Protocol Converter applications vary from industry to industry. The protocol converter can be a software converter, hardware converter or an integrated one depending on the protocols.
The major protocols used in each area of application are listed under List of automation protocols.
Protocol Converters are generally used for transforming data and commands from device or application to another. This necessarily involves transformation of data, commands, their representation, encoding and framing to achieve the conversion.
There are simple and complex type of conversions depending on the application and domain in which this is being used. The simplest and most commonly used conversion is protocol conversion between Modbus RTU and Modbus TCP. In this conversion, there is no change in the overall framing. Hence it is easy to take the Serial Modbus RTU frame and encapsulate it in a TCP/UDP Socket and send it over Ethernet. Since both the protocol framings are the same, except for the actual physical layer transmission, both the application layers will interpret data similarly as long as the communication interfaces are made transparent.
However, there do exist very complex conversions, where the data format, the data types supported, the object models etc., are so different that the conversion engine needs to make modification not only in framing, but need mapping information for each type of data and command and in some cases the object models. Also, there might be user configuration required in defining the mapping, and mapping non supported data types to supported data types.
These transformations though brings about conversion advantages, also brings about communication delay, processing latency and hence an overall end to end processing time which is finite and need to be considered in all solution design.
The latency of end to end communication depends on the processing delay of the hardware and/or software being used, the protocol & conversion complexity and the solution architecture. These latencies can vary for typical industrial and energy automation applications from 10-20 milli-seconds to as high as 1 second. Solution architectures using protocol converters need to consider this latency and how it will impact the project for which converters are being considered.
Also most such architectures would involve configuration and mapping which would involve considerable engineering effort and engineering time. These also need to be considered while defining project schedules.
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