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RS485 vs USB numeric keypads: 5 differences you should know

Posted on: giu 27, 2024 | Author: Dorota Solga | Categories: Case studies

RS485 or USB keypads? Which one is best for your industry? If you want to make the right choice, consider these 5 differences... 

RS485 vs USB numeric keypads: 5 differences you should know

If you have landed on this blog article, you most likely work in an industrial sector or are looking for a keypad for your company or production department.

Maybe you are working with a certain type of machinery and already know which connection you need... or maybe you don't know that there are other possibilities to integrate.

We don't know if all of this is true, ours is only hypothesis, of course... but let's say you have this choice to make: you have to figure out which keypad is best suited for your machinery.


.. And if you get it wrong? What do you risk?

Well, before we come to talk to you about RS485 numeric keypads and the difference between them and USB numeric keypads, we want to confront you with the possible CONSEQUENCES your company will face if you do not make a conscious choice of the correct industrial keypad to insert!

What happens if you choose the WRONG keypad for your production area 

If you make the wrong choice of keypad, these are the possible scenarios you run into:

1) the machine without the right keypad does NOT work.
This means that if the machine doesn't work, your work stops, your company doesn't produce, your operators are idle, and all this just because you made the wrong choice of keypad in the machine.

2) You will spend a lot of money unnecessarily.
Try to think about this... you chose a type of keypad and maybe even ordered a large batch in order to supply all the machines in production.
But... once the keypad model arrives at your company and you see that it is NOT compatible, you can't even get it under warranty and run for cover and order the right one, because the keypad itself WORKS: it is you who chose the WRONG type of connection for your machine!

3) Production stops. The machines are stopped, the operators too, all because now you MUST order the right type of keypad and you MUST WAIT a certain amount of time (at best, two weeks, at worst... over a month) before the right keypad arrives at your company...

Now, reread the three points just transcribed...

What jumps out at you?

That you have spent MONEY and LOST TIME unnecessarily.
And this only happened because the keypad was chosen superficially, without evaluating that there were OTHER OPTIONS possible for that machine or for your production area.

That's why we want you to be well informed before making any choice that will COMPROMISE your work or stop your production environment and wait MONTHS AND MONTHS for the right keypad to arrive...

And to be well-informed on the matter, we want you to know about RS485 keypads and the possible differences with USB ones, because as Industrial Keyboards we have a duty to inform you and help you make an informed choice of the product you will need to put in your production environment.

So, let's start at the beginning...

What are RS485 numeric keypads? 

You know those small, luminous keypads that you usually see embedded in security and control systems, guard posts for access to buildings, car parks and restricted areas?

The same little keypads that you see and don't see, in the sense that every time you use them you are so used to their existence that you don't really notice them?

Those are the RS485 numeric keypads.

You can find them in the areas just described and, more specifically, within industries.

If you are an IT manager, or a production manager - or simply work in a heavy industry - you will probably already be familiar with them.

Because it is within the industrial environment that RS485 keypads find their perfect use in a number of very interesting applications.

How RS485 numeric keypads work 

RS485 numeric keypads are input devices designed for use in industrial environments.

They use the RS485 communication protocol to transmit data, which allows efficient and reliable interfacing with various control and automation systems.

But what does this mean, roughly translated?

That if you work in an industrial environment and are undecided on which type of keypad to buy... this blog article aims to shed light on all your doubts to help you make an informed choice.

In short...

By the end of this article, you will surely know which keypad to choose for your industry!

Because that's what you're interested in... right?

What are the features of RS485 numeric keypads 

The RS485 protocol is a type of wired serial communication, designed to transmit data over long distances, with high resistance to electromagnetic interference.

This type of connection requires the use of physical cables for data transmission and this differentiates it from USB devices, which use radio waves for communication.

But... that's not all.

There are other differences between RS485 and USB numeric keypads...

USB vs RS485 numeric keypads: 5 differences you should know

Let's start by saying that USB keypads are designed for ease of use and high speeds over short distances, while RS485 keypads are optimised for reliable communication over long distances in harsh environments.

Let's take a practical example...

USB keypads are mainly used for connecting peripheral devices to computers (such as mice, keyboards, external hard disks, printers and storage devices), while RS485 keypads are used in industrial and automation applications, PLCs (Programmable Logic Controllers) and security systems.

But let's look at the differences between the two types.

1) USB is a serial interface that allows the transmission of point-to-point communication (e.g. between a computer and a peripheral device): RS485, while being a serial interface, is designed for multipoint communication (between multiple devices on a single communication bus).

2)USB has a maximum transmission distance of about 5 metres for standard cables, but can be extended with active hubs or repeaters. RS485 can transmit data over much greater distances, up to 1200 metres (or 4000 feet), at reduced speeds.

3) USB can supply power to connected devices.
RS485 uses differential transmission, which makes the signal very resistant to electrical noise, making it ideal for industrial environments.

4) USB is designed to be easy to use, supporting plug and play and automatic configuration of devices. It does not supply power to devices, it is just a communication line.

5) A final consideration: RS485 keypads cost much more than USB because few manufacturers still produce them, as the COM connector is now little used.
So, if you work in an industrial environment and are undecided between an RS485 and USB keypad... which should you choose?

