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Automation hardware intercommunicates via the process of data exchange via a communication medium. The communication medium consists out of different OSI (Open Systems Interconnection) model layers. For the purpose of this answer, the communication layer, related to the communication protocol is applicable. There are various industrial communication protocols, being split into Ethernet and Serial communication standard categories. Automation hardware (and software), make use of communication drivers, based on the communication protocols, to accommodate data exchange handling between the various automation system components.
The process of interconnecting these automation system components, and setting up the data exchange parameters, is called integration.