Thursday, May 4, 2017

How to Remotely Monitor a Power Meter using a Netbiter EC350

Netbiter makes it simple to view your power meter data from a remote location.
This week I had the task of setting up a power meter and monitoring this device remotely, via a Netbiter EC350. I found it quick and easy to do.

Figure: 1
The Netbiter EC350 shown in figure:1, is the hardware component of the Netbiter remote monitoring solution. The gateway(EC350) can connect to a measuring device/field sensor via the following connection methods: Serial RS232 or RS485, Modbus RTU or TCP, or EtherNet/IP.

In my setup I have used RS485, which is what both devices use. Both devices also needed a 24Vdc power supply shown in Figure:2 below.
The Netbiter uses a cloud service called the Argos to store data that may be remotely accessed later on.
The gateway automatically performs data exchange via an Internet enabled Ethernet connection (WAN) or local cellular networks to the Argos cloud service.
In my setup, I have used the Ethernet port to perform data exchange to the Argos cloud.
The method of using a cloud service data eliminates the use of public or fixed IP addresses and removes the complexity of VPN tunneling.
Apart from this, the Argos service also features an authentication login process. It's possible as the main administrator to grant rights and privileges accordingly to specific user profiles.

Figure: 2
I have connected up my devices using the following steps:

  1. Both my Netbiter EC350 and power meter are powered in parallel using the 24Vdc power supply. The power supply is powered by 220Vac. Take note of the polarity of the device terminals as DC voltage will not work in the reverse polarity.
  2. The gateway is then linked via the RS485 com port, to the power meter. Note that the cable needs to be serial specific, and the connection points (A & B) need to be like for like and not inverted. if multiple slaves are used then the com ports will be series to each other.
  3. My Ethernet cable is connected to the WAN port of my Netbiter and the other end is connected into an Internet enabled data port.
  4. Based on the manual - the input terminals may be wired according to their specific measuring point. In my example I chose to measure voltage which was wired into the available polarity conscious input terminal on the power meter. 

Once my wiring was complete, I then logged into my Argos profile and add the Modbus registers as parameters in a template. The information needed for adding these registers are found in the power meter's manual. By using a template, I can install more units and export/import the same template to other various common applications. Eliminating redundant work, and making commissioning easier.
Since the Netbiter EC350 acts as a Modbus Master in this network, I needed to add the power meter as a slave device onto the Netbiter EC350 under the configuration tab. In this step, I also specified that the template needs to be allocated to this device.
Now that the device is added, I check the communication settings (baud rate, parity, etc) and make sure they correspond to the default of the manual, or I could edit the system parameters on the meter and customize them to what I need for my network.

After my system checks are done, I download my configuration to the Netbiter and I am now able to browse the device parameters (an option available by the Argos service to present data without configuring a dashboard). Once I see data coming through I compare this to the power meter shown in figure:2. Since the meter provides a local display, I could verify that my readings were accurate.

Now that the device has been confirmed, I then added the parameters to the visualization tab and created a simple dashboard, to present the data in a customized format. I also set up a logging graph and alarm list, to track the behavior of my measured values. I could also extract historical data and reports if needed.
The power meter has functionality to read and write registers, so apart from only reading input values, I could remotely access the writable registers, for example: system parameters like the baud rate or device password can be changed remotely.

If you would like to find out more information contact IDX technical solutions:

Email:     info[at]
Contact: +27 11 548 9960

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Basic PID Control Course

IDX will again be hosting Andy Verwer from the UK to present the Three-Term or PID (Proportional Integral Derivative) Basic Course in Johannesburg, South Africa. The training is aimed at technicians, engineers and programmers who are involved in the operation, implementation and tuning of feedback controllers in a wide variety of applications and industries. Many different aspects of feedback control systems are covered so that the training will benefit a wide range of needs. For example, if you need to:
  • Apply quantitative feedback control to real processes and machinery,
  • Improve the performance or tune controllers in their plant,
  • Implement three-term controllers in their programmable control systems (PLCs and DCS systems),
  • Identify problems and the causes of poor control performance.
The training will run over the course of two days and is for those who have little or no previous experience with feedback control. This module takes the trainee up to the stage where they can tune a simple feedback control system and identify the basic reasons for poor control performance.

