Market Insight

Insight into the successful adoption of IO-Link

October 16, 2017

Susanne Cumberland Susanne Cumberland Senior Research Analyst, Power and Energy Technology, IHS Markit

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  • IIoT impacting industrial communications market.
  • High growth for IO-Link in sensors and remote I/Os.
  • Sensors and remote I/Os account for nearly a third of connected nodes within IHS Markit’s Industrial Communications report.


Industrial communication has been evolving with IIoT and Industry 4.0. There is a shift from Fieldbus to Ethernet, and IHS Markit forecasts the growth of Ethernet, over the forecast period of 2016 – 2021, to be double that of Fieldbus. Ethernet is a key component for IIoT and as IIoT solutions mature and become more widely used, Ethernet will accelerate in growth. Fieldbus growth is lower, but steady, in some products, such as; PLCs, motion controllers, and low-voltage motor drives. These product areas, and similar products, see the greatest shift towards Ethernet. Some are outpacing or expecting to surpass, Fieldbus in terms of new connected devices shipped.

It is important to note that IHS Markit defines a network node as a single, permanent, connection to a network, which can be used to add or retrieve data.

However, Fieldbus is still growing, which with the transition to Ethernet may be a surprise to some. Fieldbus, at a global level, is growing 7%, and has the highest growth in EMEA. The large installed base of Fieldbus enabled devices, does contribute to this growth. Another key driver of this Fieldbus is the connectivity of sensors and remote I/Os, along with the rapid adoption of the IO-Link protocol in the devices, see Figure 1.

At a global level sensors’ Fieldbus growth rate is nearly the same as Ethernet connected nodes, this is primarily influenced by the rapid growth of the IO-Link protocol. Within the market for sensors, IO-Link accounted for just below a third of the connected sensors, in 2016, and is forecast to grow from 2.1 million connected nodes to 6.5 million by 2021. This growth rate is more than double the growth of traditional fieldbus connected nodes, figure 2. EMEA is forecast to experience the greatest impact as IO-Link has nearly 30% growth rate over the forecast period (2016-2021), in this region.

IO-Link is also being successfully introduced to remote I/O devices, a sector that accounts for around a fifth of all connected nodes, as covered within IHS Markit’s Industrial Communications research.

In summary, IO-Link has been rapidly adopted in the sensors market, as well as successfully introduced to remote I/O devices. With IIoT driving the need for data, through sensors, for applications such as analytics, IO-Link will benefit as more sensors become connected.

Research by Market
Manufacturing Technology
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