January Newsletter Correction
A reader noticed I got sloppy in my ASCII paper last issue and misused the word protocol, he was 100% correct. RS 232 and RS 485 are NOT serial protocols. RS 485 and RS 232 are the electrical specifications that define the transfer of electrical signals. ASCII is a data definition of those signals.
Easter is Around the Corner.
At Real Time Automation we pride ourselves as a “Mullet” company. We are business in front and party in the back. One of our most popular products, the 435NBX, is a great example. Many of you love the simplicity and function of the 435NBX (the business in front) but how many of you have found the Easter Egg (the party in the back)? I’ll give you a hint. It’s on the home page and you will know you have found it if you have the urge to call an Italian plumber.
To my knowledge no customer has found the Easter Egg on their own and it was released over a year ago. The Easter Egg is present in all versions 8.01 and newer. Have an older unit? Give me a call and I will send you the latest software and instructions to upgrade your gateway. It only takes a few minutes. Plus, there is a pile of “Business in the front” features added along with the Easter Egg.
Get to the Choppa!
We get a lot of people calling skeptical about our offer for a remote control helicopter. For those who don’t know, every gateway we sell comes with a prize in the box. A small toy for a bit of fun, cereal box style. If you collect all 5 prizes and submit a fun picture of yourself with the toys we will send you a remote control helicopter. We randomly place equal amounts of the 5 prizes. There are no tricks or purposeful placement to limit the helicopter distribution. We are more than happy to ship helicopters and have sent nearly 150 to date.
Do we take requests for certain prizes? No. While we love giving Helicopters away part of the fun is being true to the collect all five promotion. Nothing brightens my day quite like having adult men and women try to negotiate 5 jumping frogs for a glider needed to complete their set. We hope you enjoy this promotion half as much as we do. Look for an improved prize structure coming later in 2014.
Isn’t Google a Strange Cat?
If you do a google search of Google Acquisitions, Wiki has a nice chart. You see company acquisitions going back to 2001 and it’s pretty easy to see how most of those acquisitions were used to add to the Google world many of us now live and work in. The curious acquisitions start in 2013. They bought companies that handle wind turbines, humanoid robotics, vision system, robotic arms, robotic wheels, robotic cameras, and home automation all acquired within a year. Anybody think that the google engineers took a look at the Industrial and Building automation market and said, “Holy Crap, we can do way better!” I don’t question they can bring innovation but will that factor into the market? Only time will tell. This will be a fun one to watch.
Hot New Label or Just Another Cold One?
You might notice a new look to RTA gateways. We re-spun our labeling. Functionally we noticed that many returned units featured IP address scribbled all over the gateways. We added a box for these field notes. From an appearance standpoint we went with a tried and true Wisconsin throwback. We modeled our labels after a now defunct Oconto beer label, brewed in Oconto, WI from 1938-1968.
Which way to the Pool Hall?
If you call in to talk to Jessica or myself and think you hear pool balls clacking in the background you are not crazy. No we don’t work from a pool hall or local tavern. (Although that should be a point of negotiation during my next review). The sound is coming from our Olhausen billiards table featuring RTA blue felt.
It was a reward to hitting our sales marks. It’s situated on the marketing and sales side of the office where Jessica and I work. Before I listen to all the groans about sales and marketing getting all the perks and having all the fun I want to remind you of something.
If we are talking and you hear the clacking it is because the engineers are living it up while we honest, hardworking sales and marketing people are trying to take care of you. How typical…
Upcoming Product Improvements and Clarifications:
Din Rail Fix: I had a customer call up the other day telling me our Din Rail mount design was “Piss Poor and that was being generous!” I’ll admit the statement took me from understanding to defensive quicker than it should have. We do have shortcomings in our Din Rail mounts. They are extremely challenging to remove once attached. I’d argue that having a solid connection gets us at least a few notches past “Piss Poor” but that would be missing the point.
We can clearly do better to service our customers and are now doing just that. Look for new Din Rail mounts to be released in June or July. They will feature an easily accessible tab to release the unit from the Din Rail.
BACnet: After a few hops, skips and shutters, our BACnet/IP Client and BACnet MS/TP Master initiator are finally on the home stretch to be released.
The protocols will give us the ability to connect BACnet/IP and BACnet MS/TP devices to your Allen-Bradley, Siemens, and Modbus PLC’s and Controllers. BACnet/IP Client versions will start hitting the shelves in April and the BACnet MS/TP Master Initiator will follow in May.
Security: There are no new additions to security but I wanted to remind everyone that we have it. We receive a lot of support follow up surveys listing security as a suggested improvement.
You can lock down access to the browser based configuration pages for all RTA gateways. Up to 10 usernames and passwords can be assigned with user defined levels of access.
Have an older gateway and need this security? Want to know where to find these settings? Drop me a line.
ASCII: We continued to add features to our 460 line of ASCII gateways. The latest advances allow users to concatenate data from multiple data locations (i.e. tags in a PLC or registers in a Modbus device) and then place them into a delimited ASCII string. We have also improved the abilities of the ASCII string parser.
If you have an ASCII device and are trying to control or monitor it’s data over a protocol, we now have solutions that eliminate most if not all of the custom logic that used to be associated with integrating these devices.
The next step in the products evolutions will be to implement a basic rules engine, but don’t expect that as a standard offering until late 2014.
Data Logging: Those SD card slots on our gateways finally have a purpose! We can now log data with a timestamp to the SD card of a gateway and/or access the current data with a call from an XML Client.
The XML gives you the ability to move industrial and building automation protocol data into a more PC and enterprise friendly format on the fly.
The SD card allows you to log that data in a CSV format for later export via FTP or with the removal of the SD card.
Class 1 Div 2 Certification: We are currently in the midst of having our 460 line of products certified for explosive environments. If all goes to plan we will have the process complete by the end of April.
If you have any questions, send us an email at DrewandScott@rtaautomation.com.