Industry 4.0: Smart sensors ensuring efficient machine communication

Networked production
and control processes in complex machine environments are key to the industrial
future and making Industry 4.0 possible in the first place. Smart sensors
already support dynamic, real-time-optimised, and self-organised industry
processes. They record real operational statuses, turn these into digital data,
and share them automatically with the process controller.

Smart sensors
generate data and information that go beyond conventional switching signals or
measured process parameters and can share these with the controller using
technologies such as IO-Link. Conversely, they are also able to receive
commands and parameter data directly from the controller, allowing them to constantly
adapt to new requirements. This enables them to create substantial increases in
efficiency, flexibility, and better planning security for preventative system

The added value of
sensor communication depends significantly on the quality and stability of the
delivered data.

To create the
best-possible basis for a future-ready automation system, SICK has equipped its
smart sensors with special properties to ensure they provide exactly the right
level of performance for every application.

‘Enhanced sensing’
delivers reliable detection and measurement results that have a direct impact
on system throughput. For the ‘Efficient communication’ feature, smart sensors can
communicate with higher-level control systems via IO-Link – making dynamic
configuration changes as well as plug and play device replacements in plants a
reality. The ‘Diagnostics’ functions comprise of automated sensor
self-monitoring and process parameter monitoring for the preventative device
and system maintenance. ‘Smart tasks’ offer additional intelligent sensor
functions on the one hand and direct networking of multiple sensors on the
other to manage partial applications faster, more efficiently, and more

From smart sensors to smart application

Smart sensors are set to open up new potential
incrementally. They are designed for gradual increases in efficiency in
existing tasks, such as parameter downloading for fast retooling as well as
simple device replacement, configuration management, and condition monitoring.
The additional integrated functions and the option of relocating processing
power from the automation system to field devices represent a future-proof
approach to making automation networks more efficient and helping them to
deliver better performance. They make it possible to generate new,
higher-quality information that goes beyond object detection, accommodating the
application in question. Where necessary, this information can be generated in
combination with another sensor and provided for higher-level systems (PLC,
ERP, and cloud systems).

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