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CAN in Automation turns 30

On March 5, it has been 30 years since six companies and two individuals have established the CAN in Automation (CiA) international users’ and manufacturers’ group for CAN. Today, more than 700 companies and other legal entities have joined. This article provides history and future information about CiA.

On March 5, 1992, 30 years ago, CiA was established (Source: Adobe Stock)

In 1992, the nonprofit association for CAN, internationally standardized in the ISO 11898 series, has been established to provide an independent body to collect and to distribute technical, product, and marketing information on CAN. The aim was providing an unbiased platform for the promotion of CAN’s image and the opportunity to provide a path for future developments of the CAN protocol. In the same year, the first joint stand for CiA members was organized at the Interkama exhibition in Düsseldorf (Germany). Additionally, the first issue of the CAN Newsletter magazine was published. The number of member companies increased and staff was needed to be hired. Currently, 720 members worldwide have joined CiA and the number of employees has grown to 14.

The members jointly develop and publish CiA specifications, which cover all Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) layers and applications in different domains. CiA representatives support actively the international standardization of CAN-related topics. Additionally, the members promote jointly CAN technology in different markets. This includes road vehicles, off-road and off-highway vehicles, industrial automation, medical devices, rail vehicles, maritime electronics, building automation, power generation and distribution, and others. The CiA activities are performed by technical and marketing groups.

How CiA works

Every CiA member has one vote in the annual CiA General Assembly, regardless of the company size or number of employees. The CiA General Assembly elects the board of directors: The Technical Director chairs the CiA Technical Committee, the Business Director chairs the CiA Business Committee, and the CiA Managing Director is responsible for the daily business. The CiA headquarter is managed by the CiA GmbH which is a 100-percent daughter of the nonprofit association.

Background milestones

Already in 1992, CiA members agreed on the pin-assignment for 9-pin Dsub connectors. In 1994, the association published the very first version of the CANopen specification: CiA 301 is one of the most successful Esprit research projects, explained the association. The same year, the first international CAN Conference (iCC) took place in Mainz (Germany), where CAN experts from all over the world exchanged their knowledge and experiences. 16 further conferences followed. In 1997, CiA released the CiA 402 CANopen device profile for drives and motion control. This set of profile specifications standardizes the functional behavior of controllers for servo drives, frequency inverters, and stepper motors. It also introduces several operation modes and corresponding configuration parameters. 2001, the CiA 304 (CANopen Safety) specification was released, which is meanwhile standardized in EN 50325-5. In 2003, the CiA 417 (CANopen application profile for lift control systems) specification series was published. It is also known as CANopen Lift and specifies the communication interfaces for different virtual devices. In 2009, CiA organized the first CANopen Lift plugfest. The purpose of these events is to check and improve the interoperability of CANopen devices. It helps device designers to optimize their device software. In the year 2017, the CiA 1301 (CANopen FD application layer and communication profile) specification was disclosed. CANopen FD makes use of the CAN FD data link layer providing higher bit rates and larger payloads (up to 64 byte per data frame). Additionally, CiA published the CiA 601 (CAN FD node and system design) series comprising specifications, guidelines, and recommendations.

The nonprofit association fosters the image of CAN technology (Source: CiA)

To improve the use of CAN FD networks, 2019 CiA developed the SIC (signal improvement capability) transceiver specification, which is documented in the CiA 601-4 specification. 2020, CiA 510 specifies the mapping of CANopen protocols such as SDOs and EMCY to J1939 parameter groups (PGs). In conjunction with the mapping of profile-specific PDOs to PGs, this enables the use of CiA profiles (CiA 4XX series) also on the J1939 application layer. In 2021, another milestone was the development of CAN XL, the third generation of the CAN data link and physical layers. The CiA 610-1 (data link layer and physical coding sub-layer requirements) and the CiA 610-3 (physical medium attachment sub-layer requirements) specifications were revealed. The CAN XL frame format allows data fields with a length from 1 byte to 2 048 byte. In January 2022, CAN XL was submitted for ISO standardization. The CAN XL and CAN FD Light specifications will be included in the new editions of the ISO 11898-1 and ISO 11898-2 standards.

In the beginning, the industry consortia focused on the development of non-automotive CAN applications. Nowadays, CiA members develop and specify also the CAN lower layers and support all industries using CAN-based technologies. In total, CiA specifications comprise more than 25 000 pages. Today, there are three generations of CAN data link layers (DLL): Classical CAN, CAN FD, and CAN XL.

CiA celebrates its birthday with an in-person event on June 1 and June 2 (Source: Adobe Stock)

CiA birthday party as in-person event

On June 1 and June 2, 2022 CiA celebrates its 30th anniversary with an in-person event in Nuremberg (Germany). The two-day event comprises four sessions with presentations and includes the regular annual general assembly with election of the board of directors and members of the CiA Technical Committee and the CiA Business Committee. At the second day, some CiA technical groups have the opportunity to meet. In parallel to these meetings, the newly-elected CiA Business Committee pre-discusses the requirements for 2023. The event is for members only. Details regarding the event can be found on CiA’s website and the program has been released here.


Publish date

CAN in Automation
Anniversary celebration program