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How Time-Sensitive Networking is Changing the Face of Industrial Automation?

How Time-Sensitive Networking is Changing the Face of Industrial Automation?

ICT | Mar, 2021

The new wave of digital transformation has been revolutionizing the global economy in unprecedented ways, opening new opportunities for industrial automation and manufacturing. Earlier, manufacturers had to utilize purpose-built protocols and systems for specific industrial control application, but the evolved standard ethernet networks are able to provide deterministic services integrating automation and network infrastructure for the future of smart manufacturing. Time-sensitive Networking (TSN) is a collection of standards that enable messaging over standard Ethernet networks to ensure non-negotiable time frames for end-to-end transmission latencies. The TSN devices support real-time communications for industrial control applications synchronizing their clocks with each other and using a common time reference.

The standard ethernet networks were incapable of guaranteeing data delivery and were subject to high latency, which created a need for industries to develop their own specialized, proprietary networking solutions for industrial control systems and automation. Time-sensitive Networking is an advanced stage of standard ethernet network technologies to fulfil the requirements of Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). Time-sensitive Networking brings together different industrial organizations and market leaders to realize full potential of Industry 4.0 and digitization. With the emerging trend towards converged networks and increase in demand for bandwidth, TSN is a more cost-effective and future-proof solution than purpose-build networks. Time-Sensitive Networking standards focus on the following areas.

·         Time Synchronization

·         Bounded Low Latency

·         Ultra-Reliability

·         Resource Management

According to TechSci research report on “Global Time Sensitive Networking Market By Component (Switches, Hubs, Routers & Gateways, Controller & Processors, Isolators & Convertors, Connectors, Communication Interfaces, Others), By Application (Industrial Automation, Power & Energy, Automotive, Transportation, Oil & Gas, Aerospace, Others), By Company, By Region, Forecast & Opportunities, 2026”, the global time sensitive networking market is projected to experience a significant growth rate during the forecast period owing to factors such as increasing interest in Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), high demand for industrial automation in various segments such as Machine-to-Machine (M2M) communication and motion control applications.

Benefits of Time-Sensitive Networking

While Time-Sensitive Networking offers immense benefits in industrial networking, here are some of its major benefits.

·         Bandwidth

Generally, proprietary ethernet derivatives are used for industrial control but they are restricted to 100 Mb of bandwidth and half-duplex communication. On the contrary, Time-Sensitive Networking support full-duplex standard Ethernet with higher bandwidth options such as 1 Gb, 10 Gb, and sometimes even 400 Gb with IEEE 802.3. Thus, TSN facilitates high-speed networking with high accurate motion control and low latency enabling large volumes of data transmission.

·         Security

Security is fundamental to industrial automation and control networks and TSA adds a layer of security to the data with precise timing mechanism that facilitates early detection of network breach. Time-Sensitive Networking guarantees real-time communication and prioritize network traffic to deliver time-critical data to the right place at the right time. With accurate data transmission, TSN can enhance network security and avoid the inflow of non-authorized data.

·         Interoperability

Leveraging standard ethernet components, TSN can integrate with existing brownfield applications and standard IT traffic. Moreover, TSN inherits multiple features of existing ethernet such as web services and HTTP interfaces that provide remote diagnostics, repair features, and visualization in IIoT systems.

·         Latency and Synchronization

Time-sensitive networking facilitates low-latency communication essential for fast-response and closed-loop control applications to achieve deterministic transfer times on the order of tens of microseconds. TSN provides automated configuration to ensure reliable delivery of time-critical traffic enabling time synchronization between nodes down to tens of nanoseconds.

·         Ease of Network Configuration

Time-Sensitive Networking enables automatic configuration through intelligent configuration tools to achieve the desired set of objectives. TSN also create the avenue for offline simulation as well as network and architecture modelling with standardized methods for network-wide configuration and commissioning.

·         Reduced System Costs

The convergence of different traffic classes on one network reduces overall system costs. Since TSN requires fewer devices and cables, hardware and maintenance costs can also be reduced significantly.

Components of Time-Sensitive Network

A fully centralized TSN model includes the following components.

·         End Stations

The end stations function as the sources (talkers) and destinations (listeners) of the ethernet frames. The end devices run applications that require time-critical deterministic communications.

·         Bridges

Bridges, also known as Ethernet switches, send and receive time-critical communication streams. The hardware must be able to transmit messages as per the synchronized schedule.

·         Centralized User Configuration (CUC)

The CUC is a vendor-specific application that represents the control application and end stations, requesting deterministic communication with central network configuration.

