SignalFire Ranger Achieves Sparkplug Compatibility

April 27, 2023
The cellular field device signal transmitter is reportedly the first field device to pass the Sparkplug Compatibility Program

The Ranger transmitter from SignalFire uses LTE-M cellular networks to provide direct connectivity from a sensor to a cloud platform. SignalFire notes that LTE-M is designed for connection of Internet of Things devices to directly to a 4G network—without a gateway—using the built-in batteries or external solar panel.

Noting the Ranger platform’s successful completion of the Sparkplug Compatibility Program, Sandro Esposito, SignalFire’s vice president of sales and marketing, says that Ranger is the “world’s first field device to pass” this test. “When designing wireless solutions, we focus on long battery life, robust connectivity, and simplicity in data integration. SparkPlug was a no brainer when creating the Ranger platform as it compresses the data and standardizes the payload of the data moved back and forth with MQTT protocol.”

To be included in the Sparkplug Compatibility Program, products must pass an open-source series of tests that validate conformance to the specification. These tests are based on the Sparkplug Technology Compatibility Kit (TCK).

According to SignalFire, the key objective of the Ranger product line is to “monitor and even control without traditional systems like SCADA, PLC, edge devices, etc. The Ranger can be connected to your existing sensors with analog or digital outputs for monitoring parameters such as pressures, levels, flow meters, and temperatures.”

SignalFire points out that carrying the Sparkplug designation is important to companies that use MQTT and Sparkplug to build their industrial automation systems because it “allows them to integrate their industrial IoT (IIoT) devices without extensive testing.”

The Sparkplug Working Group arose to address the problems associated with bringing plant floor data into enterprise systems. The group is focused on “the definition of technical specifications and associated implementations that rationalize access to industrial data, improve the interoperability and scalability of IIoT solutions, and provide an overall framework for supporting Industry 4.0 for oil and gas, energy, manufacturing, smart cities, and other related industries.”

According to Arlen Nipper, president and chief technology officer at Cirrus Link Solutions and co-inventor of MQTT, Sparkplug is “an open-source software specification that provides MQTT clients with a framework to integrate data. The specification articulates three goals:

  • Define an MQTT Topic Namespace optimized for IIoT;
  • Define MQTT State Management to take advantage of continuous session awareness; and
  • Define the MQTT Payload.”
“Having the Ranger be the first hardware device to pass the Sparkplug Compatibility Program is important as this new program will ensure interoperability with all other Sparkplug-compliant platforms,” says Josh Schadel, SignalFire general manager. “Using an open communication standard is important to SignalFire to allow flexibility for the Ranger to connect to a wide range of IIoT systems.”

SignalFire adds that the Ranger product family comes complete with the web and mobile-friendly SignalFire Cloud interface to monitor, trend and receive alarms either by text or email. It uses MQTT technology secured by TLS that can also be integrated with private cloud platforms. The data is published natively using the popular SparkPlugB format commonly used by many hosting platforms.

About the Author

David Greenfield, editor in chief | Editor in Chief

David Greenfield joined Automation World in June 2011. Bringing a wealth of industry knowledge and media experience to his position, David’s contributions can be found in AW’s print and online editions and custom projects. Earlier in his career, David was Editorial Director of Design News at UBM Electronics, and prior to joining UBM, he was Editorial Director of Control Engineering at Reed Business Information, where he also worked on Manufacturing Business Technology as Publisher. 

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