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IO-Link 101: 8 Common Questions Answered

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You may be hearing a lot of buzz about IO-Link lately, but do you know what it is or how it works? Below are the answers to common questions about IO-Link technology, what it does, who can benefit from it, and more.

1.   What is IO-Link? IO-Link Comtrol_Group final

IO-Link is a standardized, bi-directional communication protocol supported on sensors or actuators, which are connected through a master. This gives the user/integrator more information about their devices and allows them to have remote access, which fits into the hot topic of Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) or Industry 4.0. IO-Link is a complimentary technology to an existing PLC, HMI or other controls architecture.

What IO-Link is Not: IO-Link is not another fieldbus. Rather, it was developed to reduce dependability on fieldbus support by manufacturers and users alike. It is designed to be as simple and universal as possible, requiring only standard M12/M8/M5 cables (no special cabling or connectors). It is also not a proprietary communication protocol, but rather a recognized international standard (IEC 61131-9).

2.   How is an IO-Link Sensor Different From a Standard IO Sensor?

Compared to a standard IO sensor, a sensor with IO-Link allows the user to see much more data about the sensor and even allows the ability to change the sensor’s settings without having to stop a manufacturing or production line to access the individual sensor. With an IO-Link sensor, you are also able to store parameters or settings inside of a master block, such as Comtrol offers, which can then be loaded to a brand new, factory-default device if necessary.

3.   What Kind of Data Can You See with IO-Link?

With IO-Link, you can see the manufacturer information and part number, among other data, of your sensors that are connected to the master block. So, if a sensor needs replacement but the lettering of the manufacturer or part number has rubbed off or become illegible, you can quickly see the exact model that needs to be replaced with this information already built in with IO-Link. This is also called Service Date, information that is not relative to a device’s function but rather about the device itself.

You can also view sensor performance and diagnostic information remotely through an IO-Link sensor. This is called Process Data (information that the sensor is reading, like temperature or distance) or Event Data (notifications or flags indicating, for example, a dirty lens, an error, communication loss to a sensor, etc.)

4.   What Kinds of Settings Can Be Changed with IO-Link?

A user can change the settings of an individual sensor without stopping the line to manually change the sensor settings one-by-one. With a web interface for instance, the user is provided access to these settings remotely. One of the most common uses of this capability is to change the read ranges of the sensors for product changeover.For example, if a manufacturer is producing “Product A” and “Product B” on the same line and needs to change sensor settings in-between the processes, this can be achieved by storing parameter sets in the PLC and then sending them out through the master block to sensors when a change is needed. The result? With IO-Link there is a potential for drastic reduction in downtime.

5.   What is an IO-Link System Comprised Of?

An IO-Link system consists of IO-Link sensors or actuators and an IO-Link master block. The information from an IO-Link device is communicated through an industrial Ethernet protocol, most commonly EtherNet/IP, PROFINET/IO, or Modbus TCP. The user can then access the sensor-level information and change sensor data remotely via the embedded web interface, PLC, HMI or other controller.

6.   Do I need a PLC to use IO-Link?

It depends on your industry and application. For example, Comtrol worked with one systems integrator in the mining industry that did not have a PLC present for a project. Instead, they used a connected PC to access sensor-level data from their presence detection IO-Link sensors. This allowed them to remotely view the results of the sensors checking for the presence of minerals.

7.   What are the Key Benefits of IO-Link?

IO-Link has three primary benefits: remote accessibility, auto-device replacement, and diagnostic capability. All of these key features of IO-Link contribute to reducing costly downtime, generally at manufacturing or production plants, and also gives the user much more information about their sensors or actuators.

Remote Accessibility: Refers to the capability to access sensor-level information and make changes from anywhere, as long as the user is able to connect to the a master and/or a network.

Auto-Device Replacement: Refers to IO-Link’s data storage feature that allows the user to download an old sensor’s data into a new sensor for seamless device replacement. This means that the new sensor can be quickly installed with all the settings of its predecessor, which ensures the line can be up and running in a timely manner.

