Serial is Not Dead


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This blog post was written by Ben Langstraat.

Your New Best Friend

Everyone likes new things, especially in our industry. The fascination with all things new is quite common with industrial protocols. For instance, Ethernet is becoming exceedingly popular and as the “internet of things” gets a lot of play. However, many plants are full of legacy devices that are not on Ethernet. Yet, data is out there; data is everywhere and data can be relatively easy to access. As a result, it is important to remember that serial can be your best friend. Serial is free and open; therefore, complicated configuration and high priced cards are not necessary. Many scales, drives, and power meters come with built in RS 485 or RS 232 ports. Additionally, cabling is simple and terminations are inexpensive.

Options that Work for You

Currently, the market provides a variety of options for collecting data in a control system. One popular choice is Real Time Automation. There are also many products available from Red Lion, Digi, and others. With all of the available choices, it is important to find a brand that works for your individual needs. Many of these gateways are simple to configure via web pages or software. Typically, a modern PLC (programmable logic controller) is fast and efficient at parsing out ASCII data. While string manipulations are not as common as they were in the past.

Work with What You’ve Got

There is no reason to feel in the dark regarding data from a plant’s legacy hardware, as it is okay to work with what is currently available. Depending on what there is to work with, there may be a variety of undiscovered opportunities at your fingertips. There is no rush and you can upgrade equipment and leverage the new, faster, full-featured protocols when it is the right time for your company. As previously stated, data is out there; often just two wires away – go out and get it!

What are your thoughts on Serial?