At Automate 2022, Grid Connect Inc. and Real Time Automation (RTA) partnered on a new embedded module that is designed to serve as a universal translator for enabling serial devices (RS-232, 422, 485, SPI, I2C) to communicate via protocols such as EtherNet/IP, Modbus TCP, PROFINET, BACnet/IP and others. The module is also designed with the capability to push data from the plant floor and field devices to analytical and business applications via OPC UA and MQTT.
“Imagine an OEM that makes a micro-controlled actuator limited to serial ports, but its customers have standardized on a PROFINET,” said Rick Rockershousen, vice president at Grid Connect. “Until now, the customer either couldn’t use the OEM’s actuator or the OEM had to spend time and money with an R&D team developing a PROFINET capability for the device. Now, OEMs can integrate our module into their device to provide the communication protocol to match the customer’s automation system.”
Drew Baryenbruch, president of RTA, added: “Manufacturers know the automation device market is segmented. Access to the market’s different channels requires specific communications technologies. The cost of implementing and supporting all these technologies has historically been out of reach for many equipment manufacturers.”
To develop the module, the companies combined RTA's protocol stacks with Grid Connect’s know-how of hardware and IIoT. The module offers device makers a solution for adding a full array of industrial protocols to any new or legacy device. For example, if an OEM’s device is interacting with the factory in Modbus, the module enables the device to communicate in a next-gen protocol like PROFINET.
The module can also enable a device to communicate via protocols for cloud applications, so the device maker can analyze data about the device from beyond a factory’s walls. The wireless protocol would not control a device in a closed-loop application. The ability to communicate wirelessly via the MQTT or OPC UA protocol simply enables the device maker or owner to collect data in the cloud.
“Embedding the module into a device is a way to future proof it, too. OEMs don’t have to put a new board into their device to collect data wirelessly when they’re ready to take that step,” Rockershousen said.