As a company that specializes in the CAN (Controller Area Network) fieldbus, PEAK-System has a clear view of the CAN horizon. Since the company’s launch in 1999, PEAK has been a leading provider of hardware, software, and services for mobile and industrial communications.
Peak Founder and CEO Uwe Wilhelm shared his thoughts with us on the future of the CAN networking protocol, including his view of classic CAN and CAN-FD.
Spoiler alert: The reports of classic CAN’s death are greatly exaggerated!
Q: What are your thoughts on this industry sampling of CAN market share projections into 2027?
Source: Cognitive Market Research. Request sample or purchase report.
CAN FD is the current choice in the automotive sector. The new CAN-XL will certainly be added as a second, new CAN bus standard, with a different usage approach, and classic CAN is still the standard in automation technology and mechanical engineering, though it's gradually being replaced by CAN-FD.
Whether and when there will also be a change to CAN FD cannot really be foreseen.
With its CANopen FD, the CiA (CAN in Automation) group of international users and manufacturers created a standard years ago that is unfortunately not properly accepted in practice. We hope that this will change in the next 1-2 years. There are currently few certified CANopen FD products to buy and customers mostly use the proven CANopen based on the CAN2.0 protocol for new systems. The classic CAN is hard to think of in electronics development.
Regardless of the area, the proportion is constantly increasing. Whether in medical technology or in consumer devices such as washing machines or air conditioning systems, simple sensor / actuator connections can be implemented quickly and inexpensively. A huge selection of components can be used, and operating systems such as Linux have included the CAN protocol as an integral part of their distributions for years.
Q. When do you think FD shipments will overtake classic CAN, and are there any advance preparations or considerations?
Classic CAN (2.0a / b) will probably always be justified and will remain with us for many years to come. In some applications, the CAN-FD simply doesn't make sense. If you don't really need the increased transmission rate and the larger user data, the standard CAN remains the right choice. It's robust, easy to implement, and inexpensive.
Likewise, the classic CAN networks, through the CAN transceivers you use, can also cover very low speeds and also support longer CAN networks where it is not about speed but about robustness and network length.
Q. What are some industrial examples of CAN usage?
Today, CAN is actually used in all technical devices, regardless of the industry.
- Agricultural technology
- Construction machines
- Robotics of all kinds
- Medical technology
- Wind turbines
- Military vehicles and systems (also known as MilCAN)
- Planes (CANaerospace)
- Satellite systems
You will also find CAN in many niche applications, like the latest planetarium projection systems. We have been working for 15 years with a leading company in this market.
Of course, the automotive sector is a major user of CAN networking and the most well-known CAN applications are in vehicles—trucks, cars, buses, and trains. The simple network topology and the EMC (ElectroMagnetic Compatibility) safe transmission method are certainly the decisive factors here.
Likewise, almost every microcontroller family today has derivatives that have integrated one or more CAN buses. There are sensors and actuators from all areas that use CAN, as well as dozens of hardware and software tools for the PC to develop these applications quickly and inexpensively.
Q. Let’s shift to PEAK-System—Can you share any new product development plans or product launches?
PEAK-System is currently finishing the last work on a new product range to offer service tools for marine applications following the National Marine Electronics Association (NMEA) standard. Based on CAN, this standard sets the requirements for a serial data communications network to interconnect marine electronic equipment on vessels, creating the ability to share data, including commands and status, with other compatible equipment over a single channel.
We are also developing solutions under the J1939 open standard for networking and communication in the commercial vehicle sector, focused on the networking of the powertrain. The J1939 protocol, from the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), is a set of standards that define how electronic control units (ECUs) communicate via the CAN bus in heavy-duty vehicles.
We hopefully can begin selling the new Diagnostic Tools in the first quarter of 2022.
Q. How would you describe the relationship between PEAK-System and Grid Connect?
Grid Connect President Mike Justice (left) with PEAK-System CEO Uwe Wilhelm (right)
PEAK-System and Grid Connect have been working very closely together for many years. We still know each other from the days when Grid Connect was still Synergetic.
Mike Justice and I met for the first time in March 1998 at the International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago, and from then on we always had contact and worked on joint projects together.
Products such as the DeviceNet Detective (first and second generation), which are based on our diagnostic devices, are, for example, only available exclusively from Grid Connect.
Adam (CEO Adam Justice) and Mike (President and Founder Mike Justice) are two reliable business partners, especially in the current situation with the shortage of materials, where we have experienced the importance of our cooperation.
Q. Any final comments about the changes in the automotive industry and development of self-driving vehicles? Will CAN continue to play a role?
The number of sensors and the resulting amount of data in current vehicles is increasing from year to year. The security-relevant systems require more and more bandwidth to transmit the information required for this system. CAN and especially CAN-FD are certain to play a not insignificant role. Likewise, the new CAN XL standard will certainly be an enrichment to self-driving cars and will continue to support the whole thing with its new features.
IP-based networks are also used, but simply cannot replace the classic CAN here. The simple connection of sensors and actuators is too great an advantage with CAN that an IP network cannot replace. The main reason is the network topology and costs per node.
For more about PEAK-System
Get a fascinating look at PEAK-System in one of the great videos on the company’s YouTube channel, which starts with footage of Mr. Wilhelm driving his vintage Volkswagen in the scenic German countryside. We highly recommend viewing it for a better understanding of PEAK-System products and capabilities.
For more about CAN
The Controller Area Network (CAN) was created in 1983 by Robert Bosch GmbH to provide synchronous communication between processors in automobile systems. While the automotive industry has been a key sector for CAN networking, as the market research above shows, its use has expanded to a variety of industrial and consumer products and processes.