25 years CAN in Automation (CiA)

A quarter of a century is in electronic business a long time. When the international users’ and manufacturers’ group for CAN (Controller Area Network) was established, the so-called “fieldbus war” was already underway.

About 20 serial bus systems were fighting on market shares. Just a few survived. The mid of the 80s for in-vehicle networking developed CAN protocol is one of the most successful serial bus systems used in industrial automation and many other non-automotive applications. Besides its high reliability and robustness as well as the reasonable costs and simple handling, the nonprofit CiA association made its modest contribution to establish CAN technology in so many application fields.

In 2016 more than one billion CAN controllers have been sold. Even if considering 90 percent are going into vehicles, about 100 millions are installed in other applications. “CAN is the most successful industrial bus system,” stated Holger Zeltwanger, since 25 years CiA Managing Director. “With the already internationally standardized CAN FD protocol extension the lifecycle will be prolonged by one or two decades.”

The CANopen application layer maintained since 1994 by CiA has been established in many markets. About 20000 pages of profile specification make CANopen one of the best-specified technical communication systems. Some of the CANopen profiles are internationally standardized (e.g. the CiA 402 drive profile in IEC 61700-8/201/301). Standardized profiles are an indispensible requirement to achieve interoperability between products from different vendors.

In the year of its 25th anniversary, CiA organizes the 16th international CAN Conference. Conference location is Nuremberg (Germany), the hometown of the nonprofit association. Besides this event, CiA has scheduled as usual several seminars for newcomers and some CAN 2020 webinars introducing CAN FD technology.

“When I initiated the CiA organization in 1992,” said Holger Zeltwanger, “I was not aware that this would lead to a longtime association with 15 employees in 2017.” With more than 600 membership fee paying members the association is very active in international standardization representing also small and medium-sized companies. Additionally, CiA provides a lot of marketing activities including its own publications (e.g. CAN Newsletter) to bring the CAN/CANopen technology to the most remote corner of the earth and even into the orbit – ESA and NASA are using CAN in satellites.