Industrial automation has always had its share of TLAs (Three Letter Acronyms). Now there are new ones representing new concepts of industrial automation’s future. These include: 

  • Internet of Things (IoT)
  • Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT—yes, now we also need four-letter acronyms) 
  • Industrie 4.0

My goal here is to describe the relationship among these. Here is the relationship description visually (46-second video):


The Industrial Internet of Things is common to the other concepts described with PROFINET providing data to all—data from devices connected by PROFINET—data from a PROFINET of Things.

PROFINET has advantages over other Industrial Ethernets, solidifying its role as data provider to IIoT: PROFINET uses TCP/IP for configuration and diagnostic information and skips it for real-time data (using standard IEEE 802.3 capabilities). So speeds from seconds to microseconds are provided as needed.

PROFINET integrates non-Ethernet networks like PROFIBUS, DeviceNet, and Foundation Fieldbus. This protects investments in existing infrastructure and allows integrating process buses in hazardous environments where no Ethernet can land. The integration is done as part of the open PROFINET specification. (Open standards are a big part of all the concepts mentioned.)

It’s not just data that PROFINET carries. Information about the quality of the data and more is gathered. And the data is arranged into Application Profiles for consistent applicability across vendors. Application Profiles are also part of the open specification.

Include PROFINET’s comprehensive diagnostics and adherence to open standards (from IEEE 802.3 to IEC 61158) and it’s easy to see why PROFINET—the PROFINET of Things—is the data provider to IIoT.

About the author

Carl Henning

Deputy Director for PROFINET

Carl has had experience with a machinery maker, a process instrument company, several system integrators, an HMI company, and now with PI North America. He focuses on educating the industrial automation market about PROFINET. Carl blogs about industrial automation, fieldbus, and Industrial Ethernet at