Factory automation is about much more than just the latest robotics system or high-speed milling machine. The key to factory automation is communication, making all of elements of a system—be they robots or high-speed milling machines—work together seamlessly to improve productivity while reducing defect rates and overall costs.Siemens Industry Automation and Drive Technologies unit has several tools that can improve digital communication on the factory floor. Its Simatic ET 200 pro distributed I/O system can communicate via an industrial wireless LAN, making it easier to control equipment—including overhead monorails and automatic guided vehicles—even in harsh environments. The company’s industrial wireless LAN system has added iHOP capability, which detects radio field interference and automatically switches to a better channel—including the 5-GHz band—for improved communication. When it comes to data delivery, speed is of the utmost importance, and the SIMATIC S7-mEC embedded controller, with EM PC and EM PCI-104 expansion modules, comes complete with preinstalled visualization software that integrates both the human-machine interface (HMI) and software controller, eliminating the need for commissioning. What’s more, the controller offers improved data sharing speeds. With the addition of the EM PC module, data can be shared easily with PC-based systems, while the EM PCI-104 module permits fieldbus modules for Profibus to be connected via high-speed I/O cards or cards for special applications, including sound cards.