Industrial and Building Automation: Making This Marriage Work

Industrial and Building Automation: Making This Marriage Work

I have a love/hate relationship with my technology. On one hand, I love that my Google phone can cast media to my Google Chromecast, which I can control with my Google Home. I like that I can get news updates, recipes, TV schedules, scheduling reminders, play music, and get an answer to nearly any question through this little ecosystem within my apartment. On the other hand, I don’t like that there is a little device in my living room that is always listening to me (how am I supposed to perfect my beatboxing if I know somebody could be listening?)—a device that knows just a little too much about me and might be selling this information to Lord knows who. Regardless of this, people still love these kinds of devices.

There is another ecosystem within each and every building that continuously gets overlooked and taken for granted—a series of interconnected devices that would never in a million years sell your information to advertisers, inform on you to the government, or judge you by the quality of your beatboxing. It’s a system that keeps the building temperature just right, will inform you of a security breach or fire, and ensure that you receive proper ventilation. That’s right, I am talking about building automation.

So, What’s the Problem?

From a manufacturer’s perspective, building automation has an industrial automation problem, and industrial automation has a building automation problem. That problem’s name is shared connectivity. Too often, control engineers must make decisions as to which system will have control over lighting, security systems, HVAC, etc. Most of the time, the decision is an easy one; give it to your PLCs. But even after this decision is made, how do you allow your PLCs to access data from building automation systems? Your Allen-Bradley PLC probably can’t give or receive messages to your building automation devices.

Odds are, if you have an older building, your building automation systems are running on either Modbus RTU or Modbus TCP. If that is the case, connecting to your PLCs should be fairly simple. But if your factory is hip, contemporary, and up to date with the Kardashians, you are probably utilizing some variation of BACnet. Ethernet is now the dominant media and transport layer for communications in modern buildings, and BACnet/IP is now the most widely used protocol to connect the various building automation systems to a central controller.

What’s the Solution?

If you’re a North American manufacturer, you probably know how difficult and expensive it is to connect BACnet devices to your ControlLogix and CompactLogix PLCs. To make this proverbial marriage work, a third party must get involved to help these two partners communicate. That’s where we come in.


The 460ETCBS provides a simple and straightforward way to share BACnet/IP data to an Allen-Bradley PLC. To transfer data between a BACnet/IP Controller and up to five Allen-Bradley PLCs, the PLCs must allocate memory space to receive data and memory space to transmit data. In new PLCs, the memory space can consist of an individual tag, a tag array or a User Defined Tag (UDT) structure. In legacy PLCs, the memory space consists of two sets of register blocks. The 460ETCBS stores data received from a BACnet/IP controller in the area designated to receive data. It gets data to transmit to a BACnet/IP controller from the area designated to transmit data. BACnet/IP controllers exchange objects with end devices like the 460ETCBS. The 460ETSBS supports the Analog Input, Analog Output and Binary Input and Binary Output objects. It maps these objects into the PLC memory areas designated to send and receive BACnet/IP data.


There truly isn’t an easier way to connect BACnet/IP servers than with the 460ETCBC gateway. The 460ETCBC can move data between up to 32 BACnet/IP servers and up to five CompactLogix PLCs. With this gateway, you’re making a direct connection between BACnet/IP data and user-defined tags or registers in the data table of your Allen-Bradley PLC. There’s no polling from the PLC or EtherNet/IP scan lists to arrange. This is a direct connection between your device’s data and data table locations in your CompactLogix PLC.

If you are operating under BACnet MS/TP, we also have a solution for you. Be sure to check out the 460ETCBMS gateway.

For more information on how we can help solve connectivity issues on your factory floor, give us a ring at 1-800-249-1612 or email us at In the meantime, I will continue to practice my beatboxing. Maybe then Google will stop eavesdropping.