Electronic Products & Technology

The new era of information exchange in the industrial world

By Kian Sanjari, P.Eng., product management - I/O & networking, Phoenix Contact Canada    


We are all available 24 hours a day. We have at least one cell phone, use the Internet on the go every day, and learn about the latest global news through our communication media. Having information at one’s fingertips is now essential to us all and nobody wants to give it up.

In the field of machines, systems, and power stations, even leading industrialized nations are still a generation behind. Many of the systems in the production environment, as well as numerous machines and power stations, are networked only in subsystems – if at all. As such, operators often lack consistency and important information from remote stations. While a cell phone generation has a product life cycle of less than 12 months, the life cycle of systems and power plants can be up to 30 years. New communication structures are only integrated into old systems on a gradual basis, as part of renovations and upgrades.

Think about the latest trends for new de-central, distributed energy production systems – whether by means of windmills, solar systems or combined heat and power units. Think about the latest energy efficiency trend to use available resources wisely and economically. Think about the global competition in industrial production, which calls for us to continuously optimize our systems. As a production manager, you need to know at all times what is being produced worldwide on each machine, at what quality level and when the next maintenance interval is due. Such new systems are hardly imaginable today without efficient communication networks, which are essential for reliable system operation.

This rapid development in the exchange of information and data that we have experienced in the telecommunications industry in the last few years is about to break into the industrial sector. To stay competitive, today’s machine manufacturers try very hard to ensure the availability of their machines and systems. The increasing complexity of machines and systems make maintenance by the operator more difficult and more often, specialists from the system manufacturer are required on site in the event of servicing. The servicing and maintenance of the machines become even more challenging if the manufacturer builds and exports machines to another country or remote locations. Traditionally in case of commissioning or servicing, expert technicians need to travel to where the machine is shipped and have to be on site to conduct work. This approach in most cases is an expensive and time consuming proposition for the machine builder.

Industrial modems ensure “reliable” and “safe” global link to machines and systems

The industrial implementation of Internet technology allows new powerful and, at the same time, inexpensive remote service concepts for remote maintenance, remote data acquisition and monitoring of operating states. In the few recent years, with the fast development of internet and cellular based technology industrial modems, machine builders now have an alternate and cost effective solution for commissioning and servicing their equipment practically anywhere in the world.

Industrial modems ensure worldwide “reliable” and “safe” communication with systems and machines (see Figure 1). Modems can be used to manage simple tasks such as alarm monitoring or used for more complex operations such as remote data acquisition, maintenance and diagnostics or for downloading programs. This is an efficient and fast solution for carrying out or preparing maintenance and service work from an individual office / PC or acquiring process data from remote control applications in the control center.

Industrial modems are built for industrial applications where greater demands are put on hardware robustness, availability and transmission reliability. Operators can get status of input and outputs of the devices connected to the modems, activate outputs, and reset alarms etc… simply by using SMS text messages from their cellular phones. Industrial modems can create Virtual Private Networks (VPN) with secure passwords and encryptions to block hackers and unauthorized users. VPN tunnels allow machine builders to establish fast communication with their machines anywhere in the world, as if they were “directly” and “locally” connected to them.

With the PSI-MODEM-Line, Phoenix Contact offers the customer a complete product range for enabling location-independent date acquisition via (existing) telecommunication infrastructures – both for standard and modern Internet/IP technology.


Collection of data and information is key to an efficient and safe operation of an industrial machine or system. As the global economy expands, machine builders look for oversea countries as potential customers. In order to provide maximum availability and reliability to their export customers, machine builders can rely on industrial modems to help them achieve cost effective maintenance, start-up and operation monitoring without the need to be on site.


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