Diagnostic Capability: Refers to the ability to see errors and other important information without having to stop the entire line to investigate the problem. For example, in material handling applications, a problem with a sensor would traditionally mean shutting down the system so that a person can access it and manually troubleshoot and makes changes to the device. With the ability to see error codes or other events through the web interface, the user can quickly identify which sensor is malfunctioning and what the problem is. No line shutdown required.

8.   What Industries Are Adopting IO-Link Technology?

Key industries that Comtrol is seeing use IO-Link include automotive, material handling, manufacturing, food & beverage, and many other industries, especially those that experience frequent changeover or typically long downtime.


Originally seen on SICK USA’s Blog:


Comtrol in the Broadcast Industry

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Broadcast Industry

The broadcast industry is made up of companies like TV networks, radio stations, and Wireless Internet Service Providers (WISPs) have numerous peripheral devices that are crucial to the services that they provide. These companies need a way for their video servers, video switchers, wireless connections, control rooms, and satellites to communicate efficiently, and Comtrol’s product do just that.

Broadcast Industry

The RocketPort® SMPTE (Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers) multi-port serial card line by Comtrol Corporation is the most comprehensive line available for the broadcast market, providing numerous solutions to serial device connectivity challenges. Available in 2 port and 8 port densities, the RocketPort® SMPTE has been utilized by broadcasting networks, giving them reliable connectivity to create, control, and distribute unique content.

Another line of products that has been beneficial to the broadcasting industry is Comtrol’s DeviceMaster® serial device servers. The DeviceMaster RTS server product enables browser-based remote port/device monitoring, which has allowed connections between peripheral devices such as cameras and printers, which are usually which are usually located away from the control room.

Five Things to Know About Comtrol’s Unmanaged RocketLinx® PoE Switches

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Comtrol’s Unmanaged PoE Switches

PoE SwitchesGiven the complexity of the markets, products, and expanding levels of technology at Comtrol, we believe firmly in the words of Albert Einstein, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”  This mentality, taken from one of the smartest men to live has led Comtrol to create a new type of data sheet: one that distills the complexity of a RocketLinx Power over Ethernet switch down to five key features.


Comtrol Intrusion Detection Experiment

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How Encapsulation of ASCII data into Modbus or EtherNet/IP for easy connection to PLC, SCADA, HMI, or other Industrial Protocol Enabled Devices Taught Me That An Office Cubicle Does Not Make a Good Bank Vault

One of our engineers here at Comtrol decided to conduct an internal training experiment using paper currency, Comtrol’s DeviceMaster® UP, a Gyphon barcode scanner, a SICK MLG Light Grid, an Allen Bradley MicroLogix 1100 PLC and a Beijer iX touchscreen HMI to simulate an intrusion detection system.

DeviceMaster industrial Ethernet gateway intrusion detection


Combat Training Facility IP Camera Monitoring

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Defending the United States of America is held with utmost importance by our government, states, communities and citizens.

Our troops require and maintain rigorous training schedules to keep prepared for war, developing new strategies that endure technological advancements and improved combat systems. Monitoring soldiers’ actions is crucial for effective training, and facilities are beginning to deploy enhanced monitoring tactics such as IP camera surveillance within their structures.

A large training facility located on a military base in Missouri chose to integrate IP camera monitoring into their training system. The base contracted NetWatch Inc., a surveillance systems integrator, to create a solution for their monitoring needs.

RocketLinx ethernet switch camera monitoring

Comtrol’s RocketLinx® ES7528 Power over Ethernet (PoE) switch was chosen for use in the structure, as its rugged enclosure and wide operating temperature range met the required specifications. In addition, the intuitive management features helped NetWatch easily configure and deploy the switches, providing a robust and reliable solution while enabling an average of ten IP cameras per switch.

Read more about how this solution works >>

Comtrol’s DeviceMaster® and RocketLinx® products are NEMA TS2 certified at no additional cost

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The NEMA TS2 standard was established by the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) to define safe traffic control equipment. Section 2 contains the environmental and testing requirements, including guidelines for temperature (-34° to 74°C), humidity, vibration and shock.

