The 10.5 MYTHS of Industrial Device Converters & Gateways 1-5

Ever watched Myth Busters? That’s a cool show if you’re an Engineer like me (Yes, I still have my Engineering hat – I dust it off and put it on every month or two. It’s comic relief for the natives around here. They get a chance to laugh out load at me still pretending to be an Engineer).


Tell me. Isn’t it about time that we Engineers have a show that glorifies the Engineering profession? If you look at doctors, there are a million cool doctor shows (with great looking nurses). And a million lawyer shows (with great looking male and female lawyers).


Great looking doctors, nutty lawyers, brilliant young docs, sophisticated and pretentious lawyers and much more. Was there ever one show about good looking, cool, nutty, brilliant or pretentious Engineers? No, not even one. Maybe because we’re not, ah, beautiful? That would be a reason. Some of us look like we dressed up with the remnants out back of goodwill.


But, there I go – I’ve lost track of time again. On to the 10.5 myths of Industrial Device Converters and Gateways:


Myth #1 – Price Is Important

Let’s start with this – the biggest myth of them all. The price of a device converter is irrelevant, Nearly completely irrelevant. The time required to install the gateway device and get it working is far more costly to the system integrator or control engineer than saving a hundred or even two hundred dollars. The extra time to install the cheaper device will eat all those savings and usually a lot more. Think about it. If you have to call technical support, you’ve already invested an hour or two to try to figure it out yourself, you’ve consulted the documentation, looked at the website and some of the sites on the internet. I know you guys. First, you’re going to spend a few hours trying to figure it out yourself. How in the world is the price of the gateway relevant?


Myth#2 – Speed Matters

It’s sexy to have something that’s real fast. Everybody likes speed (velocity not the pill). One of my favorite stories is from the days I was working with an old-line extrusion molding company. This guy had 12 machines that dropped a part in the bin every 12 seconds. Every time the part was made, we shipped the data up to some database. No big deal except the guy wanted Gigabyte Ethernet! He could have just used 150 baud modem communications just as well. Speed matters in a few cases but not many at all.


Myth#3 – Functionality Matters

I bet that this one surprises you. What do you mean that functionality doesn’t matter? Well, it does but only partly. My point here is that you don’t want the complexity that a lot of functionality brings you because complexity follows speed like white on snow. The more features that a gateway has, the more trouble you’re gonna have to get it up [no – I’m not talking about that. If that was true, nobody would ever use a device converter or gateway]. The key here is that simplicity is everything.


I really admire Steve Jobs. The IPAD is the king of simplicity. Here’s what he’s said on the subject: [insert picture Steve jobs here]


“Jobs: If you read the Apple’s first brochure, the headline was “Simplicity is the Ultimate Sophistication.” What we meant by that was that when you first attack a problem it seems really simple because you don’t understand it. Then when you start to really understand it, you come up with these very complicated solutions because it’s really hairy. Most people stop there. But a few people keep burning the midnight oil and finally understand the underlying principles of the problem and come up with an elegantly simple solution for it. But very few people go the distance to get there. And that’s what RTA has done with its line of Device Converters”…


Alright, he didn’t mention RTA. I added the part in Blue. He didn’t compliment our Device Converter line. I am sure that if he knew about them he would have but, well, you get the idea. Simplicity, making sure that you get the job done fast so that you can get on the next thing. That’s the really important part of what we do at RTA.


Myth#4 – It’s Hard to Support

Alright, this can be true with devices from some manufacturers. But the support cost is directly related to Myth #3. The more functionality, the more there is to go wrong, more support and the more headaches that you are going to have. Simple devices that just get the job done are not hard to support.


Myth #5 – We Don’t Do Gateways

There are some companies that take this position. What they don’t know is that about 1/3 of all the devices in their shop have a gateway that is buried inside their box. Many, many devices don’t really natively speak whatever today’s hot protocol that your PLC speaks. The easiest way for them to get there is to bury a gateway inside their box. They just don’t tell you that it’s a gateway. It may not be external, it’s not a second piece of gear that you have to maintain but it’s still there – you just may not know about it.

Stay Tuned 6-10.5 to come later this week… Till Next Time