RS485 VS CANbus – What Does the Flex Monitor Use?

There’s a good chance you haven’t given much thought to how the electronics in your firefighting equipment work. Once installed, your electric appliances do what you need them to, and you never have to consider how the appliances are communicating with your vehicle and other devices. 

Every piece of electronic equipment uses a protocol, or a way of communicating with other electronics. This can include the vehicle itself, remote controls, and other nearby devices.  

Many years ago, a CANbus protocol became standard in the automotive industry and has been widely used for wiring and electronics on firefighting apparatus. Task Force Tips did not adopt CANbus, opting instead for a proprietary RS485 system.  

The RS485 system functions just fine but does require the use of some added components to make it natively compatible with all the systems on a fire truck. To simplify things, we are working to adopt CANbus. The Flex Firefighting Monitor will be our first product using this protocol as a standard. 

Let’s explore what this means.  

What is RS485? 

RS485 is a proprietary protocol built by us for our electronic appliances. It is used in our firefighting monitors, VUMS, Extend-A-Guns, and more. 

The RS485 protocol works well between TFT products. Unfortunately, it cannot be understood by CANbus systems. Essentially, the two protocols speak different languages and communicate the same information in different ways. 

This means if one of our products is installed on a truck with CANbus, whoever is installing it needs to run added wiring or use an interface adapter to ensure the components can communicate. 

What is CANbus? 

CANbus (Controller Area Network) is essentially another language that electronic components use to communicate and send messages. It is a standardized communication protocol that is widely used in the automotive industry, including firefighting apparatus. This makes it compatible with a wide range of systems and devices. 

Other firefighting equipment manufacturers already use CANbus in their electronics as well, making it widely used and well-known among vehicle and equipment manufacturers. 

Flex and CANbus 

Flex is the first Task Force Tips product switching to the CANbus system. This will have a couple of benefits for you and your installation crew. 

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First, since Flex will use CANbus, your installer will not need to run specialized wiring or worry about adapters except in a few specific circumstances. This can lower the overall weight for aerial ladders and platforms and shorten installation times. 

The use of CANbus in Flex will also simplify interaction between TFT products and competitor products you may use alongside it! While we hope you choose to use us for your equipment needs, we know that isn’t always the case. This switch means better compatibility for your firefighting equipment. 

The Future of CANbus at TFT 

After hearing about the differences between RS485 and CANbus and learning that the Flex firefighting monitor will use a CANbus system, you may be wondering what the plan is for our electronic appliances going forward. It’s a good question.  

Our current plan is to eventually move all electronic products using the RS485 protocol to the CANbus protocol. This change will lessen installation challenges and limit the need for adapters and additional wiring. 

This update is still in the planning phases and a date for this change has not been chosen. You can keep an eye on our website and social media for updates as we move forward with this plan!