions. Fieldbus and Ethernet-based protocols can communicate over a common infrastructure with the Ethernet-APL Field Switch of the FieldConnex® product family: in addition to Ethernet-APL, the Field Switch also handles the Manchester Bus-powered Physical Layer (MBP) and can thus be configured quite flexibly to the installed base of PROFIBUS PA devices. It thus enables the simultaneous operation of new APL and existing fieldbus field devices on a common infrastructure. 

Pepperl+Fuchs offers complete solutions for the integration of existing devices, migrations and plant expansions to the latest technology and new plants - all with connection to industrial IT via Ethernet. With complete solutions, even for hazardous areas, users can easily invest in the digitization of the process plant. The lifespan of the process plants thus sets the direction: For the next 20 years, the right mix of technologies will determine the success of digitization.