Software Toolbox Technical Blog

OPC Router – Report Downtime for your Connections

6 min read

By Kyle Persyn on May 23, 2024 2:00:00 PM

In the ever-changing landscape of industrial control, the ability to establish connections and facilitate efficient data exchange between different technologies is crucial. With digital transformation, the industry requires robust integration solutions more than ever before. If you’ve been keeping up with our previously released OPC Router blogs, you're already aware that OPC Router is a flexible middleware solution that provides an array of functionalities for exchanging and integrating data across different technologies. It facilitates seamless interoperability by acting as a connection point between various data sources, protocols, and applications such as OPC DA/Classic, OPC UA, databases, REST, ERP, SAP, and more with a visual workflow editor, templates, and imports for scalable configuration.

If you are new to OPC Router and want to learn more, our OPC Router Learning Resources are a great place to get started.

Knowing when your systems are online and functional is key to the success of your business. In large operations, it could be someone's full-time responsibility to mitigate problems and fix them when they inevitably occur. This makes it critical for the right people to be alerted in a timely fashion so they can take corrective action. To facilitate this need, what if you could also have real-time updates from your process and other systems through email notifications? Rather than rely on human detection and reaction, what if your actual processes and business systems could message you via email when a connection goes down (possibly a critical system is down, or a tank is approaching a critical level)?

In this blog post, we'll cover the steps necessary to use OPC Router to integrate your variety of connections with email notifications, empowering you to stay informed about downtime occurrences and expedite critical decision-making processes for your business.

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Flexible Control of Real-Time Device Polling Schedules

7 min read

By John Gonzalez on May 16, 2024 2:00:00 PM

The TOP Server OPC server is known for its ability to collect real-time data from a wide range of devices, using off-the-shelf industry standard protocols. However, challenges arise when not all devices can consistently share data in real-time due to limitations in connectivity mediums or networks. This is particularly evident in critical SCADA-heavy industries like Power & Utilities, Renewable Energy, Oil & Gas and Water/Wastewater, where precise control of polling is crucial due to their limited bandwidth availability. With traditional cyclic polling, for example "once an hour", you can end up with high bandwidth utilization at the top of an hour and the communications link being idle the rest of the time. Rather than do that, it's better to spread that usage out over the full hour.

The TOP Server Scheduler Plug-In is used to accomplish this spreading out of polling. With it, users can create a customized polling schedule for these devices for any TOP Server driver, which in turn optimizes communications between your SCADA, HMI, MES, or Historian and devices in the field. This eliminates the need to rely on your client applications or direct device configurations to achieve reliable collection crucial operational data from field devices.

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Your OPC Client Toolkit Should Keep Connectivity Simple, Right?

7 min read

By Nicole Knox on May 9, 2024 2:00:00 PM

Sometimes we are approached by users and integrators with very specific business demands, and an off-the-shelf OPC client solution isn't always the answer to their problems. As they explore the fully customizable development toolkits on the market, they are often concerned that their OPC expertise is inadequate for writing their own OPC client application. How should states and client objects be handled? When would an OPC group need to be created and have items added? What about timeouts, keep-alive intervals and more? Isn't PubSub (as in OPC UA PubSub) a deli sandwich from a popular grocery store called Publix in the US region we live in? Look – we hear you – and its problems like this that Software Toolbox has been solving since 1996. Let's start by saying this up front – you do NOT need to be an OPC expert or understand the internal complexities of OPC connectivity. Our OPC client development toolkit handles all of that and so much more for you. Let's learn more. 

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Tech Support Corner: DataHub Item Imports Made Easy

5 min read

By Connor Mason on May 2, 2024 2:00:00 PM

Cogent DataHub enables users to integrate diverse data sources quickly and efficiently within their industrial automation ecosystems. By providing multiple ways to consume, organize, and deliver data, handling multiple inputs is a strong suit of DataHub.

CSV import functionalities are available for a variety of plug-ins including OPC DA & UA Clients, MQTT Client, External & Local Historians, Bridging, and Modbus. In this blog, we'll delve into the format and import options of OPC UA items specifically tailored for DataHub's OPC UA Client configuration, but the concept is the same for all CSV imports in DataHub.

