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I have never done this before, but I have had FileMaker talk to serial devices (modems and PBXs via serial ports) and I know it works. It is always a bit complicated too. TROI has a Serial Port plugin to allow FileMaker to talk to serial ports. 24U has done serial communications a lot with phone systems. And I've worked with Jesse at 360Works on serial port communications. NRG Ship also has experience getting FileMaker to talk to serial devices (they connect FileMaker to scales and serial printers for use with the big shippers (UPS, Fedex, etc.).
None of these guys are going to be inexpensive, but if you need a good solid system that will work, it can be done.
At the moment as it's a one off thing and I'm looking at the resonable price category, should it prove to work well I'm thinking of developing it into a more robust system.
Thanks for your pointers I'll check them out.