Almost 85% of legacy devices being used for industrial automation do not possess the ability to communicate with each other. Why? The manufacturers never thought about cross-platform compatibility. The percentage has fallen where modern devices are concerned, but the industry is still highly reliant on legacy infrastructure. This has made gathering data into one program an extremely difficult task.
Some companies are developing hardware and software that can work as a cross-platform channel for a multitude of protocols. Devices making their way onto the market tend to offer “smart connectivity”. The automation community has reached a consensus over the term and defines it as a device’s ability to connect to and be controlled from a plethora of devices over the internet. The challenge that still haunts SIs is monitoring age-old equipment that hasn’t reached an expiration date.
This is where gateways come into play.
One solution to the problem is combining cloud-enabled HMI edge gateway computers with LAN, COM, and several other interfaces. These setups are perfect for the oil and gas sector as well as wastewater industries that find it difficult to bring coherence between multiple RTUs. Some interfaces work as modular ways of adding functionality to a range of devices, allowing those devices to communicate directly with EtherNet, Powerlink, EtherCAT, ProfiNET, and other protocols.
By standardizing networking methods and establishing Ethernet as a common link to all devices new and old, gateways play a vital role in improving the flow of data and upholding its integrity.
Once all the data has been converted into a universal protocol, it can be transferred to the necessary HMI/SCADA web server, over the local network or the internet. Factory managers can then observe the operating statuses of machines and systems on production lines. Further processing and analysis can be carried out on the collected data as well, since all of the data can be stored in a single repository.
By providing centralized management capability to industrial hardware, gateways bridge the gap between machines and humans. Centralized management brings industries closer to raising operational efficiency through application of modern technologies on the centrally-stored data. Much like the OPC UA protocol, gateways bring coherency and help organizations get on the IoT bandwagon.
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