RocketLinx DeviceMaster NEMA TS2 Certification

Independent lab testing verified Comtrol’s DeviceMaster serial device servers’ and RocketLinx industrial Ethernet switches’ performance when subjected to the extreme temperatures, operating voltage and humidity fluctuation, vibration and shock commonly experienced in severe outdoor environments.

“We know how important NEMA certification is to our traffic and transportation customers,” Comtrol’s President, Bradford Beale, said about the National Electrical Manufacturers Association standard, “To show our dedication to these customers and others that require extended temperatures from -34° to 74° degrees Celsius, our standard 1, 2, 4 and 8 port DeviceMaster RTS and PRO products are compliant at no additional cost to our traffic management customers.”

        RocketLinx industrial ethernet switch familyDeviceMaster device server family

These field-hardened device servers provide connectivity for a broad range of traffic and transportation applications currently used by more than 300 traffic and transportation agencies nationwide. Select models of Comtrol’s RocketLinx industrial Ethernet switches are also NEMA TS2 certified. Our customers use DeviceMaster device servers and RocketLinx switches to control and manage intelligent transportation systems (ITS) including traffic management systems, arterial and freeway management, roadside cabinet networking, and intersection management and control. Reliable and easy-to-install, DeviceMaster devicare also cost effective solutions for open road tolling (ORT), electronic toll collection (ETC), toll plazas, and parking automation environments.

“Ensuring that our products are field hardened—especially for harsh temperatures— has been a critical design objective for some time,” said Beale, “In fact, while NEMA certification requires that systems withstand temperatures of -34° C, we designed DeviceMaster and RocketLinx products to withstand -37° C, and in some cases 85° C.”

View Comtrol’s NEMA TS2 certified DeviceMaster and RocketLinx products

Expansion into Emerging Markets – China, Brazil & EMEA

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Comtrol is announcing the official expansion of Sales and Support operations internationally! Markets of recent interest include oil and gas, renewable energy and industrial automation.

Comtrol International Expansion press release“We have experienced a significant increased demand globally for our industrial communications products in emerging markets,” says Bradford Beale, President at Comtrol, “Our international expansion will provide improved communication and ease-of-access in local markets around the world between Comtrol and our customers.

In order to meet this international demand, Comtrol has extended coverage and support tailored for specific locations such as China, Brazil, and Europe/the Middle East/Africa (EMEA) to better serve our customers.  For sales information and support in these particular locations, please contact the following representatives.

China: Chi Li;

Brazil: Clarissa Strader;

EMEA: Dennis Christensen;

For more information, contact Comtrol Corporation at 800-926-6878 or visit 

Industrial Security Monitoring

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Establishing consistent industrial surveillance through network camera control

Securing property such as manufacturing facilities and perimeters is essential to any industrial company’s asset protection system. Ideally, personnel would be monitoring the property consistently. However, combining essential pieces of equipment to form a comprehensive security system customizable to your surveillance needs provides a cost-effective solution to protecting valuable goods from theft.    

RocketLinx PoE security monitoring camera power control

Providing network video security solutions to a surveillance system can improve loss prevention by:

  • Automatically capture video when a perimeter is breached
  • Placing surveillance in areas not accessible to personnel
  • Accessing real-time video, even from remote locations
  • Identifying potential intruders

Using industrial outdoor cameras or network cameras with pan, tilt and zoom features in conjunction with Power over Ethernet (PoE) switches to control a security system greatly increases opportunities to utilize power and communication.

View integrated surveillance system by Comtrol and Axis Communications >>

Networking Communications for Gaming Industry

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As the gaming and casino industries continue to evolve, creating advanced games and capabilities, the technology needed to support new networks evolves simultaneously.

Whether a facility hosts a single or multi-server, serial or Ethernet-supported network, Comtrol’s RocketLinx®, RocketPort® and DeviceMaster® products provide a variety of connectivity solutions for casino networking communications.

RocketPort RocketLinx DeviceMaster Casino Entertainment Communication

Both scenarios above depict potential options for a gaming facility to maintain their network system as games and other machines get replaced by newer models with different connectivity options. Comtrol’s products provide low-latency and efficient connectivity solutions for gaming networks of all types. Read more >>


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