CANopen deeply embedded

Embedded networks are not really visible, but sometimes you see them like the top of an iceberg. Deeply embedded networks are often even invisible for insiders.

CANopen was originally developed for embedded machine control. At the end of last century and in the first decade of this millennium, CANopen captured one market after the other. This included textile, plastic processing, and many other special-purpose machines. Especially in medical devices and mobile machinery, CANopen is the dominating embedded control network due to its robustness, reliability, and flexibility. Its reasonable hardware costs is just another advantage.

The times are changing: Bandwidth requirements are increasing dramatically. This is driven by big data, Internet-of-Things, and other IT-related trends. On the top end, Ethernet with 100 Mbit/s and in the future with 1 Gbit/s are needed in many application fields. At the very same moment, the control devices became more complex and require an additional deeply embedded network, for example modular I/O devices. The term I/O systems would fit better to them.

Some of such I/O systems already implement a CANopen network as backbone. When I remember correctly, this idea is more than 20 years old: It was a high-complex I/O device with a backbone approach running three CAN-based networks in parallel. In the last years, several companies developed similar solutions.

You can say, CANopen is falling done one level, from embedded networking to deeply embedded networking. The tradeoff: CANopen becomes less visible. On the other hand, the number of CANopen nodes will increase dramatically. With these high-volume applications, the business conditions are changing, too. Price is now an even more important issue. In addition, you need to produce high quantities with high quality.

To summarize, there is a bright future for CANopen. Especially, deeply embedded networks will foster the CANopen business. But there will be remaining many embedded control system based on CANopen networks. With increasing demand on functional safety and cyber security, they will need larger PDOs. CANopen FD provides this: The up to 64-byte payload allows even the support both demands.

We invite you to visit CiA’s booth (hall 1, stand 630) at Embedded World 2018 in Nuremberg and to discuss with us the future of CANopen and CANopen FD.

Holger Zeltwanger