SPE as a Key Technology

Single Pair Ethernet: Paving the Way for Open Automation

Barrier-Free Data Transfer with Single Pair Ethernet

Single Pair Ethernet (SPE) is an important milestone in automation: It simplifies industrial communication and enables barrier-free data transfer – from the field level to the cloud.

In contrast to conventional ETHERNET, SPE requires only a single pair of conductors and is standardized by the IEEE. This new technology has the potential to reduce the number of network transitions, enabling seamless IP communication at best.

Speed, Consistency, Cost and Space Savings

Single Pair Ethernet has many advantages and is truly multi-talented. It also supports power transmission of up to 50 watts, cable lengths of up to 1000 meters, multiple outputs in line topologies and much more. The spectrum of applications is wide – especially in open automation: WAGO has recognized the potential of SPE and is working on a consistent networking of production, process and building technology systems to harness the benefits of this technology for customers.

End-to-End Communication from the Field Level to the Cloud

Single Pair Ethernet bridges all levels of the automation pyramid and paves the way for unimpeded data flow. This is especially true at the “last” mile, i.e., the field level, while providing greater bandwidth, so excessive data economy is a thing of the past. With its many different characteristics (including 10BASE-T1L, PoDL and multidrop), SPE is considered a key technology because it not only offers the potential to replace the previous communication cabling but it also creates a uniform communication basis.

“This makes SPE an accelerator for sensor-to-cloud communication, like the ones we used in Industry 4.0 and IIoT applications,” says Marco Henkel, Vice President of Technology Management at WAGO.

SPE Supports Interoperability and Power Transmission

The technology is standardized by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), which ensures interoperability between SPE devices from different manufacturers. In addition to data transmission, Single Pair Ethernet also supports power transmission – Power over Data Line (PoDL) – up to 50 watts on the same wire pair it uses for communication. This allows terminal devices that support PoDL – so-called powered devices (PD) – not just to be connected to information technology via fewer wires but also to be powered. No additional wiring is necessary for the power supply.
In addition, Single Pair Ethernet with “Multidrop” has something that today’s ETHERNET doesn’t: It allows multiple devices to be operated on one line via 10BASE-T1S without additional infrastructure components such as switches. In the future, this feature will also allow bus topologies in addition to the usual star topologies.

SPE is more than just a technological topic – SPE is a standard, namely an IEEE standard for a wide variety of IT and OT applications.

Marco Henkel

Vice President of Technology Management

Save Resources with SPE

Even at the meta level, i.e., before bits and bytes are involved, SPE is a problem solver, since Single Pair Ethernet saves resources and thus contributes to sustainability. Since SPE only needs two wires, it saves material, space, weight and money. “Metaphorically speaking, SPE delivers more communication power per unit of weight or volume or in the transport container,” says Marco Henkel.
The lightweight (up to 60% weight savings) two-wire design also saves time during wiring and possible troubleshooting, which also conserves resources. This reduces the CO2 footprint of production, transport and, ultimately, the building or application.

Single Pair Ethernet in Practice

Single Pair Ethernet is a pioneer in open automation and is increasingly standardizing communication so that all systems speak the same language – from sensors to the cloud. SPE is used in applications like building controls, such as for blinds, doors or lighting, but also in industry.

In particular, the fast communication is of particular benefit for more complex sensors that provide the data volume to the application via standard ETHERNET-based fieldbus protocols. WAGO’s 2601, 2086 and 2091 Series PCB Terminal Blocks are already approved for SPE and provide extremely easy device connection for Single Pair Ethernet.

Collaborating to Promote SPE

The transformation from technology to engineering to product requires cooperation: WAGO has been a member of the Single Pair Ethernet System Alliance (SPESA) since September 2022 to bundle strengths. This platform is one on which a wide variety of manufacturers want to implement and advance the technology together with their respective market access points.

The focus of the cross-company collaboration is on the user and their use cases: “For users, it is important that the benefits of the technology are worked out and made known. We want to be in the front row,” says Henkel. WAGO’s task now is taking this exact step with SPESA to create an interoperable, manufacturer-independent overall system for customers and jointly advance Industry 4.0.

The same applies to industry as well as to building automation. The SPESA members Belimo, Thermokon and WAGO therefore discussed the success factors of SPE in building automation and jointly listed these in a position paper.

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