PROFIBUS (Process Field Bus) is a standard for fieldbus communication in automation technology and was first promoted in 1989 by BMBF (German department of education and research) and then used by Siemens. It should not be confused with the PROFINET standard for Industrial Ethernet. PROFIBUS is openly published as part of IEC 61158.

The history of PROFIBUS goes back to a publicly promoted plan for an association which started in Germany in 1986 and for which 21 companies and institutes devised a master project plan called “fieldbus”. The goal was to implement and spread the use of a bit-serial field bus based on the basic requirements of the field device interfaces. For this purpose, member companies agreed to support a common technical concept for production (i.e. discrete or factory automation) and process automation.

First, the complex communication protocol Profibus FMS (Field bus Message Specification), which was tailored for demanding communication tasks, was specified. Subsequently, in 1993, the specification for the simpler and thus considerably faster protocol PROFIBUS DP (Decentralised Peripherals) was completed. Profibus FMS is used for (non-deterministic) communication of data between Profibus Masters. Profibus DP is a protocol made for (deterministic) communication between Profibus masters and their remote I/O slaves.

There are two variations of PROFIBUS in use today; the most commonly used PROFIBUS DP, and the lesser used, application specific, PROFIBUS PA:

PROFIBUS DP (Decentralised Peripherals) is used to operate sensors and actuators via a centralised controller in production (factory) automation applications. The many standard diagnostic options, in particular, are focused on here.

PROFIBUS PA (Process Automation) is used to monitor measuring equipment via a process control system in process automation applications. This variant is designed for use in explosion/hazardous areas (Ex-zone 0 and 1). The Physical Layer (i.e. the cable) conforms to IEC 61158-2, which allows power to be delivered over the bus to field instruments, while limiting current flows so that explosive conditions are not created, even if a malfunction occurs. The number of devices attached to a PA segment is limited by this feature. PA has a data transmission rate of 31.25 kbit/s. However, PA uses the same protocol as DP, and can be linked to a DP network using a coupler device. The much faster DP acts as a backbone network for transmitting process signals to the controller. This means that DP and PA can work tightly together, especially in hybrid applications where process and factory automation networks operate side by side.

In excess of 30 million PROFIBUS nodes were installed by the end of 2009. 5 million of these are in the process industries.