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The first edition of the Industrial Communication Technology Handbook was published almost a decade ago, in 2005. It gave a fairly comprehensive picture of the specialized communication networks used in diverse application areas. Solutions and technologies proposed for and deployed in process automation and on the factory floor dominated the volume. Not surprisingly, the late 1980s and the 1990s were the years when a large number of frequently competing solutions and technologies were introduced by major automation vendors and industry consortia.
At the end of the 1990s, the Ethernet emerged as a contender for real-time applications, including safety-critical ones largely on the factory floor. The Ethernet was also viewed as a potential solution for the vertical integration of functional layers of the industrial automation architectures, as it enabled a seamless data/command flow between the factory floor and upper layers. The Ethernet was also viewed as a potential solution for the vertical integration of functional layers of the industrial automation architectures, as it enabled a seamless data/command flow between the factory floor and upper layers.
Another emerging area of research and development embarked upon at that time by the control and automation industry sector was the use of commercial wireless technologies in the automation of plants and on the factory floor. But plant and factory automation were not the only application areas for specialized communication networks. The automotive industry has been exploring from the mid-1980s the possibility of the use of dedicated networks to automate different car functions and domains, aiming to replace mechanical or hydraulic systems with electrical/electronic ones.
Production models released from the beginning of the 1990s integrated a range of networks to support different car functions and domains. Building automation and control (BAC) is aimed at reducing energy consumption. As early as the mid-1990s, research and development activities commenced in Japan and in the United States to come up with a system to control light and temperature (coupled, particularly close to window areas) in office buildings to save energy and provide “personal comfort.” Due to the highly distributed nature of the systems involved, using specialized communication networks was a necessity.
The use of specialized communication networks in avionics was a world of its own. At the time when the first edition was published, any technical publications were seldom available to the broad engineering profession. Most technical details were confined to technical reports, sometimes available for a substantial fee. The last ten years or so have seen a remarkable success of Ethernet-based solutions adopted, and standardized, for real-time applications some safety-critical.
The industrial control and automation sector invested in the development and standardization of new wireless solutions (WirelessHART, ISA 100.11a, and WIA-PA), aiming at process automation to support noncritical monitoring and control functions with the prospect of addressing safety-critical applications in future releases. The need to manage electrical power systems to conserve energy and optimally distribute electric energy during periods of excessive demand mandated development of new solutions and technologies for automatic meter reading in order to integrate commercial and domestic energy consumption into the energy demand management decision systems. The rapid evolution of some technologies and development of new ones called for a new edition of this handbook.