There will be a practical component which is delivered in hands-on manner using a combination of simulation software and real processes. The material in the basic and advanced courses are delivered in a manufacturer independent way.

The basic PID control course introduces to control system terminology and technology and introduces three-term (PID) control using a practical, hands-on approach. The basic PID course teaches how the controller terms operate and interact and how to use simple but practical techniques to select and adjust a controller for a range of applications. The training also covers the various causes of poor performance, which are often not concerned with controller tuning. The content will include:
  • Feedback control system architecture and terminology. Features of real controllers. Typical control systems for level, pressure, temperature and flow control. Hands-on practical operation of a control system.
  • Common control actions. Simple process dynamics. Common problems associated with feedback control. Hands-on simulation exercises System load performance, reset windup. Control performance measures. Modelling of process dynamics and nonlinearities. Control valve characteristics and problems.
  • Simple controller tuning methods. Practical tuning exercises for flow, level and pressure control.
The course cost will be R8 550 including VAT and will be held at the IDX offices at 1 Weaver Street, Fourways from the 29th to the 30th of May 2017. Lunch will be included. 

Seats are limited and booking is essential. Please send your booking requests to 

We look forward to seeing you there!

If you are outside of South Africa and are interested in this course, please follow this link: above content is derived from this original information page.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

FREE ProfiTrace & COMbricks Training

FREE ProfiTrace & COMbricks Training
Once you know the basics of PROFIBUS, come learn how to effectively troubleshoot PROFIBUS networks with ProfiTrace from PROCENTEC. In this course, we also go through the PROCENTEC range of network components to learn how to make your network robust with repeaters, hubs and active terminators. Want to know what’s going on with your network health when you’re not connected with ProfiTrace? We will show you how to permanently monitor your network with COMbricks and show you how to establish a remote connection into COMbricks so that you can monitor your PROFIBUS network from anywhere in the world!

What's covered in the training? 
  • Network components (connectors, hubs, etc)
  • Correct wiring of repeaters and hubs
  • Setup and connection of ProfiTrace
  • Configure a network using ProfiCaptain
  • Create common network faults
  • Analyse faults using live list and statistics
  • Record and analyse PROFIBUS Messages
  • Analyse signal waveforms and strengths
  • Generation of reports
  • Install and configure COMbricks
  • Remotely monitor PROFIBUS health
  • Understand recordings and statistics
  • COMbricks kit and card options
Are there any prerequisites? 
Yes. You will have to have completed the 2-day Certified PROFIBUS Installer Course so that you have a basic understanding of PROFIBUS before trying to use the tools. You can find out more about the PROFIBUS Installer course here

When and where will the course be running?
We aim to run the course at the IDX offices in Fourways, South Africa every two months. This gives most people and opportunity to fit this into their schedule. There is no cost to attending the scheduled training, however "no-shows" will be billed. It is also possible to run the training at your site, but a fee will apply in these cases. Please contact us for a quote. The remaining courses for 2017 are as follows:
  • 05 May 2017
  • 31 July 2017
  • 29 September 2017
  • 17 November 2017
The course runs from 8:00am to 16:00pm and includes lunch. There is also no need to bring equipment, but we do encourage you to bring your laptop so that we can help you set up the latest version of the software and provide you with a large library of GSD files.

How do I book my spot?
Booking is essential and can be done by sending an email request to academy[at] We will send you the necessary booking forms and get you registered. Alternatively call us on +27 11 548 9960. 

Friday, March 3, 2017

Remotely Monitor Tank Levels Part 1/2- Installing Tank Sensor

Utilizing the following components, IDX was quickly able to monitor the irrigation supply tank at our offices in Fourways. 

