SPE System Alliance: Cross-industry and Cross-application Alliance for Single Pair Ethernet Technology

Richmond, Virginia -Weidmuller has created a technology partnership between Phoenix Contact, Reichle & De-Massari (R&M), Fluke Networks, and Telegärtner for the Single Pair Ethernet (SPE) and has progressed to create the SPE System Alliance. The partners in this group are pursuing the goal of driving the development of SPE further forward for the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and may branch out to other areas as well. The System Alliance has now also been joined by Datwyler, Kyland, Microchip Technology, Rosenberger, SICK, O-Ring, Draka/Prysmian Group, and University 4 Industry.

With increasing digitization, a network infrastructure is required for the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). Perceived by experts as the next generation of communication architecture, this is where the new Single-Pair Ethernet (SPE) technology comes in.

Originally developed for automotive applications, it promises a continuous connection from the sensor to the cloud. And this technology can be easily transferred from the automotive industry to other applications. Cabling already accounts for a major part of the weight of vehicles manufactured today. If self-driving vehicles take off, cars will need even more sensors and electrical connectivity. To manage these huge volumes of data, the industry was searching for an infrastructure capable of delivering high performance with as little cabling as possible: this resulted in the creation of SPE. There are similar expectations within industry and building automation. This is because rising numbers of smart end devices around the world due to digitization will make networking increasingly complex. The number of intelligent end devices in the plant is increasing, however the amount of available space is not – in fact it is quite the opposite. As more and more sensors need to be integrated into machines and systems, the cabling must therefore be designed for industrial use, and be both compact and simple. There are also extreme usage sites where lightweight cables with a small outside diameter and small bending radius are essential, such as in robotic arms.

The solution is an Ethernet standard that does not need to offer the high data transfer rates of the IT world, yet combines long cable lengths with a compact design as well as simple and robust cabling: Single-Pair Ethernet, or SPE.

In building automation, the use of SPE is also being discussed for integration into the hierarchy and structure of modern-day building cabling.

SPE stands for continuous scalable and deterministic networking from sensors through to the cloud. And this is the case in practically every application, whether in industry, logistics, buildings or wherever data is generated. The concept behind it is essentially an extension of the Ethernet to the sensor, that is wherever "tracks" (in the literal sense) rather than data highways are needed in every inch of space within the plant – it is compact, flexible and offers extensive reach.

Previous solutions require two (Fast Ethernet) or four (Gigabit Ethernet and above) cable pairs, while Single-Pair Ethernet only requires one. At the same time, besides data, Single-Pair Ethernet technology can also make up to

60 Watt of power available to the PSE (Power Source Equipment). This guarantees the economical, sustainable and consistent networking of a large number of end devices – from the device interface to the active networking of smart devices, from building systems and technology to sensors in the field.

The physical properties and transfer rates are defined internationally by different standardization bodies. These new Ethernet versions are also being met with a great deal of interest in automation technology, as SPE meets the requirements for industrial communication in the digitization era. The transfer rates of 10 Mbit/s with a transmission distance of 1,000 m through to 1 Gbit/s with a transmission distance of 40 m to 100 m are completely sufficient, even for sophisticated sensors. Scanners and cameras for monitoring can also be continuously integrated into the network via Ethernet. The achievable response times even allow TSN (Time-Sensitive Networking) applications. Another major advantage of SPE is the possibility of supplying power to the connected peripherals via PoDL (Power over Data Line). PoDL makes up to 60 W of power available to the PSE (Power Source Equipment). This allows the sensors to be supplied both with energy and with a data interface, even under extremely cramped conditions. An additional, separate supply line is not required. As a result, PoDL for SPE opens up further applications such as for building infrastructure.

Weidmüller is active in the development of connectors for the IEC 63171-2 version for the IP20 environment and the IEC 63171-5 version for the IP67 environment. With a focus on cross-sections in the AWG 26 – AWG 22 range, Weidmüller is developing particularly user-friendly connectors that can be used both as patch cables and freely configurable versions. Thanks to its good HF performance, the mating face can also be used independently of the application from the workstation to data centres and industrial cabling to the cloud.

Weidmüller guarantees unrestricted industrial suitability with a robust locking mechanism and the extraction force is at least 50 N. With a pitch of 7.62 mm, this very compact connector is just half the size of an RJ45 connector. This means that two Single-Pair Ethernet ports can be installed in the space occupied by an RJ45 PCB connector, doubling the port density.

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