Betting on CAN & CANopen, 2023 Update

By Olaf Pfeiffer


The original article is 20 years old, time for an update!

Since first publication of this article, the Controller Area Network (CAN), often referred to as CANbus, has solidified its position as a vital network in the embedded systems sector. This technology has not only stood the test of time but has evolved to match the modern demands of various industries.

Current Market Dynamics

Car dashboardThe automotive industry has always been a significant driving force behind the advancements in CAN technology, pushing for new protocol versions such as CAN FD and CAN XL. These innovations address the increasing data transmission requirements in vehicles.

These updates also benefit other industrial sectors and lengthens the overall lifetime of the CAN technology and offering new advanced possibilities for J1939 and CANopen which both were adapted to support CAN FD. Such protocols are essential in facilitating straightforward integration processes involving various industrial components such as encoders, drives, and sensors, allowing for a standardized communication.

Primary Advantages of CAN

MotorCAN still stands as a reliable choice for real-time applications in industrial settings, offering robust and timely data transmission. Especially electrical drives/motors benefit from a Device Profile that supports all the different control modes typically used by such motors. Through the years, enhancements such as TTCAN have been introduced to reserve bandwidth for specific messages, thus guaranteeing precise time slots for various types of communications, allowing its use in hard real-time systems.

One of the strong suits of CAN is its cost-effectiveness. Implementing CAN technology doesn't substantially increase hardware costs as CAN controllers are an integral part of many microcontrollers. Its strong presence in the market has led to a competitive price-performance ratio, proving to be an economically viable choice for many industries.

Emerging Market Segments

Two decades ago, most CAN systems operated as closed networks, isolated from external influences. However, we often see a different scenario today, where CAN nodes commonly feature multiple interfaces, and in several cases, are even internet-enabled. This evolution requires heightened security measures to safeguard system integrity and data confidentiality in the CAN networks. With the help of the CAN in Automation (CiA) international users and manufacturers association developers and engineers are channelling their efforts to standardize advanced security features. These modifications aim to protect the networks from potential cyber-attacks.

In parallel, there has been a concerted effort to enhance the safety aspects of these networks, particularly in industries where the risk factors are significant. For instance, in maritime control and medical applications, CANopen has been leveraged to create systems with stringent safety protocols, ensuring seamless and secure operations even in critical environments.

As the CAN technology continues to penetrate various market segments, the focus remains firmly on developing robust security and safety protocols, ensuring its resilience and reliability for years to come.

Conclusion and Future Prospects

As we move forward, CAN and CANopen continue to offer promising avenues for innovation and application in embedded systems. Their steady growth and adaptability make them a technology to consider for future developments in both established and emerging market sectors.