Contact Us    1-800-249-1612  

Newsletter Issue # 36

Real Time Automation's - Best Darn Newsletter 

It's Not Your Father's 20ma Sensor Anymore
Fun Facts and Trivia

Get your free RTA putty this month only!


Take our quick, 5 question survey by June 30th to claim your steal of the month!

April 18, 2017
EtherNet/IP Moving Forward!
April 10, 2017
Automation Security
April 4, 2017
Let's Talk About the Bus in Modbus
March 28, 2017
IoT: Have it Your Way
March 21, 2017
OPC UA Seminar Schedule Released
March 14, 2017
The EtherNet/IP Origin Story



Practical tips and information for young engineers. This issue, featuring:

- Toddlers May Just Be Amazing Businessmen




A Column of personal opinion by John Rinaldi, Founder and Owner of Real Time Automation.

How Sinister Is the Sabotage In Your Office?

Memorial Day is the time to remember all those that have given so much, suffered so much, and died for the cause of freedom. I have the utmost respect for those who wore the uniform, but I have special admiration for those brave Europeans who resisted the occupation of their homeland during World War II.

Last year I had a chance to visit the Resistance Museum in Berlin where the resistance of ordinary Germans to the Nazi regime is documented and commemorated. The museum details the extraordinary actions of those Germans who risked torture and death to fight for their country’s freedom. Among all the exhibits, I’ll never forget the faces of the 15 German teenagers who were executed for distributing anti-Nazi posters. The heroism of those Germans, along with Italians, French, Norwegians, Finns and others, is beyond description. The Allies’ efforts to support the resistors – providing supplies, instructions and technical assistance – is fairly well-known.

What’s much less well-known is how the Allies trained people to disrupt the German war effort from the inside. The Office of Strategic Services (precursor to the CIA) published a Simple Sabotage manual with instructions on how to disrupt German industry with unobvious acts of sabotage. The instructions are very insightful:

1. Haggle over everything - when to meet, how often to meet and, especially, haggle over the wording and phrasing of every sentence in all documents and correspondence.

2. Advocate for referring everything to committees for further study and discussion.

3. Push for large committees – always more than five people.

4. Introduce irrelevant issues in every discussion. Never end a meeting without discussion of a subject not pertinent to the agenda.

5. Express doubt about the ability and authority of the group to make decisions. Discuss at length if some other group or higher authority has the responsibility to make the decision.

6. Insist on following all processes and procedures to the letter. Never allow any shortcuts or actions to happen quickly without full disclosure and acquiescence of all relevant (and irrelevant) parties that may be affected.

7. Argue about whether the procedures are adequate for each situation, and if those procedures should be revised or extended.

8. Talk frequently and at length. Bring up personal anecdotes that are only marginally related to the meeting topic. And always describe your great affection and patriotism for the German country, its people and its leadership.

9. Attempt to reopen all prior decisions. Cast doubt on the efficacy of that decision and discuss whether it was timely, proper and authorized.

10. Advocate caution. Urge your colleagues to be reasonable and exercise restraint. Remind them of the consequences of bad decisions and moving too quickly. Detail how these decisions might embarrass them or cause difficulties in the future.

Sound familiar? What’s fascinating about this list is that every one of us, today, can think of individuals in our organizations that exhibit these traits (without the training). We all have someone in the building who won’t stop talking, that guy who always seems to have an endless supply of irrelevant anecdotes. We all have worked alongside someone who’s always urging caution and warning about overreach. And how many times have you seen 15 minutes spent in a meeting to set the time for the next meeting?

I think we’re all saboteurs from time to time – sabotaging our company’s success and profitability – without even realizing it. Some of us, of course, are more guilty than others, and we know who they are. Let’s just hope that our colleagues aren’t thinking of us when they read this!



- John





·  What is the proper term for a group of parrots?

·  What is the sleepiest animal in the world, sleeping around 22 hours each day?

·  What is the fastest bird in the world, flying at speeds of 200 mph?

·  What is the only mammal capable of true flight?

·  What animal has the longest lifespan?


Answers located on bottom of page.


It's Not Your Father's 20ma Sensor Anymore

In this age of automation revolution – technologically, culturally, and managerially – it’s critical to have a strategy, and that applies no less to the good ole sensor as much as anything else. As a sensor manufacturer, you’d be well positioned for all this change by having a dual strategy combining traditional sensor interfaces for today’s communications networks, and Ethernet to support tomorrow’s manufacturing processes. But first, a short history of sensors…

For 50 years or more we’ve been deploying sensors on the manufacturing floor. Type K Thermocouples, photo eyes and proximity switches had to be some of the first sensors ever used in manufacturing applications. In the early days, miles and miles of wires were strung from sensors back to relay contacts, which powered motors, heaters, diverter gates and everything else you can imagine. Control programs were simply banks of these relays wired using Boolean logic. Crude, expensive and labor intensive, but effective in those prehistoric days.

When PLCs were introduced, sensors were connected to PLC input modules instead of contacts. Those discrete input modules supported 0-20ma or 0-10V inputs which forced the standardization of those interfaces. The rapid growth of PLCs and automation expanded the demand for sensors and soon there was a sensor for every kind of measurement. Sensors became available for temperature, pressure, tank level, vibration, presence, thickness, length and everything else using all sorts of new technologies.

