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1 LOCAL AREA NETWORK FOR DISTRIBUTING DATA COMMUNICATION, SENSING AND CONTROL SIGNALS
This is a division of parent co-pending application Ser. No. 1 1/ 1 90,884, filed Jul. 28, 2005, itself a continuation of grandparent application Ser. No. 09/349,020, filed Jul. 7, 1999, now U.S. Pat. No. 6,956,826, issued Oct. 18, 2005.
The present invention relates to the field of wired communication and control networks, and, more particularly, to local area networks and networks used for sensing, communication, and control.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
Local area networks (LANs) for distributing data communication, sensing, and control signals are often based on a “bus” topology, as shown in FIG. 1. Such a network 10 relies on shared electrically-conducting communication media 1, usually constituted by a twisted-pair of electrical conductors or a coaxial cable. Network data terminal equipment (DTE) units 5, 6, and 7 are connected via respective network adapters 2, 3, and 4 to communication media 1. Network adapters 2, 3, and 4 function as data communication equipment (DCE) units, and are tapped into communication media 1, forming parallel electric connections, and-thereby interface between DTE units 5, 6, and 7 and communication media 1. Such network adapters are also commonly referred to as “NIC”, an example of which is the Network Interface Card IEEE 802 (Ethernet). Such a topology is commonly used for connecting personal computers (PCs) in a network. Network adapters can be stand-alone units, integrated into the DTE unit or housed therewith in a common enclosure.
Control networks, interconnecting sensors, actuators, and DTE’s also commonly use the same topology, such as the network described in U.S. Pat. No. 4,918,690 (Markkula, Jr. et al.) and shown in FIG. 2. In a network 20, network adapters 22, 23, and 24 function as DCE’s, but are commonly referred to as “nodes”. The payloads 25, 26, and 27 are composed of sensors, actuators, and DTE’s.
Hereinafter, the term “node” is used for both control and data-communication applications.
A topology (such as bus topology) whose physical layer communication media employs multi-point connections, is not optimal for communication, and exhibits the following drawbacks:
1. The maximum length of the communication media is
2. The maximum number of units connected to the bus is
3. Complex transceivers are required in order to interface
the communication media.
4. The data rate is limited.
5. Terminators are required at the communication media
ends, thus complicating the installation.
6. At any given time, only single connected unit may trans
mit; all others are receiving.
7. In case of short circuit in the bus, the whole network fails.
Localizing the fault is very diflicult.
Despite these drawbacks, however, bus topology offers two unique advantages:
1. If the application requires “broadcast” data distribution,
where the data generated by a given node must be distributed to all (or a majority of) the nodes in the network,
network operation is very eflicient. This is because only a single network operation is required (i.e., to establish which node is the transmitter). The broadcast data is received by all other nodes in the network in parallel without additional network overhead.
2. The broadcast message is received simultaneously by all receiving nodes in the network. This is important in real-time control applications, for example, where orderly operation of the units must be maintained.
The communication-related drawbacks described above are solved by networks constructed of multiple communication links, wherein each instance of the link communication media connects only two units in the network. Here, the physical layer in each segment is independent of other links, and employs a point-to-point connection. Data and/or messages are handled and routed using data-link layer control. One example of such system for LAN purposes is the TokenRing, described in the IEEE 802 standard. An example of a corresponding control network is described in U.S. Pat. No. 5,095,417 to Hagiwara et al. Both networks use circular topology (“ring topology”) as illustrated in FIG. 3. A network 30 interconnects nodes (or NIC’s) 32, 33, and 34 by three separate cables 31A, 31B, and 31C, each connecting a pair of nodes and forming three distinct physical layer communication links. Payloads (or DTE’ s) 35, 36, and 37 are respectively connected to the appropriate nodes.
Both the Hagiwara network and the Token-Ring network use unidirectional communication in each communication link and require a circular topology. The PSIC network described in U.S. Pat. No. 5,841,360 to the present inventor teaches a similar network where the use of a circular topology is optional, and bi-directional communication (either halfduplex or full-duplex mode) is employed in the communication links.
The above-mentioned prior art patents -and networks are representative only. Certain applications are covered by more than one issued patent. Additional discussion concerning the above-mentioned topologies can be found in U.S. Pat. No. 5,841 ,360 entitled. “Distributed serial control system” which issued Nov. 24, 1998 and co-pending U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/123,486 filed Jul. 28, 1998, both in the name of the present inventor, and incorporated by reference for all purposes as if fully set forth herein.
Networks such as those illustrated in FIG. 3 typically use a “store and forward” mechanism, wherein the data received at a specific node is decoded at least to the data-link layer, and then re-encoded and transmitted to another point in the network as determined by the network control. This use of pointto-point communication links eliminates the communication drawbacks enumerated above in broadcast-based networks, but it lacks the two unique advantages of the broadcast technology, as also previously enumerated. Because the data is not inherently distributed throughout a network based solely on point-to-point communication links, such a network incurs a heavy overhead when broadcast is needed and exhibits delays in the propagation of messages. The overhead and delays result from the need to decode and re-encode messages at each node.
There is thus a widely-recognized need for, and it would be highly advantageous to have, a means of implementing a network which allows for both improved communication characteristics, while also supporting broadcast discipline and fast message distribution along the network.
It is an obj ect of the present invention to provide a local area network in which at least some of the drawbacks described above are reduced or eliminated.