I’ve recently heard this comparison used a number of times and the parallels are quite interesting. USB was designed to help standardize a dizzying array of connectors and configurations of supplementary devices that developed during the age of the Compaq vs IBM. It always took days to configure and establish communication between devices and then finally you could never get all the functionality that the device promised because of your PC’s specific configuration. USB revolutionized the personal computer by allowing for a standard interface for simple devices from hard-drives to keyboard lights, and best of all by offering a device drivers the functionality promised could be delivered. If the device broke, you bought a new one, plugged it in and it worked.
IO-Link acts this way for the industrial automation environment. There are many smart devices you want to integrate, but you spend lots of time trying to find the right device, on the right network, for your specific controller. Does it integrate with the controller? Not always easily, especially with 3rd party devices. But now, IO-Link offers the user a universal device, independent from the controller or network selection. Plus it talks over a standard industrial sensor cable, no funky/expensive/proprietary connector required. An IODD file is provided with the device that defines all of the functionality of the device just like a driver did for the computer. The master stores the settings of the device and if a device is damaged and needs to be replaced, all that you have to do is plug in a new one, no addressing, no configuration, just plug-and-play.
So lets look quickly at these two universal standards side by side:
|Realm of Technology||Personal Computers||Industrial Automation|
|Parameter Data of Device||Device Driver||IODD File|
|Communication Signal||5VDC Serial||24VDC Serial|
|Connector Standards||Type, Mini, Micro||M12 5pin|
|Communication Design||Slave & Host||Device & Master|
|Cable Media||9wire Shielded||4wire Unshielded|
I really think the parallels are quite amazing and I think this analogy is an excellent way to quickly understand the value that IO-Link brings to Industrial Automation. If you want to learn more about IO-Link devices and what is capable, please visit my IO-Link page.