Video via Ethernet, now

Video on the plant floor can help with operations, maintenance, repairs, training, and other plant-floor activities to decrease downtime. A key enabling tool is Ethernet with video bandwidth capabilities. Beyond security applications, industrial video can save a significant amount of money on the plant floor through: Everything you need to reap these benefits is available today, but getting sta...


Video on the plant floor can help with operations, maintenance, repairs, training, and other plant-floor activities to decrease downtime. A key enabling tool is Ethernet with video bandwidth capabilities. Beyond security applications, industrial video can save a significant amount of money on the plant floor through:

  • Knowledge preservation;

  • Expert optimization;

  • Faster repairs; and

  • Troubleshooting.

Everything you need to reap these benefits is available today, but getting started requires a few things in addition to a camera, namely:

  • Network infrastructure, wired or wireless, appropriate to the task.

  • Security clearance for outside two-way connections through the plant-floor network as needed, for video and other data streams.

  • Means of viewing: Human machine interface (HMI) where needed on the machine, a portable screen, laptop, or HMI goggles.

  • Foresight; appropriate investments, processes.

At least two demonstrations of industrial Ethernet video were demonstrated in “plant floor” applications at Rockwell’s Automation Fair 2007, held this November in Chicago’s McCormick Place. One local video application in a Rockwell Automation connectivity demonstration had a camera point into the crowd and streamed resulting video onto a HMI. It ran on the same local Ethernet-based network protocol (EtherNet/IP) as a high speed motion control application.

The other, a nearby Cisco demonstration, allowed users to view live Internet protocol (IP) video and make on-screen changes to controls in real-time, more than 1,600 miles away, showing how an expert with appropriately enabled security clearance could troubleshoot a machine remotely. Enabling technologies from Cisco include ASA 5500 Series Adaptive Security Appliance, integrating “world-class firewall, Unified Communications (voice/video) security, SSL and IPsec VPN, intrusion prevention (IPS), and content security services.” Dan Knight, Cisco industry solutions manager, manufacturing, says a “lot of people are looking at setups like this to enhance services and remote engineering support.” Such capabilities could speed configuration, changeovers, and startups, and decrease downtime, he suggests.

The Cisco demo wasn’t available online by this article’s deadline, but controls vendor Opto 22 previously offered a public demonstration of an Internet-based control connection where visitors could actuate lights and a motor at its facility. Many videos and video-camera connections are available online, both manufacturing related and general interest. See “Online Text, Video” box for more details.

Ability to incorporate video in an Ethernet-based control system is somewhat new, as Ethernet-enabled cameras and viewing monitors only recently have become available. Traditional fieldbus protocols cannot accommodate video, says Peter Wood, GarrettCom vice president of engineering, “because of the bandwidth requirements. If an installation is to have more than two video transmissions (from video cameras or stored video), then you would want at least 100 Mbps Ethernet” protocol. Devices with multicast support can save bandwidth, he adds.

Ethernet infrastructure for industrial video is not much different than the network requirements for industrial Ethernet control systems, according to Eddie Lee, Moxa Technologies’ product marketing manager– Americas, industrial networking. Lee also states:

  • Managed switches are preferred, due to their ability to handle multicast communications and be configured for different VLANs.

  • Bandwidth needs vary: Depending on the size of the installation [number of cameras, video quality or resolution, frames per second (FPS)], gigabit bandwidth typically is recommended.

  • Video encoders can deliver savings: Since analog cameras are still predominantly found in many plant installations, industrial video encoders (also referred to as video servers) are a cost effective means of bringing the existing analog (coaxial) video network onto an Ethernet network without replacing analog cameras with IP cameras. Lee recommends industrial-grade video servers for challenging environments.

In many industrial settings, video surveillance cannot be wired back to a central station to be monitored or recorded, says Ira Sharp, lead product marketing specialist for Phoenix Contact’s Interface Wireless products. Sharp says the best among wireless technologies for video surveillance applications is 802.11, or wireless Ethernet. The three related IEEE standards are 802.11 a/b/g, allowing 54 Mbps - good for most industrial applications, Sharp says, but insufficient for High Definition (HD) video.

Author Information

Mark T. Hoske is editor in chief , Control Engineering,

ONLINE text, video

Apprion Ion Wireless video monitoring application

Ethernet-based video vs. analog-based video

Moxa video encoder VPort 351 series

(scroll down to see)

Ethernet video: Middleware upgrade

White paper links

Garrettcom: ISO Layer 2 Multicast Capability for Video Feeds

Moxa: Six Factors to Consider when Upgrading to an Industrial Grade IP Surveillance System

Example videos can be found at:

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