As I sit and ponder what 2011 will look like, only one thought comes to mind, the endless possibilities of IO-Link.
I have written many entries on IO-Link and as I see it there are much more to come. Why more IO-Link? The answer is simple; we have just scratched the surface of the potential of what an IO-Link system can offer an end-customer or OEM. Let’s talk about a few upcoming milestones in 2011 to look forward to:
More Network Options: A majority of you who have followed IO-Link are already aware of the IO-Link Masters, also known as IO-Link Proxies, being available for Profibus and Profinet. In 2011 the explosion of IO-Link will be through the expansion of other network protocols, such as EtherNet/IP, CC-Link and more. This will definitely allow OEMs to build automation equipment, using the same IO-Link devices the OEM merely has to change the Master/Proxy to fit the PLC and/or network that the end-user requests.
More IO-Link Devices: With the expansion of different network Masters/Proxies, I foresee automation product vendors expanding their existing or starting new lines of IO-Link products. There are many standard and specialty devices that are needed to be converted from a direct network interfaced device to an IO-Link device, thus there is a large window for vendors to build products.
Broader Acceptance in the World of Automation: As network and devices expand in IO-Link, more automation users will investigate IO-Link. With IO-Link being well-known in Europe and with the early adopters in the US, it will take little time for the benefits of IO-Link to reach the masses. The PI organization, in the US formerly known as the PTO (Profibus Trade Organization), recognizes IO-Link as an upcoming technology. The PI even allocates time during their free one day Profinet trainings to discuss IO-Link, held throughout the US and Canada. I foresee that the ODVA organization will recognize IO-Link as a complementary technology to EtherNet/IP and/or DeviceNet.
2011 looks to be shaping up to be the year of I/O expansion. I foresee IO-Link being on the forefront of network expansion technology.