Friday, October 25, 2013

Revitalizing Old Field Devices through Ethernet Encapsulation

Posted by Matthew Roy

Let’s face it—we live in a world that is dominated by radio waves and twisted pairs of copper. Our homes, our communities, and the places we work are all connected together in some way or another. The information we need and want is always at our fingertips. That’s where it belongs and that’s where we expect it to be. 

So what can be done with all those field devices that seem to have missed the on-ramp to the information superhighway? Sure we could update our control systems, but what if we are really looking for a simple low-cost, low-impact solution that gives us all the connectivity we need? Kepware provides a viable solution with Ethernet Encapsulation.

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Ethernet Encapsulation is certainly not new to KEPServerEX, but it does bring new life to devices stuck in primitive times. Fortunately, Ethernet Encapsulation is a built-in feature available with most of Kepware’s serial OPC drivers. All that is needed is a low-cost piece of hardware known as a serial-to-Ethernet converter (also known as a terminal or serial server). The converter is placed within the recommended RS-232 cabling distance and then connected to the local area network via Ethernet. Once configured properly (usually through a web interface), it can be accessed by KEPServerEX at a distance only limited by the network’s infrastructure. And there you have it: information from that old field device is now at your fingertips.

Kepware recommends using converters that support raw socket connections. This eliminates the need for additional COM port virtualizing software and provides far more flexibility than only using the standard protocols offered with some “smart” serial-to-Ethernet converters. The raw socket configuration also mitigates timing errors and allows KEPServerEX to communicate with the field device in the exact manner it would expect from a direct serial connection.

It’s time to bring new life to that old field device and give this feature a try.

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