To complete this task we would be using the Netbiter Remote tank monitoring solution with the following components.
  • eWON Netbiter - EC Range, Remote Monitoring GSM controller
  • eWON Netbiter - Ultrasonic Tank Sensor
The first step was installing the ultrasonic sensor on the storage tank

Step 1 - Measure
The Netbiter Ultrasonic Tank Sensor comes with an included metal washer, this acts as a perfect stencil to outline the required holes. The center hole required is 30 mm, however we utilised a 32 mm drill mounted hole cutter. Ensure the sensor is mounted on the top surface of the tank, as horizontal as possible, with a clear view down to the contents of the tank and not a side wall or obstacle.

Step 2 - Drill
Using a 32 mm drill mounted hole cutter, this task was made effortless. However it is important to use a file or course sanding paper afterwards to clean off rough edges and loose bits, in order to ensure a water tight seal. We used a 4 mm drill bit for the screw holes. 

Step 3 - Mount

It is recommended that on uneven or non-rigid surfaces, the supplied rubber gasket and metal washer be utilised to create an IP65 seal between the sensor and the tank, especially in the cases of fuel tanks that could be contaminated by water.
We utilised large washers below the surface to ensure a rugged connection.

Step 4 - Sensor Cover (Sun protection)

you should avoid leaving the sensor in direct sun light, we decided to re-purpose a plastic container to shade the sensor. This will prevent any inaccurate readings that may be caused by direct sunlight, in addition it will protect the sensor from the external elements, taken into consideration that the sensor has an IP65 rating and can be utilised in wet and harsh environments.

Step 5 - Wiring
The Netbiter Ultrasonic Sensor comes with 10 meter power and data supply cable. The M12 connector screws with a water tight connection onto the back of the sensor. We ran the cable into our office ceiling, and then into a distribution cabinet with our Netbiter EC250 and power supply.

The supplied cable has four cores, and should be wired as follows:

  • Black - RS-485 Line A
  • White - RS-485 Line B
  • Blue - 0 V DC
  • Brown - 24V DC 

If the tank sensor is your only device on the network, it is standard practice to terminate on both ends of the segment (at both the sensor and EC250 - GSM controller). The sensor has a built in terminating resistor that can be turned on and off via the RS485 bus, therefor placing a 120 Ohm resistor between line A and B on the Netbiter is required.

For more information on how you can monitor your tank levels and assets remotely contact the IDX team: info[at]

The next step is configuration of the online server (Netbiter Argos), we will cover these steps in a following blog, to view:
click here

Thursday, February 2, 2017

PROFIBUS Multi-colour Connectors

Finally, an out of the box cable solution for the ever evolving PROFIBUS network.

Device connections are sometimes considered among the least of our concerns on a Profibus network, but if poorly executed, they can prove to be the largest of our problems. As we know Profibus networks can get rather big and busy, especially with the use of repeaters and hubs. Segments begin to look similar and when performing an inspection, one soon begins to ask the question, Have I checked this segment/device cable or not?

Procentec have found a way to simplify the complexity of a PROFIBUS network, with the ProfiConnector Multi-coloured Plug. You will now be able to highlight your devices and segments, bringing more definition to your network. The creative colour scheme will allow you to maintain uniformity and neatness, thus assisting with speeding up diagnostics and reducing downtime on troubleshooting. There are four combinations of these highly durable and robust plugs: Cage clamp and screw type, with or without PG (Piggy Back) connection.

Not only do these plugs form an awareness to differentiate field devices and segment layouts in a PROFIBUS network, they are also perfect for network segregation, ideally on networks with more than one master controller. This original, innovative plug will allow you to get creative with your network.

It is highly resilient and able to bare the unforgiving environments that industries have to offer.
some amazing features about these plugs include:
  • Shock and UV resistant
  • Temp range: -25˚C to 70˚C
  • Built-in strain relief for incoming and outgoing cable
  • 90˚ angle
  • DB9 connector 
  • Max baud rate: 12Mbps
  • Integrated and switchable termination
  • Available colours: green, orange, purple, red, white
With all these benefits compressed into one compatible and easy to use plug, it makes decision-making quite straightforward when it comes to selecting the best choice for your PROFIBUS network.

