New Module Offers Equipment Manufacturers a “Universal Translator” for Industrial Communications

Grid Connect and Real Time Automation industrial protocol module (i.e. universal translator) with paper clip for scale.

“. . . the automation device market. . . requires specific communication technologies,” said Drew Baryenbruch, president of RTA. “The cost of implementing and supporting all of these technologies has always been out of reach for many equipment manufacturers.”

At Automate 2022, Network Connection, Inc. and Real-Time Automation® (RTA®) have teamed up to offer OEMs a new embedded module that serves as a universal translator to allow serial devices (RS-232, 422, 485, SPI, I2C) to communicate via protocols such as EtherNet/IP, Modbus TCP, PROFINET, BACnet/IP and others. OEMs also gain the ability to transmit data from factory and field devices to analytical and business applications via OPC UA and MQTT.

“Imagine an OEM that makes a micro-controlled actuator limited to serial ports, but its customers have standardized on PROFINET,” said Rick Rockershousen, vice president of Grid Connect. “Until now, either the customer couldn’t use the OEM’s actuator, or the OEM had to spend time and money on an R&D team developing PROFINET capability for the device. Now OEMs can integrate our module into their device to provide the corresponding communication protocol to the customer’s automation system.

“Manufacturers know that the automation device market is segmented. Accessing different market channels requires specific communication technologies,” said Drew Baryenbruch, President of RTA. “The cost of implementing and supporting all of these technologies has always been out of reach for many equipment manufacturers.”

To develop the highly integrated compact module (33mm x 23mm x 3mm), the companies combined RTA’s protocol stacks with Grid Connect’s hardware and IIoT know-how. The companies will market the module separately as Grid Connect’s GRID32 and RTA’s RTConnect. The module provides device manufacturers with a simple, affordable, and quick-to-market solution for adding a full suite of industrial protocols to any new or legacy device used by a manufacturer. If an OEM’s device interacts with the factory in, for example, Modbus, the module allows the equipment manufacturer’s device to communicate in a next-generation protocol like PROFINET. The range of protocols is no longer beyond the reach of device manufacturers who may manufacture a lower volume of new products or face prohibitive costs for converting legacy products.

With the module, a device also has the ability to communicate via protocols for cloud applications, so that the device manufacturer can analyze data on the device from outside the walls of a factory. That said, the wireless protocol would not control a device in a closed-loop application. The ability to communicate wirelessly via MQTT or OPC UA protocol simply allows the device manufacturer or owner to collect data in the cloud.

“Integrating the module into a device is also a way to make it durable; OEMs don’t need to install a new card in their device to collect data wirelessly when they’re ready to take this step,” Rockershousen said.

About Real Time Automation, Inc.

Founded in 1989, Real Time Automation, Inc., is based in Wisconsin and specializes in manufacturing easy-to-use connectivity products, source code protocol stacks, and OEM solutions for use by control engineers in factories around the world. You can visit us today at Automate at booth #409. Learn more: or 800-249-1612.

About Grid Connect, Inc.

Grid Connect, Inc., based in Naperville, Illinois, is an ISO 9001:2015 company and has been a leader in the embedded and networking market for over 20 years. Grid Connect’s product line ranges from custom OEM smart appliances and security controllers to bridges, switches and diagnostic tools. In addition to products manufactured by Grid Connect, the company also distributes and supports complementary products from other high-quality technology manufacturers. Learn more about

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