How LoRaWAN® can convert your outdated RS485

The RS485 serial interface is typically used in the construction of industrial networks that transmit small blocks of information over long distances. All good right? However technology is everchanging and there are other, more sophisticated solutions for data transmission out there. RS485 to LoRaWAN converters are a thing and in this article, we will explain what that means!

What is RS485?

RS485 uses a balanced two-wire line to transmit information in half-duplex mode and can support up to 32 nodes (drivers and receivers) in a bidirectional network.     

Up to 256 nodes can be included when using high-power drivers. Network nodes can be personal computers, microcontrollers, and any other devices capable of asynchronous serial communication.

With an exchange rate of 9600 bit/s, reliable transmission of information over a distance of 1200 m is guaranteed. At smaller distances, depending on the specific size and parameters of the link, the exchange rate can reach up to 10 Mbit/s. For more nodes and longer distances, repeaters can be used to regenerate the signals.

Devices with an RS485 interface are usually sufficient solutions for system integrators with a limited budget.

The biggest downside to using remote RS485 I/O devices over alternative technologies is the speed of communication. Among other disadvantages of the RS485 devices, experts point to several practical limitations at the physical level. Although the RS485 communication interface data acquisition devices can be used to build multi-point communication networks, the standard architecture is limited to a maximum of 32 linear drivers and a single-wire two-line bus receiver. Besides, only one node in the entire network can transmit data to the bus at a time All other units must wait in “receive” status.

The process of configuring or updating RS485-based devices can be extremely time-consuming. Operators need to set each communication parameter individually. Replacing RS485 devices or extending an existing RS485 network usually forces them to transfer a PC between different production units to configure field parameters or update the firmware of each field device individually.

In a network that includes hundreds of devices up to 1200 m apart, there are inconveniences and costs involved in hiring an operator to carry a personal computer from one field device to the next.

Despite the traditional drawbacks noted above, many system integrators continue to choose RS485-based I/O modules over other alternatives. This is due to their simplified design, ease of administration, and low cost of implementation and maintenance. Also, the RS485 modules can establish peer-to-peer communication between devices up to 1220 meters apart without the need for repeaters.

Another advantage of RS485 data communication devices over many alternatives is their relatively low cost, which makes them attractive opportunities for organizations that do not have large budgets.

It is important to note that in most cases these are applications that are not inherently critical to production, which explains the low priority placed on preventing data loss and networking to ensure uninterrupted connection or reducing system downtime.

Today’s industries are becoming more intelligent and sophisticated, and so should the network devices used in data collection systems.

As a result, smart system integrators are looking not only for easy-to-use and cost-effective solutions but also for network devices that are easier to install and maintain and reliable enough for backup.

An intelligent RS485 data collection device should not only bring all the key benefits of RS485 communication but also offer solutions to overcome the traditional limitations of the standard.

Even though Modbus and RS485 serial connections are fairly old technologies, both are still widely used today embedded by manufacturers in various sensors, I/O modules, and gateways involved in industrial, building, and IoT automation in general. 

   Why use LoRa®?

  • Long-range, handles many end devices.
  • Very low power consumption.
  • Ideal for measurement rates of a few times per hour Measure rate can be as fast as 15 seconds and scheduled to meet special needs.
  • High security that allows privacy, measurement integrity, and authenticity.
  • Data can be restricted to the company LAN or connected to cloud services.
  • It is up to date with the latest IoT standards and can integrate with existing applications.

There are multiple companies (like RAKwireless, Dragino, USR IoT, Cascademic, Comtac, Ebyte, and so on) out there on the market, that develop and sell converters that allow you to connect your RS485 to a LoRaWAN network and make them work together.

It converts the RS485 devices into a LoRaWAN device which simplifies the IoT installation and reduces the installation/maintenance cost.

Such a converter allows the user to monitor/control RS485 devices. It provides long-range spread spectrum communication and high interference immunity whilst minimizing current consumption. It targets professional wireless sensor network applications such as irrigation systems, smart metering, smart cities, smartphone detection, building automation, and so on.

Converters can prove helpful in projects where a wired approach can be over the desired budget or as a replacement for faulty wired communication. Wires are just not modern anymore. In project use cases with multiple facilities or rigid terrain or multiple floors that require costly and complex wired network cabling for simple data monitoring, a converter is a budget solution worth considering. It is a practical one that can facilitate enterprise manufacturing while reducing maintenance efforts, reducing costs, and accelerating business growth.