·         Central Network Configuration (CNC)

The CNC is a vendor-specific application that facilitates deterministic messaging and define schedule as per the transmission of time-critical information streams.

·         Time-Critical Information Streams

The time-critical information transmitted between endpoints in the TSN model is uniquely identified. The streams have stringent time requirements for deterministic messaging.

Time-Sensitive Networking has a variety of application such as Audio Video Bridging (AVB Systems), mobile fronthaul networks, automotive networks, industrial automation, utility, etc. The bandwidth requirement might vary among TSN applications in terms of latency, jitter, reliability, and bandwidth. For instance, the bandwidth of augmented and virtual reality applications is 1000X larger than the industrial control applications. The reliability of high-voltage distribution network is three times in magnitude than medium-voltage distribution network. Applications like power grid systems have tight delay bounds while others have relatively relaxed delay bounds up to millisecond.

Leveraging Time-Sensitive Networking in Industrial Automation

Time-sensitive networking creates a system where smart and hyper-connected devices embed sensing processing, control, and analysis capabilities. Various industrial market segments can benefit from TSN technology, which allows time synchronization and bounded latency. From motion control to machine-to machine (M2M) communication, TSN can be used to improve time-sensitive processes. For instance, TSN can be used in high-speed motion processes such as production of consumer-packaged goods and electronic components, where IEEE 802.1AS can help to synchronize time on robots as they move different parts across the supply chain floor. Besides, TSN can help to improve factory functions such as production flow monitoring, quality control, and predictive maintenance. With TSN, manufacturers can process raw data in a timely manner, decrease latency, and provide a base for advanced manufacturing.

Motion Control

Motion control applications have strict delay requirements to support the need to process more workloads, which results in a greater need for increased bandwidth and information transparency that TSN offers. Motion control spans across various industrial market segments such as discrete industries, process industry, power industry, etc. TSN was developed to accommodate the response time to be in low microsecond range, required by the next generation PLC machines. TSN standards such as 802.1Qbv allow the specification of QoS that enables time-sensitive traffic to navigate through the networks efficiently.


Industrial robots are mechanical devices that are utilized to perform dangerous or repetitive tasks to ensure precise results with zero error. Robots can be classified as fixed, mobile, and collaborative. Since modern robotics integrates artificial intelligence, machine vision, and predictive maintenance into one system, Time-Sensitive Networking provides a shared communication channel for high bandwidth and real-time traffic control.

Machine-to-Machine (M2M) Communication

M2M communication has reinvented manufacturing by enabling data share across different control and analytical applications to derive superior operation efficiencies. Connecting previously unconnected proprietary controllers, TSN enhances machine-to-machine communication. A network of TSN machines connected through a network of TSN-enabled switches can enable remote management, operation of equipment/devices through cellular point-to-point communication. 

Power & Energy

Communication networks helps to exchange information and data for power and energy applications in production plants. The challenge for utility companies is to ensure network availability for critical data streams in case of network congestion. Time-Sensitive Networking provide cloud-based services enabling system users to access real-time data from power plants.

Oil & Gas

Industrial ethernet is essential at every step of oil production—upstream, midstream, and downstream and utilizes communication standard for monitoring systems. Oil and gas facilities require high-capacity and robust communication networks that can operate in harsh environmental conditions. Enabling real-time applications in the oil and gas industry, Time-Sensitive Networking provides timely communication for process and control networks associated with production facilities.  


Time-Sensitive Networking is the best option to strictly control both urgent and non-urgent traffic with one single network. Many industrial vendors are contributing and planning for options to utilize Time-Sensitive Networking, some of these members such as Siemens, Rockwell Automation, GE, etc. are participating directly in IEEE. The driver to Industry 4.0 is further placing industrial systems on a clear path to TSN-based technology.

According to TechSci research report onGlobal Industrial Services Market By Type (Engineering & Consulting, Operational Improvement & Maintenance and Installation & Commissioning), By Application (Distributed Control System (DCS), Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA), Valves & Actuators, Electric Motors & Drives, Manufacturing Execution System (MES) and Others), 6.2.3. By Industry (Chemicals, Aerospace & Défense, Automotive, Pharmaceuticals, Metals & Mining and Others), By Company and By Geography, Forecast & Opportunities, 2026”, the global industrial services market is set to experience a significant growth during the forecast period. Major factors attributing to the growth are increasing demand for operational quality, and maintenance, growing trend of cloud connectivity and need for industrial internet of things for predictive maintenance.