Editor’s Note: The following 1,010-word post was written by Greg B., a knowledgeable and prolific Verblio (formerly BlogMutt) writer who graduated with a degree in business management from Trend College in Salem, OR, but now writes regularly for businesses around the world, sometimes writing about the latest business technologies, often in marketing. His IT experience is mostly self-taught and meticulously researched. Yet, his research on modbus gateways was as in-depth as his copious writing for other industries.
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With more use of smart devices in your business, have you thought about finding simpler ways to make your serial devices communicate with one another? Even though we’re living in a time when The Internet of Things (IoT) makes connectivity so much easier, you have to rely on your SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) system to make this happen.
The challenge involved is that your SCADA system is perhaps in another part of your facility. This could create a problem properly connecting all your serial Modbus devices, which may include meters and other wireless technology.
Often, it’s better to just use an existing ethernet network you have in place. How do you make this work, though?
A Modbus gateway is the solution. It’s still important to find a gateway working suitably for your business.
Take a look at five tips on features to consider:
1. Avoid Using a Serial Device Server
Generally, you have two ways you can integrate all your serial devices. You can either do it via a serial device server or through a Modbus gateway.
It’s not recommended you use a serial device server if you’re running a standard Modbus network. One major reason is the server can’t do network redundancy. These servers often don’t support multiple masters, making a gateway all the more important. With a gateway, you can support up to 32 connections, bringing easier remote and multi-connection capability.
Overall, serial device servers have become superseded by better technology. If you’re still using this, you’re going to find more restrictions, including being forced to use additional server software to keep things properly connected.
2. Finding a Modbus Gateway From a Trusted Brand Name
As with all technology, the brand name is going to tell you a lot about quality. It’s no different with Modbus gateways. When you start shopping for a gateway system, make sure it’s produced by a company specializing in industrial communication.
Moxa is one name you can trust. Just take a look at how detailed they are in providing gateway user tips to see how trusted they are.
Another brand name you can depend on is Advantech. They’re fully compliant with Modbus/TCP. Plus, they offer flexible installation and web browser configuration requirements for all your remote monitoring applications.
Don’t forget about Digi either, a company offering gateway solutions to various industries.
3. Consider Your Business’s Environment Before Buying
Equally important is to look at your business’s physical environment to assure your Modbus gateway doesn’t become obstructive. Fortunately, you can install your gateway device in different ways.
Despite already being a compact and rugged device, you can set it up as a wall mount if you have little desk or table space available. For businesses like yours that may be already struggling with physical space, you don’t have to worry about forfeiting something else to make room for your gateway device.
Nevertheless, you have to think about other potential uses and the temperature controls involved. You may prefer using your gateway in an outdoor control cabinet. The best brands offer extended temperature ranges to protect from condensation due to extreme humidity.
Tie space enclosure is another way to install your gateway to keep it protected.
Always inspect your business space to see where the best place is to install. Your gateway device is still managed remotely after you find a successful install location.
4. How Many Connections Are You Going to Need?
Before you buy the gateway device, find out how many connections you really need within your company. With more and more wireless devices being added to the workplace, you may have more than you think.
Take some time to analyze how many Modbus RTU devices you have connected to different serial ports. If you’re looking for a single connection to accommodate all these devices, the Modbus gateway is the only solution you’ll find to make this easier. Serial device servers can’t handle this kind of complexity.
Other scenarios might involve more than one Modbus RTU device connected to different serial ports. You’ll need to figure out how to deal with your TCP connection architecture without making it too complicated.
A quality Modbus gateway provides a lot of flexibility for the above. The same goes if you need your multiple SCADA hosts to access the same Modbus RTU devices simultaneously. Many gateways use an “agent mode” to collect data continuously for faster response.
5. Finding a Modbus Gateway with SCADA Integration
The phrase “smart device” is ubiquitous now, and the best Modbus gateways should have the same digital intelligence.
Do some homework to see which device is intelligent enough to properly integrate with your SCADA. Easy integration is important to avoid technical confusion and possible failures.
One thing you might find go wrong is your SCADA system not understanding that it’s connecting to a gateway device. It might initially think you’re using a native Modbus TCP device, requiring some configuration to amend the problem.
Quality Modbus gateways are going to automatically integrate with your SCADA system without fail. Fortunately, a lot of intelligent ones are on the market, though you may need help in finding one.
Shopping for the Best Modbus Gateway Price
Because communication networks vary from site to site and change often due to technology evolution, these Modbus gateways are a solid way to keep connected.
When you start shopping around online to find one, you’ll see they vary widely in price from the $200 range all the way to above $800. The more expensive ones let you support up to 16 masters and 32 slaves, offer more flexible mounting features, plus wider operating temperatures.