ADI Makes Big Swing for Industry 4.0 with First Software-Configurable Industrial I/Os

May 29, 2020 by Gary Elinoff

Two new I/O solutions bring remote programmability to building control and industrial automation.

Many current control systems require costly and labor-intensive manual configuration. This can involve a complex array of channel modules; analog and digital signal converters; and individually wired inputs and outputs to communicate with the machines, instruments, and sensors on the operating floor. 

But in today’s fast-changing manufacturing environment, facilities increasingly require flexible systems that can be reconfigured quickly and simply.

Industry 4.0, particularly manufacturing automation, became especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, when the United States saw a staggering ventilator shortage, Ford Motor Company pivoted its manufacturing process from automobiles to medical ventilators, proving the value of streamlined automated processes.

A recent announcement from Analog Devices (ADI) indicates that the company is jumping on board the Industry 4.0 movement. ADI unveiled what they claim is "the industry's first software-configurable input/output (I/O)" solutions, the AD74412R  and AD74413R.


AD74413 and AD74412R are said to support any pin and any function.

AD74413 and AD74412R are said to support any pin and any function. Screenshot used courtesy of Analog Devices

These two devices are built to help designers flexibly and remotely control systems, including reconfigurable module channels, without extensive rewiring.


Bringing Automation to Brownfield Installations

The AD74412R and AD74413R are both quad-channel software-configurable input/output devices compatible with brownfield installations. One module type can replace multiple, complex I/O modules designed specifically for each channel. This module can be remotely programmable from a central control point. In turn, this requires less hardware and reduces machine complexity. 


Diagram of how the software-configured I/O works in an industrial ecosystem

Diagram of how the software-configured I/O works in an industrial ecosystem. Screenshot used courtesy of Analog Devices


Because the software-configurable I/O can be applied to established brownfield technology, they can be updated to 10BASE-T1L industrial Ethernet systems.

In addition, the ADR74413R is HART-compatible. HART is useful for working with the sizable base of older brownfield 4-20 mA controlled nodes, and for incorporating them into more modern operational regimes. 


Device Specifications

Analog Devices explains that as a single-chip solution, the AD74413R and the ADR74412R replace multiple modules, providing a single platform for any control design. 

Housed in a 9 mm x 9 mm, 64-lead LFCSP package, both devices include functionality for analog and digital output and digital input. They also feature a resistance temperature detector (RTD), and an SPI-compatible interface. The units offer a 16-bit ADC and four configurable, 13-bit DACs. These provide four configurable input/output channels as well as a range of diagnostic functions.

Modes of operation include:

  • Voltage input
  • Voltage output
  • Current output
  • Externally-powered current input
  • Loop powered current input
  • External RTD measurement
  • Digital input logic


Block diagram for the AD74413R

Block diagram for the AD74413R. Image used courtesy of Analog Devices


Both units include a 2.5 V internal reference necessary to operate the ADC and the DAC.


Building Control and Automation

The ADR74413R and the ADR74412R operate over temperature ranges of -40°C to 105°C and -40°C to 85°C, respectively. 

The lower-cost ADR74412R is aimed at building control, while the more accurate and robust ADR74413R is targeted for process control and automation.

Analog Devices provides the EVAL-AD74412R and the EVAL-AD74413R, evaluation kits for the AD74412R and the AD74413R, respectively.


The EVAL-AD74412R.

The EVAL-AD74412R. Image used courtesy of Analog Devices


Both evaluation kits feature the 2.5 reference voltage and an SPI interface. PC-based control software is also included. 


Brownfield vs. Greenfield for Industry 4.0

Have you ever been tasked with updating a “brownfield” control system? What challenges did you face? Was it worth the effort of digging through old specifications, or did you end up ripping it all out and starting from scratch—establishing a brand new “greenfield” environment? 

Share your experiences in the comments below. 

1 Comment
  • S
    sattesonjr June 03, 2020

    If you want a super-powerful, very cost-effective PLC that already has software-configurable IO types, just buy one from Carel.  They’ve had it out for awhile, and its awesome! (Model c.Pco Mini)  No more “How many analogs do I need?”  “How many digitals do I need?”  “Oh, if I could only convert this digital to an analog!”  Just flip a flag in the program and voila, your IO turns from digital to analog!  Need a pulse timer input instead, no problem, just flip a flag!

    I predict at some point, one of the big boys in Automation (Siemens, Allen-Bradley, etc) will break rank and do this (using an AD chip or other), causing a disruptive event in the Automation IO marketplace.  But until then, they don’t want you do know about Carel because they want to continue selling you lots of single-purpose, overpriced IO cards for your application that only utilizes half of the IO channels.

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