Get Embedded Internet
technology was one of the hottest topics in one of warmest parts
of the country at the recent ISA show in New Orleans. Web-based
portals, dashboards, and wireless monitoring and control gave the
impression we'll soon be able to examine, diagnose, and even change
set points on our processes using any computer, personal digital
assistant (PDA), or cell phone from anywhere in the world.
Central to the concept is serving up process data on a web page,
and Santa Ana, Calif.-based Newport Electronics has obviously been
working on the idea for some time. At the show, the company introduced
what it calls the world's first web-enabled controllers, panel meters,
transmitters, and signal conditioners.
Called iSeries, the devices connect directly to an Ethernet
network with a standard RJ-45 connector and can send and receive
data in standard TCP/IP packets. "You can now connect a $200 digital
panel meter or controller directly to an Ethernet network, just
like a computer or network printer" says Newport's Steve Hollander.
The device is a separate node—you assign it an IP address and give
it a name if you like.
The devices can serve web pages over an Ethernet LAN or over the
Internet to monitor and control a process through a web browser
from anywhere in the facility or around the world. "In fact, the
device could be assigned an authorized Internet IP address from
an internet service provider and function as a web server delivering
whatever specific information is called for," adds Hollander. "For
example, using a Newport 1/16 DIN temperature controller to control
a heater, an engineer can monitor the temperature, change set points
or alarm points, turn the heater on and off, or make other modifications
from anywhere on the local network, or anywhere on the Internet,"
says Hollander. "The web pages are easily customized and secure,
password-protected access to the devices is easily controlled. And
it requires no special software on the engineer's computer to view
the data and supervise the controller—nothing other than a web browser."
The controller can even send an email to the engineer (or any number
of people he chooses) alerting him to an alarm condition or updating
the status. Leveraging the technology of the Internet, the engineer
could receive a message from his controller on an Internet-enabled
pager or cell phone.
Hollander says you could do this a year ago, but you needed a computer.
"You could already accomplish all this by connecting the instruments
on a bus to a computer, including computers small enough to be packaged
in a DIN rail enclosure. But that approach adds an unnecessary level
of complexity and expense to many applications. The iSeries
meter or controller connects directly to the Ethernet Network-not
to the serial port of a computer. These small instruments are full
standalone Internet appliances. The Ethernet and web-server capability
is actually embedded in the device."
The iSeries also works with conventional data-acquisition
and control programs as well as Visual Basic and Excel. Newport
provides free software and demos to make it fast and easy to get
up and running with many applications. The company has also introduced
the same Embedded Internet capability in a discrete DIN rail-mounted
device that can be a hub connecting up to 32 instruments with serial
communications to Ethernet and the Internet. The iServer
is both a web server and an Ethernet-serial bridge, compatible with
RS-232, RS-422, and RS-485. Not just web servers, the iSeries
devices are also high-quality, competent instruments. The panel
meters and controllers offer a five-year warranty; accuracy within
0.03% of reading; big bright LED displays that can be programmed
to change colors between green, amber and red at any set point or
alarm point; universal inputs for thermocouple, RTD, voltage or
current; and two optional autotune PID control or alarm outputs:
relay, SSR, DC pulse, or analog.
Pricing for the Newport iSeries devices (meters and controllers)
with embedded Internet starts at approximately $200 in OEM quantities.
The DIN rail-mounted iServer sells for less than $100. The instruments
are in stock for immediate delivery.