Eventually, when factory floor networking was introduced (Profibus, ASI, DeviceNet, Modbus), sensor data could be collected at the machine. Instead of wiring sensors all the way back to the PLC input module, they could be wired a short distance to a remote input module which reported the sensor status back to the PLC over a DeviceNet, ASI or a Profibus network interface. But the sensor interfaces never really changed. Instead of terminating wires, new M-type connectors were introduced with protections like IP67 and various locking styles that simplified connection to remote input modules.

As more complex sensors were introduced, those sensors incorporated technology to directly connect to controllers over a network. Complicated systems for color detection, reflectivity, sophisticated temperature detection, and vision scanning directly incorporated hardware bus technologies (ASI, Seriplex, IO-Link), sensor bus technologies (DeviceNet, Profibus DP, Modbus), some Ethernet (Modbus TCP, EtherNet/IP and ProfiNet IO) and even wireless (802.11 and 802.15 mesh).

But even with all the new ways to connect devices to controllers, most sensors deployed in manufacturing systems are still the garden variety: 0-10V, 20ma, PnP and NpN sensors (temperature, pressure, proximity, etc.) As you can see, not much has changed over the past few years. The vast majority are connected the way they’ve been connected for the last 40 years. At least for now.

The Revolution
In 2017, the automation industry is facing a host of new requirements, including new technologies, new data analytics tools and data storage requirements, a convergence of IT and OT and more. We’re in the midst of revolutionary changes and this is going to affect sensor technology. My crystal ball can be pretty cloudy, but there are some things of which I’m sure:

  • Ethernet is the dominant technology for the foreseeable future. We aren’t seeing the last days of ProfiNet IO, DeviceNet, Modbus and the rest, but new systems mostly won’t use these technologies.

  • Security is a top concern. The Director of Homeland Security has even ventured to say that manufacturers should disconnect their critical machinery from external and internal networks.

  • IT and operational technology are going to converge. IT will have more and more influence on manufacturing automation architectures. There will be a day when the accounting team will be on the same network as drives, sensors and manufacturing system controllers.

  • Manufacturers want more from not just sensors, but from every device in their architecture. The temperature of an on/off status from sensors isn’t going to be good enough. People expect more intelligence, more functionality, more data and more connectivity to feed into those advanced analytic tools.

  • Deterministic Ethernet is on the horizon. Bandwidth, throughput and speed are all going to increase exponentially. I find it hard to imagine, but I have heard 400gbit deterministic Ethernet networked mentioned!

  • Open platforms and open standards are going to find their way into manufacturing applications. Manufacturers are tired of proprietary anything.

  • Ethernet is migrating to constrained devices (more on this below).

A Plan for Sensor Manufacturers No matter what kind of sensor you manufacture, customers are going to demand more data from it. Anything else you can supply (cycle counts, identification data, maintenance data) is going to be valuable. So, what should you do if you’re a sensor manufacturer? The first alternative is to simply do nothing. Systems have been deployed for fifty years with 0-10V and 20ma sensors and that will always be an option.

Another alternative is to build Ethernet connectivity directly into your sensor. Even though the cost of microprocessors is falling, the additional cost to add Ethernet connectivity just doesn’t make sense for the vast majority of low end pressure and temperature sensors. Too much cost and too little value.

The future of Ethernet in this environment isn’t known (baud rates, determinism and more are changing the face of Ethernet). How do you manage Ethernet technology issues as Ethernet technology develops? And what about Ethernet communication protocols? The hardware may be the least of your worries.

You could just add a sensor technology like Profibus DP or DeviceNet or Modbus to your product. That buys you some time – those technologies aren’t going away today but the trend is Ethernet. Why go with sensor technologies?

Low Complexity Ethernet
Another idea is to wait for something called Low Complexity Ethernet (LCE). LCE is a coming standard that RTA and others are developing that is a middle-of-the-road solution. You avoid the expensive hardware, but get Ethernet and all its benefits. LCE offers the ability – with the addition of a few, inexpensive, integrated circuits – to add Ethernet to your product. It’s something that’s being prototyped right now and may be available as soon as Q1 of 2018.

If you’re a sensor manufacturer, my recommendation is a dual strategy with traditional 20ma/10V/nPn/PnP interfaces for today’s communications networks, and Low Complexity Ethernet to support tomorrow’s conversion to manufacturing processes that are all Ethernet. Low Complexity Ethernet offers inexpensive Ethernet connectivity and provides you with the ability to support the additional data that customers require, without having to add costly parts and TCP/IP stacks to your product. It’s not a technology that is available today, but it’s in development right now with a promising future.

You can contact me for more information on LCE. We are actively looking for partners who want to prototype low-cost sensor connectivity over Ethernet.









Fun Facts

·Movie trailers were originally shown after the movie, which is why they were called “trailers.”

·Tears caused by sadness, happiness and onions all look different under the microscope.

·In 2015, more people were killed from injuries caused by taking a selfie than by shark attacks.

·Parents of new babies miss out on about 6 months’ worth of sleep during the first two years of their child's life.




  Trivia Answers: Pandemonium; Koala; Peregrine falcon; Bat; Giant Tortoise

Need help? Call our Expert Support Team: 1-800-249-1612