For more information contact IDX technical solutions:

Email:     info[at]
Contact: +27 11 548 9960

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

MODBUS to PROFIBUS Converter (Serial to PROFIBUS)

Not only is it possible with IDX but simple, quick and cost effective.
Anybus is your ideal solution, dominant when it comes to converting between Fieldbus, Ethernet and serial protocols. Integrate your RS232,422 & 485 equipment to a PROFIBUS/PROFINET control system without any changes to your device.
Simply connect, configure and you're done! Simply IDX it! 

Some of the features and benefits you can expect from the Anybus Communicator include:
  • Save time and unnecessary development when integrating your device into PROFIBUS/PROFINET
  • MODBUS RTU configuration wizard
  • Ability to configure ASCII or vendor specific protocols
  • Multi language support
  • Handy save and load function allows for a completed configuration to be utilised on alternate installations
  • Serial line listener and built in checksum calculator for diagnostics and troubleshooting
  • No high level programming skills are needed to set up the Anybus communicator. the Anybus device is configured utilising included user friendly windows software (Anybus Configuration Manager)
  • 3 year guarantee

Case Study: 
Using the Anybus Communicator to get NMEA GPS data from an Industrial GPS antenna into PROFIBUS

Recently IDX was contacted by a client that wished to get NMEA data strings from a Garmin industrial GPS receiver into the plants PROFIBUS SCADA system.

It was quickly identified that an AB7000 - Anybus Communicator would be the most effective device for the job. 

Within the NMEA protocol, various messages are pushed along the data line, each ASCII strings provides new information. 

An Example of one of these strings could be a RMC (Recommended Minimum Data), this will look similar to:


     RMC            Recommended Minimum GPS Data
     123319          Fix taken at 12:33:19 UTC
     A                  Status A=active or V=Void.
     4807.038,N    Latitude 48 deg 07.038' N
     01131.000,E  Longitude 11 deg 31.000' E
     022.4            Speed over the ground in knots
     084.4            Track angle in degrees True
     230394          Date - 23rd of March 1994
     003.1,W        Magnetic Variation
     *6A              The checksum data, always begins with *

After sniffing the ASCII string using software included with the Anybus communicator, we were able to truncate and map relevant values through to the Profibus driver. The main interest of the plant was to know the location of their rail equipment at all times, in order to prevent a collision. Thus the only relevant info would be the latitude and longitude, in addition we also mapped a few status bytes and integrated a checksum to confirm the data being read as accurate. 

This application has bee
n repeated in thousands of separate installations, ranging though various applications, from weigh scales, to scanners, to VSD's and now GPS systems...

Whats your requirement?

Contact IDX technical sales now:
Email:     info[at]
Contact: +27 11 548 9960

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

StarNET HDLC Master Gateway solves legacy migration challenge

In August 2016, IDX successfully completed the commissioning of its latest StarNET HDLC gateway development implementation which saw the addition of StarNET HDLC Master functionality being added to the gateway.
The application involved the legacy migration of a GEM 80 PLC controlling three GEM Micro drives operating in a redundant setup for operating the brakes of a mine winder operating on the deepest single drop shaft in the world, near Klerksdorp in South Africa. As only the PLC was being replaced with a modern software-based PLC, a solution to interface with the existing GEM Micro drives was required. Due to the safety critical nature of the system, the solution needed to be reliable and offer quick data turnaround to prevent safe lock-outs of the brake controller, and thus shutting down the winder and of course the shaft.

IDX provided a MODBUS UDP Slave to StarNET HDLC Master interface in the form of an IDX StarNET gateway allowing the new Beckhoff PLC to read and write to the GEM micro drives via MODBUS UDP. We are pleased to report the gateway has worked flawlessly since commissioning despite this being a rather challenging project. This was primarily due to the unexpected GEM micro HDLC communication handling and multi-drop behaviour – let’s just say it is somewhat ‘special’ and a little mysterious but not enough to stop us from making it work!