How IO-Link Wireless Enables Digital Transformation: Part I

Author photo: Naresh Kumar Surepelly
By Naresh Kumar Surepelly


IO-Link WirelessThis report is the first of two reports, summarizing the presentations given during the IO-Link session at the ARC European Industry Forum 2022. ARC invited industrial automation technology experts to speak about IO-Link technology and its evolution to IO-Link safety and IO-Link wireless. They also explained how IO-Link wireless is enabling digital transformation by bridging the gap between OT and IT operations. Several IO-Link wireless applications, industrial use cases, a case study, and possible new business models for OEMs using IO-Link wireless technology are discussed in this report.

IO-Link and the Key Drivers of the Technology

Naresh Surepelly of ARC gave an introduction to IO-Link technology and some of its key drivers. IO-Link is a short distance, bidirectional, digital, point-to-point, wired and/or wireless, industrial communications networking standard, described in IEC 61131-9. This standard specifies a single-drop digital communication interface technology (SDCI) for sensors, actuators, and mechatronics. The point-to-point communication is based on well-established 3-wire sensor and actuator connections. A master can be coupled via a gateway to an upper-level system such as a fieldbus connected to a programmable logic controller.

The key part of the technology is the cyclic exchange of process data as well as acyclic exchange of parameter and diagnosis data between master and devices. This enables an extended diagnosis of sensors and parameter/configuration setting due to bidirectional communication.

With IO-link, while transmitting device data to a PLC or other devices on the network, users receive increased access to their devices, for example, they can check the “health” of the device at any point in time. Users can see device data such as diagnostics, process data, and receive alarms. IO-Link turns standard devices/sensors into smart devices, making them enablers of Industry 4.0. These smart sensors/devices are the basis for creating smart machines, thus enabling digital transformation.

ARC has been researching smart sensors for some time to identify the driving forces from the users’ perspective. A recent survey identified some of these drivers:

  • Machine Availability: To quantify machine availability, users measure overall equipment efficiency (OEE). IO-Link makes diagnostic and device data available, so users can assess the status of the device. For example, if a sensor drifts out of calibration or a signal strength drops, or if it has a dirty lens, the operator is notified to clean it before this minor problem causes an unplanned machine shutdown. The result is improved machine availability.
  • Production Changeover: A packaging line in a food company must deal with frequent product changeovers, meaning the machine must be reconfigured to accommodate the new product dimensions and requirements. This process used to be done by hand, but with IO-Link sensors, users can download new configuration data directly into the device and production can continue with minimal interruptions. Also, sensor replacement is quick as no re-teaching is required.

Digital Machine Data for the Industrial Transformation: IO-Link as a Key Technology for IIoT

Sai Seidel-Sridhavan, manager for product marketing at Turck, introduced the global association for the technology, IO-Link community, and how it has become part of the digital transformation of the industry. He explained how IO-Link technology has evolved over the past decade from IO-Link wired communication, to IO-Link Safety and to today’s IO-Link Wireless, and listed the community’s milestones:

  • 2006: IO-Link community formed by 14 companies with knowledge and expertise in sensor technology.
  • 2009: The community releases specification version 1.0 of the technology.
  • 2011: Member companies launch the first IO-Link products including sensors and sensor hubs to connect them to the automation world.
  • 2013: Specification updated to version 1.1 per market demands and needs.
  • 2015: Significant update elevates the technology to international standard IEC61131-9, receiving own brand name “IO-Link.”
  • 2018: The community develops smart sensor profiles.

From Smart Sensors to Smart Applications via IO-Link

Peter Wienzek, business development manager at ifm, explained that smart sensors offer process information, remote parametrization, identification, and service information. The IO-Link interface makes it easy to connect these sensors to a database, helping OT and IT to join forces seamlessly. He also described how requirements differ depending on whether greenfield or brownfield application processes are optimized.


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Keywords: IO-Link, Industry 4.0, Digitalization, Sensors, Factory Automation, ARC Forum, IO-Link Wireless, Machine Tooling, Clamping, ARC Advisory Group.

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