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Inductive Automation
News Room

News / May 06, 2010

A Letter from the President: Connectivity Unlimited

By Steve Hechtman, President, Inductive Automation

I write this letter not only as the President of Inductive Automation, but also with the perspective I've gained from working as a control system integrator for 25 years. One of the common frustrations I've observed is the difficulty and expense involved when collecting information from barcode scanners, weigh scales, analytical equipment, and other similar devices. Common techniques such as routing these connections through RS485 or other serial mechanisms often involves awkward PLC-based parsing logic, or worse yet, a BASIC module. I'm writing this letter to announce that with the addition of our free TCP/UDP driver there is now an elegant, cost-effective mechanism to collect data from these sorts of devices.

There is so much to say about the Ignition by Inductive Automation platform at large that this powerful tool could easily go unnoticed. How would you architect a system to collect and handle data from 70 barcode scanners simultaneously, as in a distribution warehouse? How would you manage all the data and deliver it real-time to one or more locations? Any answer that involves a lot of cost, patchworked systems, configuration, programming, or other complexity (with a resultant lack of maintainability) comes straight out of the past.

Barcode scanners, weigh scales, analytical equipment and a host of other devices are now usually available with Ethernet TCP or UDP connectivity options. Today, even serial-only devices can be converted with inexpensive serial-to-Ethernet converters. This is where the Ignition TCP/UDP driver really shines.

Using this free driver you could connect to a barcode scanner in just minutes. From there the data is parsed by the driver and exposed via our free OPC-UA server to the rest of Ignition or 3rd party OPC-UA clients. This means that the data could be handled by the Ignition SQL Bridge module for data-logging or redistribution to one or more PLCs in near real-time. It could be used by the Ignition Vision module to display this information in SCADA clients. This slick operation can be multiplied tens or hundreds of times in a single Ignition server instance. I've seen integrators successfully use this technique to bring the implementation cost down by an order of magnitude for a variety of different projects: traceability using both barcodes and RFID tags, sorting systems, tracking lab test results, etc.

These days I am getting to be known as the “yes guy, the solution guy.” Recently I had the pleasure of participating in a multi-vendor meeting where I was the only guy saying “yes, we can do that; that’s easy!” Why was I the only one saying this? It’s because I understand what Ignition is capable of and I had the Ignition TCP/UDP driver in my back pocket. It’s like I was the glue keeping the pieces together, and I was the only one making the project feasible at all. From an integrator's perspective, this is exactly the position I like to be in.

This free module, released with Ignition 7.1, deserves your time to look at it. You should be the first “yes guy” on your block.