The CompactRIO controllers have various hardware communication ports available, such as ENET, RS-232, RS-485, but the protocol used is software defined by the designer. DNP3, IEC 61850, EN60870, Modbus, TCP/IP are all protocols that have functions available for the LabVIEW development environment. Not only are they programmable and upgradable over time, but a single system can speak multiple protocols helping to bridge SCADA, EMS, and local microgrid control systems. Custom protocols, owned by other vendors, can run on NI hardware provided the owning vendor provides an API for LabVIEW or plug-in software element for Linux.
Connecting to alternate physical communication layers, such as WIMAX, GSM, LTE, etc. is often accomplished through connection of an external modem/router to the NI controller via ENET or Serial. Alternately, companies like SEA Gmbh. manufacture wireless and cellular C Series modules that are compatible with CompactRIO.