The requirement for flexible operation is becoming increasingly important in modern industrial systems. This requirement has to be supported at all system levels, including the field level in process industry, as well as the cell and machine control levels in manufacturing industry, where fieldbus-based communication systems are commonly found. Furthermore, typical applications at these levels require both time- and event-triggered communication services, in most cases under stringent timing constraints, to convey state data in the former case and alarms and management data in the latter. However, neither the requirement for flexible operation under guaranteed timeliness nor for joint support of time and event-triggered traffic are efficiently fulfilled by most of existing fieldbus systems. This paper presents a new protocol, Flexible Time-Triggered communication on Controller Area Network, which fulfills both requirements: it supports time-triggered communication in a flexible way as well as being an efficient combination of both time- and event-triggered traffic with temporal isolation. These types of traffic are handled by two complementary subsystems, the Synchronous and the Asynchronous Messaging Systems, respectively. The paper includes a justification for the new protocol as well as its description and worst case temporal analysis for both subsystems. This analysis shows the capability of the protocol to convey real-time traffic of either type.
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