This change is due to two main reasons: firstly, people want access to data from anywhere in the factory, country or world. Secondly, the bandwidth required for machinery has increased, for example larger and higher resolution printers, higher resolution video and cameras, and more test data required, such as for more complex semiconductors.
There are low bandwidth Ethernet solutions, running at less than 100Mbits/sec, which can be deployed as drop in replacements for RS232. But for most applications, higher bandwidth connections such as Gigabit Ethernet are being increasingly used in embedded and industrial networking.
Typical applications include visual inspection, testing, motion control, 3D printing, video surveillance, and remote monitoring for maintenance, as well as new use cases such as augmented reality for remote maintenance.
The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is also driving adoption of higher bandwidth networking. IIoT, also known as Industry 4.0, can be defined as using well-established technologies in sensor data, machine to machine communication and automation, and then adding new approaches such as machine learning and big data. This aims to improve efficiencies in manufacturing and other industries, but does require a step up in networking technology for many companies.