EtherCAT - Ethernet for Control Automation Technology - is a real-time Industrial Ethernet technology originally developed by Beckhoff Automation. The EtherCAT protocol which is disclosed in the IEC standard IEC61158 is suitable for hard and soft real-time requirements in automation technology, in test and measurement and many other applications.
The EtherCAT protocol is optimized for process data and is transported directly within the standard IEEE 802.3 Ethernet frame using Ethertype 0x88a4. It may consist of several sub-telegrams, each serving a particular memory area of the logical process images that can be up to 4 gigabytes in size. The data sequence is independent of the physical order of the nodes in the network; addressing can be in any order. Broadcast, multicast and communication between slaves is possible, but must be initiated by the master device. If IP routing is required, the EtherCAT protocol can be inserted into UDP/IP datagrams. This also enables any control with Ethernet protocol stack to address EtherCAT systems.
Vortex Connect and EtherCAT
PrismTech's Vortex Edge Connect provides a set of out-of-the-box connectors to common Operational Technology (OT) data sources such as EtherCAT. This enables data from operational systems to be ingested by Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) edge nodes (e.g. IoT Gateway or Fog Node), converted into a normalized in-memory data model which can then be shared with other communication endpoints via the framework.
This means that industrial devices including PLCs, PAC, RTUs, DAQs or sensors/actuators using a range of OT protocols can share and receive data with industrial (e.g. MES, SCADA, Predictive Maintenance) and enterprise (e.g. ERP, Big Data Analytics, Storage) applications using a different set of communications standards and deployed at different levels within an end-to-end IIoT system.