The Future of Modbus

Modbus is the one of the great grandfathers of industrial automation. To say it’s long in the tooth is very kind.

Think about this. Modbus was born in THE LAST CENTURY! Richard Nixon was president. Before email, cell phones and fax machines. We actually wrote a lot of letters then. If you’re under 50 you probably don’t remember the days before ANY communications protocols.

When I was at Kimberly-Clark we had some of the old machines sans-logic, sans-controls, sans-communications at our plants in Mexico and South America. They had a big bus bar breaker with a big handle on it. The machine was digital. It was either ON (running) or OFF (stopped).

I get asked pretty often about Modbus. What’s the future for it? Is it going away? Is it declining in popularity? Is it obsolete?

The answer to all those questions is NO!

We sell a lot of Modbus. We have products that move Modbus registers to PLCs, Modbus registers to BMS Systems and Modbus registers to other Modbus devices. Someday, when I have indulged a bit too much I’ll probably get a Modbus Tattoo (sorry – no youtube video).

So, why is it so popular? Why does it remain so popular? And will it remain this popular?

I think that the answer is easy to understand. Modbus is very, very simple. It can be implemented quickly. It’s a universal standard that lots of devices can support without much effort or investment.

If you’re a small ship with expertise in vibration or flow or some other technology and need a way to communicate with your device, Modbus is the common denominator. These people aren’t network experts. They know nothing about system architectures and the networking strategies being implemented by their customers so they’ll always just resort to a Modbus link to get some connectivity.

That’s great for me. They’ll always be a ton of gateways needed like you find on our industrial gateway product page.

But what’s this going to look like in 10 or 20 years? I can envision a day when every industrial device has the same powerful processor, the same OS ( Linux) and a base of Ethernet IP networking technologies that make integration into a system automatic.

That days coming but something tells me that Modus is still going to survive.

Look at it another way. What’s the longest surviving animal on the planet? The cockroach. It’s been around long before dinosaurs and it will be around long after man leaves this planet. Why? It’s very simple and very adaptable, just like Modbus.

So you and me and everyone else will just get have to get used to the fact that it’s going to be around as long as we are. Anyone want to come with me for that tattoo?

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