IO-Link: What It Is and How it Works

Eran Zigman

Eran Zigman, CEO

| 11 June, 2024
IO-Link: What It Is and How It Works
Eran Zigman
By integrating IO-Link, industrial engineers and factory owners can create a more connected, efficient, and adaptable manufacturing environment.

Eran Zigman


IO-Link is the backbone of Industry 4.0. It provides seamless communication between sensors and actuators in a factory setting. It can either offer a wired connection from the devices to the IO-Link Master or leverage its version, the IO-Link Wireless.

While some manufacturers and factory managers still leverage wired IO-Link for their purposes, many are switching to IO-Link Wireless. Understanding how IO-Link works can help you make an educated decision about your communication protocols. 

What is IO-Link?

IO-Link is an open standard serial communication protocol that facilitates point-to-point communication between sensors and actuators in industrial automation systems. 

Unlike traditional signal types, IO-Link protocol enables continuous and bidirectional communication which allows detailed data transfer and device configuration.

IO-Link CoreTigo

Key Features of IO-Link:

  • Point-to-Point Communication: Ensures direct connection between an IO-Link Masters and Devices.
  • Standardized Protocol: Guarantees interoperability across different manufacturers.
  • Smart Device Integration: Simplifies the integration of smart sensors and actuators with existing systems.

Types of Data That Can be Processed with IO-Link

Machine data accessibility

IO-Link can handle different types of data that are critical to industrial operations. These include:

  • Process Data: Real-time data such as temperature, pressure, and flow rates, which are essential for operational control.
  • Service Data: Information related to device status, diagnostics, and performance metrics.
  • Parameter Data: Configuration data that allows for setting and adjusting device parameters remotely.
  • Event Data: Alerts and notifications about specific events or conditions, such as maintenance requirements or faults.

All of this data can be processed regardless of the wiring. It means that IO-LInk Wireless can handle the same data types as the wired IO-Link configuration. 

Uses of IO-Link

IO-Link can be leveraged for various purposes within the industrial setting. Some of these services are:

Sensor and Actuator Communication

By facilitating continuous data exchange, IO-Link improves the accuracy of sensors and actuators. This is highly valuable for processes that require precise measurements and real-time adjustments.

Predictive Maintenance

IO-Link’s ability to provide detailed diagnostic information enables predictive maintenance strategies. Early detection of potential failures can prevent costly downtime and extend equipment lifespan.

Flexible Manufacturing

In a manufacturing environment where product lines frequently change, IO-Link allows for quick reconfiguration of devices. This ensures minimal disruption and enhances flexibility.

Remote Monitoring and Control

With IO-Link, engineers can monitor and control devices remotely, improving operational efficiency and response times. Meanwhile, with IO-Link Wireless, it’s possible to do this even when equipment is in hard-to-reach locations. 

What is the IO-Link Standard?

The IO-Link standard, defined by IEC 61131-9, establishes guidelines for communication between sensors, actuators, and controllers. The standard ensures compatibility and interoperability across different manufacturers. This creates a more cohesive industrial automation ecosystem.

Core elements of the IO-Link standard are: 

product family image of the Gateway, 2TH, TigoBridge (old & new), hub, and SOM

Benefits of IO-Link Technology

Implementing IO-Link in industrial settings offers numerous benefits:

Enhanced Data Transparency

Continuous communication provides detailed insights into device performance, enabling proactive decision-making.

Improved Diagnostics and Maintenance

Real-time diagnostic data helps identify issues before they escalate, reducing downtime and maintenance costs.

Simplified System Integration

The standardized protocol ensures easy integration of devices from different manufacturers, streamlining system setup and maintenance.

Increased Flexibility

IO-Link’s ability to reconfigure device parameters remotely allows for greater adaptability in dynamic manufacturing environments.

Reduced Wiring Complexity

IO-Link minimizes the need for extensive wiring, reducing installation costs and complexity. Meanwhile, IO-Link Wireless removes the need for any wires. 

Wired IO-Link vs IO-Link Wireless

Wired IO-Link vs IO-Link Wireless

With the introduction of IO-Link Wireless, the technology has gained a new dimension. To understand which one of them can bring the most value, you need to understand their key features and benefits. 

Wired IO-Link:

  • Reliability: Wired connections provide stable and uninterrupted communication
  • Latency: Lower latency ensures real-time data transfer, essential for time-sensitive operations.
  • Environmental Factors: Wired connections are less susceptible to environmental interferences
  • Legacy: Many factories have already implemented wired IO-Link and worry about change resistance that may come with the switch to wireless. 

IO-Link Wireless:

Similar to wired IO-Link, the benefits of IO-Link Wireless include reliability and latency as well as: 

  • Flexibility: Wireless solutions eliminate the need for extensive cabling, offering greater flexibility in device placement and system design.
  • Scalability: Easier to scale and reconfigure, making it ideal for dynamic and expanding operations.
  • Installation and Maintenance: Reduced cabling simplifies installation and maintenance, lowering overall costs.
  • Low latency: Similar to wired IO-Link, IO-Link Wireless offers low latency for data transfer

Communication Protocols Compatible With IO-Link

IO-Link integrates seamlessly with various industrial communication protocols. Some of them are:


A widely used protocol in industrial automation, PROFINET supports real-time communication and integrates easily with IO-Link devices.


This protocol offers robust and reliable communication, enabling seamless integration with IO-Link for enhanced network performance.


This ethernet-based communication protocol is designed for real-time control and automation applications. It offers low latency, high data throughput, and precise synchronization. This makes EtherCAT an ideal choice for integrating with IO-Link.


This versatile, platform-independent communication protocol offers reliable data exchange in industrial automation. It supports interoperability between devices and systems, making it an excellent complement to IO-Link. 

“Communication Protocols Compatible With IO-Link

Making the Most out of IO-Link and IO-Link Wireless

IO-Link is an integral part of IIoT and modern factory settings. From improving data transparency and predictive maintenance to enabling flexible manufacturing, it has multiple benefits. 

The choice between wired and IO-Link Wireless will depend on specific operational needs, but both offer significant advancements over traditional communication methods.

By integrating IO-Link, industrial engineers and factory owners can create a more connected, efficient, and adaptable manufacturing environment. 

Frequently Asked Questions about IO-Link 

Is IO-Link Ethernet?

No, IO-Link is not Ethernet. IO-Link is a point-to-point communication protocol used to connect sensors and actuators. Meanwhile, Ethernet is a network technology used for broader data communication between computers and devices within a network.

What is an IO-Link port?

An IO-Link port is an interface on an IO-Link master device that connects to IO-Link compatible sensors or actuators. This allows for the exchange of data and configuration parameters between the devices and the control system.

What are the disadvantages of IO-Link?

One disadvantage of IO-Link is its limited communication distance, which can be restrictive in larger industrial setups. Another downside is the cables and wires necessary for the system setup. However, this can be mitigated by implementing IO-Link Wireless. 

Eran founded CoreTigo with the vision of untethering Industrial machines from the burden of wires. Eran is a veteran in communication and silicon technology with over 10 years of management and engineering experience at Texas Instruments. In his last role out of Sunnyvale CA, Eran was responsible for over $100 million in revenue of the WiLink product line. In this role, Eran led all corporate aspects of the business including operations, customer services, technology infrastructure, marketing and business, which grew 400% over a period of 4 years. Eran holds a Bachelor’s (B.Sc) and Master’s (M.Sc) degree in Electrical Engineering from Tel Aviv University, a Bachelor degree (BA) in Economics from the Open University and a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from Bar-Ilan University.