Connecting smart buildings to smart grid, smart transportation, & other smart services is the need of the hour to truly manifest the potential of IoT. However, communicating with numerous systems made up of different protocols is a major challenge faced by integrators. Protocol converters are widely used to convert protocol A to B, but such devices do not offer ease of configuration and flexibility demanded by IoT. The solution to this is a universal gateway – a device that transacts data between two or more data sources using communication protocols specific to each of them. The Universal gateway is also termed as a universal protocol gateway. Such products include a combination of hardware & software, and used to connect data from one automation system like building automation to another like a smart grid.
Fig: Universal Gateway connecting Building Automation System to Smart Grid
A typical building automation system comprises of five key components:
In building automation, connectivity technologies have propelled the adoption of connected smart devices for remote sensing, actuating and intelligent monitoring. Industry bodies and standards like BACnet International, Echelon Corporation, are extending or adopting different communication protocols to devices used in building automation, smart grid, etc. to make disparate solutions work seamlessly together. BACnet, Lonworks & other similar protocols have enabled standardization in Building automation. Different systems like HVAC, surveillance camera, access control, BMS, fire protection, audio-visual, lighting are integrated, monitored & controlled on a single system.
The Universal Gateway or Universal Protocol Gateway is an external, high-performance, multiprotocol gateway for integrating HVAC, surveillance camera, access control, fire protection controls into building management systems (BMS) & in turn integrating BMS into Internet of Things (IoT). These gateways also offer bidirectional data flow between devices on selected points.
Universal gateways support various standard protocols like Profibus FMS, DP-Master, DP-Slave, LonTalk, BACnet Ethernet, IP and PTP (RS232), Modbus serial, MODBUS/IP, M-Bus, EIB (European Installation bus), OPC, and many other proprietary protocols.
Universal gateways are generally designed & developed to cater to the needs of mass market. Typically it caters to a limited set of protocol combinations, including a serial bus, a Fieldbus or real-time Ethernet protocols. Custom-built universal gateways provide a flexible platform for a transparent conversion of building automation / industrial automation protocols, thereby enabling connection of networks of different I/O, Controllers and OEM brands. Such gateways are quite flexible, with hundreds of protocol combinations possible through them.
In addition, custom-built universal gateways are software-focused and offer ease of configuration for protocols like CAN, DeviceNet, PROFIBUS, BACnet, LonTalk, Ethernet/IP, Modbus TCP, POWERLINK, CC-Link, EtherCAT, SERCOS III, MB/RTU, RS422, RS485, MB ASCII RS232, Controller Area Network, DeviceNet, FOUNDATION fieldbus, HART, C-Bus, Z-Wave, Zigbee and the like. In summary, use of universal gateways help in developing M2M communication and can aid in enabling IoT efficiently.