“Old” and “New” Markets for CAN Networks

More than just automotive and industrial control applications

Erlangen, November 16, 2007 - The increase of CiA members in the last two years from 417 to 517 indicates the increasing acceptance of CAN networks in many markets and diversified application areas. The CAN in Automation (CiA) international users and manufacturers group supports all those interested in CAN (Controller Area Network). On top of this, the 1992-founded nonprofit group develops and updates the CANopen specifications. These specifications comprise CANopen application protocols as well as device- and application-specific profiles.


One of the “old” CAN markets is the automotive sector. This year, approximately 600 million CAN controllers have been installed in embedded vehicle networks. “This makes CAN one of the most successful serial bus systems”, said CiA Managing Director Holger Zeltwanger. “CAN will dominate in all kinds of vehicles in the future, too.”

CAN is also being used in motorized rikshaws, motorized scooters, and even in bicycles with add-on motor. The CANopen profile for light electric vehicles (LEV) is being developed in cooperation with the EnergyBus nonprofit group. In passenger cars, CAN will take on additional tasks, e.g. networking of ECUs (electronic control units) and sensors in driver assistance systems and pedestrian protection systems.

Special vehicles such as taxis, police cars, and handicapped-driver cars, are going to use the CAN-based higher-layer protocol CANopen to network specific add-on devices. CiA developed the CiA 447 application profile for this purpose. This profile has already been implemented I prototype applications.

Machine control

In the “old” market machine control, CANopen has been highly successful especially in embedded networks. The higher-layer protocol is “invisibly” at work especially in machine controls that move something.

Fr example, many drive manufacturers have implemented the CiA 402 CANopen device profile for electric drives. This profile will soon be internationally standardized as IEC 61700-8-201/301.

However, CANopen is also suitable for distributed controls – a feature that is more and more important and in demand – and for machine modules from third parties, e.g. saws and calibration desks for extruders, dryers and powder units for printing machines, yarn feeders for weaving machines, or yarn reels for knitting machines. These machine modules require specification and standardization also of the status machine in the application profile.

Medical technology

Another “old” market for CAN and CANopen is the medical technology market. CANopen is established as THE embedded network in this application area. CANopen networks are found in large (e.g. computer

tomographs) as well as in small (e.g. endoscope controls) medical devices. CIA members are currently working on standardized profiles for intensive care units, including patient beds, but also laboratory automation devices. “Whats interesting is that manufacturers use CANopen devices that were originally developed for completely different applications,” said Holger Zeltwanger. “For example, theyll use drives and sensors, but also PLCs (programmable logic controller), which originate in the machine control and factory automation. This could be a very interesting new market for some manufacturers.”

Energy generation

Energy generation is one of the “new” markets for CAN networks. Even though the CANopen application profile for photovoltaic plants has already been specified, other industries in this market have just started standardizing of CANopen profiles, e.g. wind-powered energy generation is one of them. On top of regenerative energy generation systems, CANopen-based local energy-management systems are in the pipeline. “To solve the energy problems of humankind, we will need efficiently controlled local generation systems with distributed controls to manage system parts and consumers in the best possible way, “ said Holger Zeltwanger.

Future markets

CAN and CANopen networks will also become more important in another application areas. CiA is expecting increased acceptance especially in railway vehicle systems, since CANopen has been standardized internationally as vehicle bus system in IEC 61373-3-3.

For lifts and elevator networks, some of the large manufacturers discuss the CiA 417 CANopen application profile. Special vehicles, e.g. garbage trucks and fire-fighting trucks, but also in mining and construction vehicles and mobile cranes use CANopen already. “We have literally seen a CANopen boom on off-road and off-highway vehicles lately, “said Holger Zeltwanger. Also included in this application area are spreaders and other crane add-on devices, which are standardized in the CiA 444 specification. Many users adapt devices from other application areas or buy device that were developed for a different application area, thus using synergy effects of work that has already been done elsewhere. CiA is planning to develop CANopen profiles for programmable energy supplies, vacuum and hydraulic pumps, low-voltage switchgear and deep sea measuring systems for oil rigs. These profiles will be published throughout the year 2008 in close cooperation with other groups and organizations such as the VDMA (German Engineering Federation), the EPSG (European Petroleum Survey Group), and the PNO (Profibus users group).

“CANs 1 Mbit/s maximum bit-rate is hardly every a real problem; the real problem are the ‘rabbits that are blinded by the light of the 100 Mbit/s Ethernet ‘snake, “said Holger Zeltwanger. “More than 80% of applications today use just a fraction of the available CAN bandwidth.”

Should one network not be enough, CAN may also be run as parallel networks or as cascaded networks. More information is available from www.can-cia.org or via email to headquartes@can-cia.org.

CAN in Automation (CiA) e. V. is the international users' and manufacturers' group for Controller Area Network (CAN). The non-profit association was founded in 1992 and is supported by over 500 members (November 2007). CiA members develop CAN-based higher-layer protocols and device profiles. CiA representatives participate in international standardization bodies (IEC and ISO).