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Did You Know? How to Use Character Translations in OmniServer

4 min read

By Jessica Dillon on Mar 28, 2024 2:00:00 PM

Those of you who are aware of OmniServer will already know that it is primarily used to retrieve information from devices that use 'non-standard' protocols to communicate, such as weigh scales, barcode readers, and printers. An HMI, SCADA, MES, Historian, database, and more, could then read that data from OmniServer, making it a powerful, universal, data acquisition tool.

Some of these 'non-standard' device protocols require what we call "special handling". For most protocols, if you've used OmniServer, data that is sent or received is "what you see is what you get" type data. An ASCII "A" is transmitted or received and interpreted as an ASCII "A". But what if your device is expecting something else as part of its special handling in its communication protocol? Or what if you wanted to interpret the data differently from the device to meet new business standards or existing requirements?

OmniServer is capable of handling advanced protocols where the devices send special characters/bytes that need to be handled in a specific way. In this blog, we will explain how to use a feature called "translations" in OmniServer with certain protocols that require special handling.

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Modbus Offset vs. Addressing: Why Does It Matter?

7 min read

By Ryan Royse on Mar 21, 2024 2:00:00 PM

Have you ever been confused on the difference between Modbus offsets and addresses? I’m sure you may have configured different Modbus devices from different manufacturers who follow different documentation standards, especially for memory mapping. As we all know, that can certainly increase implementation time. In this blog post, we are going to dive into how offsets and addresses compare and differ to hopefully provide a better understanding, cutting down that configuration time when using TOP Server. Before we start comparing offsets and addressing, let’s first get an understanding of what both are.

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DataHub – 3 Ways to Transform Database Writes

9 min read

By Kyle Persyn on Mar 14, 2024 2:00:00 PM

If you’re an existing user or you’ve been keeping up with our previously released Cogent DataHub blogs, you’re already aware that Cogent DataHub is renowned for its extensive connectivity options to industrial data systems, but most importantly its secure, high performance, scalable, firewall, DMZ, & proxy friendly data transfer within premises and to/from the cloud. However, it’s worth emphasizing that DataHub’s connectivity includes MQTT, IoT, OPC DA, OPC UA, OPC UA Alarms & Conditions, OPC Classic Alarms & Events, Modbus, Excel, ODBC & more. These methods of connectivity help users realize that with DataHub, data has the freedom to seamlessly and securely traverse across various platforms. We truly believe that "once the data is in DataHub, it can go anywhere, securely".

In this blog post, I'll provide insight into using DataHub’s Transform property to manipulate data that is being logged to a database table. To follow along with this blog, as a prerequisite, you will need to have an ODBC database configured and have DataHub set up to be writing to that database. For more information on connecting and writing to a database, please read our blog DataHub – 5 Quick Steps to Writing to a Database Table”. Unlike loggers that only work with OPC data sources, DataHub’s capability to securely tunnel data and aggregate from diverse sources besides OPC empowers many different types of applications.

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Using TOP Server's Advanced Tags Plug-In: Calculations & Data Bridging

7 min read

By John Gonzalez on Mar 7, 2024 2:00:00 PM

TOP Server is widely used in automation for data collection from your industrial control systems. One of the many benefits of using TOP Server is that it ensures data integrity – meaning that the accuracy, consistency, and completeness of the data is maintained from your data source all the way up to whatever is consuming that data from TOP Server, such as your HMI, SCADA, MES, or Historian. While its capability to collect unchanged raw data from field devices is invaluable, it may not always align with the desired format, and there could be elective data massaging or manipulation required to meet your business demands. TOP Server can convert data types and even scale to engineering units, but what if you need more advanced data such Cycle Time, Maximum Temperature, Downtime Reason, etc.?

The TOP Server Advanced Tags Plug-in enhances functionality by providing added features to any TOP Server driver, such as mathematical operations and data bridging across protocols, thereby streamlining analysis processes and enhancing decision-making capabilities within industrial control applications.

In this article, we'll briefly introduce a few key features of the TOP Server Advanced Tags Plug-in that could serve valuable to you in your data collection processes.

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