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Sensor Networking: Fieldbus Overview

Fieldbus allows sensors to be networked together for distributed controlFor many years, we were all served well by 4-20mA loops that improved our ability to extract data with level and pressure sensors, either from inventories or important processes. This method provides a simple reading and one-way communication.

However, in today’s fast-paced, data intensive environment, where a moment can mean the difference between profit and loss, better control networking is required.

In recent years, and certainly moving forward, industrial networking has become imperative. These networks allow multiple sensors to be tied to one network, where two-way communication, configuration, and control can take place. A good example of this is our development of the LOE level sensor, and adding remote networking functionality to other models as well.

These networks rely on a protocol that standardizes communication, such as how a data packet is structured, and how big it can be. There are several protocols, each with it’s own niche and purpose, that are collectively known as fieldbus.

A fieldbus is an open, non-proprietary architecture that allows serial or two-way communication between control and instrumentation systems and intelligent devices. These digital communication networks are used to link isolated field devices, such as controllers, transducers, actuators, and sensors.

There are several advantages to fieldbus networks, not least of which is reduced cable costs. Sensors share the same communication wires in a multi-drop configuration. Furthermore, each sensor is a smart device, able to execute simple functions on its own, such as diagnostics, control, and maintenance functions.

While still commonplace, 4-20mA analog sensors require a dedicated cable, and provide only a signal to the control network. Fieldbus is more than a replacement for analog, giving the engineer the capability to access devices and replace centralized control networks with distributed-control.

Let us know if you have any questions about fieldbus, or how we’re improving our sensors with networking capabilities. It’s an integral part of our development, and has improved quality, reduced cost and boosted efficiency for many of our customers.

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