It depends. The choice depends on the specific needs of your company.

Advantages of RS485 numeric keypads 

The RS485 type of communication is no longer much in use, that is true...


You may not be aware that there are many advantages that RS485 numeric keypads can bring to your production environment...

- The RS485 keypad is fast and can be connected with a very long cable.

The keypad is designed to communicate via the RS485 interface, which is a serial communication protocol allowing data transmission over long distances and with high interference and repeater-free performance.

PLEASE NOTE: RS485 keypad communication is bi-directional (a signal is sent, which is retransmitted back to the source), but only in one direction at a time, precisely because there are two simultaneous signals.

So, simply translated.

If I use the keypad to receive, I cannot use the machine to which it is connected to send a signal.

- Backlighting: Some RS485 numeric keypads can be equipped with backlighting to facilitate use in low light conditions.

- Environmental protection: numeric keypads can be designed to withstand dust, humidity or other atmospheric agents, depending on the needs of the context in which they will be used. 

- Power supply: usually, these devices require a specific direct current (DC) power supply to function properly. 

- Mounting and installation: they can be designed to be mounted on panels, cabinets or other types of surfaces, depending on the application.

- Access control functionality: in some cases, RS485 numeric keypads can be integrated into access control systems to secure environments.

Bottom line.

RS485 keypads are very reliable for industrial environments, as they are optimal for all those contexts where resistance to interference and stability are put to the test.

Applications of RS485 numeric keypads 

RS485 numeric keypads are versatile and suitable for many applications in different industries where a robust and reliable numeric user interface is required.

Here are some examples of RS485 numeric keypads in industrial applications.

Numeric keypads for security systems

This is one of the most common uses of numeric keypads, which is precisely in security systems.

We can find numeric keypads that guard and control access for secure entry to buildings, car parks, restricted areas and other sensitive environments.

RS485 numeric keypads for industrial automation 

RS485 numeric keypads can be used in industrial automation systems to enter data, set parameters or access specific controls on machinery and equipment. 

Industrial machinery control

RS485 numeric keypads are widely used for controlling industrial machines. They allow operators to enter data, start and stop machines, and adjust operating parameters with precision and reliability. 

Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition Systems (SCADA) 

In SCADA systems, RS485 keypads allow data to be entered and edited directly in the field, facilitating the management and monitoring of industrial processes. 

Security Systems  

In security systems, RS485 numeric keypads are used to activate and deactivate alarms, register access and provide an additional layer of security through dual-factor authentication. 

Automated Sales Machines 

RS485 numeric keypads are used in automated sales machines for product selection and transaction management, offering a robust and secure solution for sales automation.

POS (Point of Sale) systems

In POS systems, these keypads help manage cash operations, record sales and provide advanced transaction management functionality in retail environments. 

Keypads for vehicle access control systems 

In car parks and restricted areas, RS485 numeric keypads can be used to enter access codes to open barriers or gates. 

Numeric keypads for building automation (non-industrial)

They can be integrated into home and industrial automation systems to control lighting, air conditioning, sound systems and more.

Numeric keypads for laboratory equipment

These keypads are used in scientific laboratories to enter data or specific settings on laboratory instruments and devices.

Numeric keypads for measuring and control equipment 

In industries requiring precise measurements or the control of various parameters, RS485 numeric keypads can be used to enter data or adjust settings.

As you can see, there are several industrial (and non-industrial) applications where RS485 keypads find their perfect use and utilisation.

The choice is yours.

Are you in doubt as to whether or not these keypads are suitable for your production environment?


We will help you understand which numeric keypads are best suited for your industry.

We are always available, H24, to assist you and answer any questions or concerns.

Why you should rely on Tastiere Industriali

At Industrial Keyboards you can find RS458 numeric keypads with backlighting, suitable for all the industrial applications we have already mentioned.

What advantages do you get from relying on Industrial Keyboards for your choice of keyboards and keypads?

- Tastiere Industriali is a site entirely focused on keyboards. For us, industrial keyboards are not just an industrial accessory but a product in their own right.

-  You can request a FREE 15-day TRIAL of the keyboard: if you don't like it or it doesn't suit your production scope, we will take it back without you having to spend anything;

- Free, personalised consultancy with a technician to understand what your company's need is and how we can meet it;

- 24/7 support: Do you have a problem with the keyboard you have just purchased? You can contact us (also via chat) and we will get right back to you.

- Product customisation according to your company's needs: we can customise the keyboard in both layout and colour.

- Stock of industrial keyboards directly in-house, unlike all other suppliers.

- We are ISO 9001 certified: our company is designed to meet certain standards of quality and customer satisfaction.

- We are IQNET-certified, which means that we guarantee certain benefits aimed at satisfying customer needs and offer a wide range of specific services.

- We recently achieved ESG certification with an A+ grade, demonstrating that we are a company that knows how to manage risks and opportunities related to the environment, society and governance. ESG certification is very important in terms of corporate quality and reliability. 

Are you looking for keypads for your industry and need assistance in finding out which one is best suited for your sector?


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