Fieldbus is the name of a family of industrial computer network protocols used for real-time distributed control, standardized as IEC 61158.


A complex automated industrial system — such as manufacturing assembly line — usually needs a distributed control system—an organized hierarchy of controller systems—to function. In this hierarchy, there is usually a Human Machine Interface (HMI) at the top, where an operator can monitor or operate the system. This is typically linked to a middle layer of programmable logic controllers (PLC) via a non-time-critical communications system (e.g. Ethernet). At the bottom of the control chain is the fieldbus that links the PLCs to the components that actually do the work, such as sensors, actuators, electric motors, console lights, switches, valves and contactors.


The oldest commonly used field bus technology is Bitbus. Bitbus was created by Intel Corporation to enhance use of Multibus systems in industrial systems by separating slow i/o functions from faster memory access. In 1983, Intel created the 8044 Bitbus microcontroller by adding field bus firmware to its existing 8051 microcontroller. Bitbus uses EIA-485 at the physical layer, with two twisted pairs – one for data and the other for clocking and signals. Use of SDLC at the data link layer permits 250 nodes on one segment with a total distance of 13.2 km. Bitbus has one master node and multiple slaves, with slaves only responding to requests from the master. Bitbus does not define routing at the network layer


Although fieldbus technology has been around since 1988, with the completion of the ISA S50.02 standard, the development of the international standard took many years. In 1999, the IEC SC65C/WG6 standards committee met to resolve difference in the draft IEC fieldbus standard. The result of this meeting was the initial form of the IEC 61158 standard with eight different protocol sets called “Types” as follows:

Type 1 Foundation Fieldbus H1
Type 2 ControlNet
Type 4 P-Net
Type 5 FOUNDATION fieldbus HSE (High Speed Ethernet)
Type 6 SwiftNet (a protocol developed for Boeing, since withdrawn)
Type 7 WorldFIP
Type 8 Interbus