Industrial Network Protocols: Ethernet, Profibus, EtherCAT & Ethernet Powerlink

Instructor: Prashant Mishra

Prashant is currently pursuing his bachelors in Computer Science and Engineering.

In this lesson, you will learn about different protocols used in industrial networks. We will start with defining what protocols are and then will discuss the different kinds used in industry.

What are Protocols?

Protocols are basically a set of rules through which activities of a system are defined. For example, in a mall, there are security protocols which are mandatory for everyone to follow such as passing through a metal detector, etc. In networks, protocols are similar. They provide a set of rules and standards through which systems communicate to each other. Over the years, many different kinds of protocols have been created. Let's discuss some that are essential to the industries.


If you are one of those computer enthusiasts, then you must have heard of it or even used it. Wondering where? Try to remember a time or place where there was no wifi and you accessed the internet using a cable. Yes, that's an Ethernet cable. It is through that cable that the data is transmitted.

Ethernet protocol is basically used in small enterprises to connect various systems to form a local area network (LAN). It is one of the most simple, cheap, easy and widely-used protocols in the industry. Many upcoming complex protocols are also based on Ethernet, one such example is MODBUS.

Ethernet basically provides a set of rules and standards which a system must follow to connect to other systems in the same premise. One great advantage that Ethernet provides is that it is a wired protocol, i.e., the data is transmitted over a wire and not ''wirelessly.'' This prevents hackers or attackers to pose threats to the system because to access that network, you need to use the Ethernet cable. This makes it much more secure than wireless networks. Another advantage is that Ethernet is immune to disruptions due to foreign waves like radio waves, etc.


Profibus stands for Process Field Bus. It is also a wired protocol just like Ethernet, but what differentiates Ethernet and Profibus is that Profibus can be implemented on a larger network than Ethernet. Profibus enables consistent data exchange between the systems. Profibus is simple and the network doesn't require more complex hardware. It is cheap and provides good productivity.

They are used in medium enterprises sometimes but find their main application in automation industries.


EtherCat stands for Ethernet for Control Automation Technology. It is a version of Ethernet and is the fastest Ethernet technology available right now. The most striking feature of this protocol is that it is synchronized, i.e., actions are done on clock signals. The clock signals are generally sent at nanoseconds speed, which make it faster. This reduces the wait time between the sending of data and receiving it which is the case in Ethernet. It is simple, robust and can be integrated with other protocols easily.

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