Smart process automation

Louise Smyth

Chase Shih describes how simple network management protocol I/O is an enabling technology for intelligent process engineering

With the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) placing new demands on the automation world as traditional factories are transformed into smart factories, being able to quickly and easily monitor massive numbers of I/Os is a big concern. One of the most crucial demands is collecting real-time production information, which is an essential aspect of smart factory process operation.

Whereas Modbus/TCP is a simple and well-known protocol used in the factory automation industry, security is a concern, and IT engineers are generally not familiar with Modbus/TCP. Simple network management protocol (SNMP) is a viable alternative. SNMP has a proven track record, and has been used widely as a network device management tool for many years, making the integration of SNMP I/O into an existing network management system a relatively straightforward exercise.

Compared with Modbus/TCP, SNMP’s authentication mechanism provides a higher level of security. In addition, SNMP trap can reduce network traffic by sending alarm signals to the user’s control centre only when needed. SNMP trap reduces the loading on a network server, and is simply a more efficient way of handling exceptions compared to the traditional Modbus protocol. With SNMP, IT engineers can get facility information with only a few mouse clicks.

Since most IT engineers are not familiar with industrial automation-based protocols, IT professionals are turning to SNMP, which has a proven track record for IT applications. SNMP I/O can use SNMP trap to send alarms to a control centre in essentially real time, thereby allowing you to handle exceptions as they occur.

SNMP monitors smart factory network management systems

The fact that smart factories use large numbers of I/O devices means that a smart factory network will need to handle lots and lots of data. However, since IT engineers are usually not experienced at installing I/O wiring, dealing with such a large number of I/O devices is always a big challenge. To complicate matters, traditional factories are monitored by SCADA systems, which display factory data graphically to make it easier to understand. However, since IT engineers are not accustomed to monitoring entire networks in this way, SNMP I/O provides a comfortable workaround. With SNMP I/O, a facility condition monitoring system can be configured and up and running with a few simple mouse clicks.

SNMP I/O is also good for remote site monitoring. After field engineers complete the down-and-dirty wiring tasks, IT engineers just need to implement an SNMP I/O management information base (MIB) file through the network management system to get device information, without needing to understand the factory’s full network structure. As is the case with other SNMP devices, every SNMP I/O will be updated in the network management system – this is the best and easiest way for IT engineers to collect data.

Moxa supports smart process automation with I/O products for a variety of SNMP I/O applications that offer easy integration with existing network management software. Their user-defined SNMP trap messages can send alarms actively and data can easily be received with coding-free SNMP I/O. Smart SNMP I/Os with Moxa´s Click&Go control logic are available for smart factory applications, and expandable SNMP I/Os reduce the demand for IP addresses.

Chase Shih is with Moxa.

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