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Solving the Challenges of Remote Wi-Fi in the Industrial Internet of Things | @ThingsExpo #IoT

Here's where wireless IIoT communications technology can help transmit critical sensor data

Most of us can relate to the frustration of when the Wi-Fi is down, or running slowly, or if we travel away from an established network and aren't able to connect to another one nearby. The lack of Wi-Fi makes it impossible to check our emails, look up something on the internet, connect with others, or get our work done efficiently. In short, it makes us feel a little helpless and a whole lot of cranky because we've become way too accustomed to getting the information we want - when we want it - and staying in 24/7 connection with our world.

Now, if we're challenged by our Wi-Fi experiencing a service blip in a metropolitan area, imagine a remote industrial setting like an oil pad, a water treatment plant, or a rural electric tower. All of these reside in what is known as the access layer - or at the very outer edge of an IT network. Not only is there usually no internet connectivity in the access layer, but these devices are  typically operating in rugged terrain where they're experiencing extreme and volatile weather conditions such as wind, snow, blistering heat, tornadoes, dust storms, etc.

Each of these access layer settings is part of a larger industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) network that connects the information gathered from local sensors that transmit or receive operational data. From there, they pass it along through subsequent network touch points all the way to the IT department at headquarters where this data is collected, analyzed, and acted upon for improved decision making.

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So, at the access layer - sometimes in the middle of nowhere where there can be no Wi-Fi networks for miles - talk about being disconnected from the world! Adding the environmental component to that, as well as the fact that most of these remote sites aren't adequately monitored and data security is at risk, it makes your occasional Wi-Fi challenges seem a bit tame, yes?

Here's where wireless IIoT communications technology can help transmit this critical sensor data from remote industrial locations with no Wi-Fi connectivity all the way to where they're supposed to go - and at very high speeds. This week, FreeWave is launching its new WaveProTM WP201 shorthaul and Wi-Fi platform that delivers secure collection, control, and transport of Voice, Video, Data, and Sensor (VVDSTM) information from the access layer. Think of it as high-speed, rugged Wi-Fi connectivity that can be positioned in that oil pad, power plant or wherever Wi-Fi is needed. It will not only connect these sensors to the internet, but can also transport voice and video to create an instant in-field network, provide greater visibility into what's going on at these sites, and better protect remote assets.

The Advent of Short Haul and the Access Layer
Change is inevitable, and change is taking place in SCADA, M2M and IIoT networks. SCADA networks started as networks that transported periodic process updates and used low bandwidth networks with longer links to meet their mission. Today, remote SCADA and Wi-Fi networks are transporting more data from more sensor data with greater frequency in order to drive operational efficiency into business processes.

SCADA and M2M networks are becoming more multi-functional than their predecessors. These networks are transporting more than sensor data from the remote site to the enterprise. These networks linking remote sites to the enterprise network are now transporting:

  • Video for remote process monitoring, enhanced site security and theft deterrence
  • Voice, since cellular coverage is not ubiquitous
  • Data so field personal have access to information needed to work efficiently

This combination of data types is what FreeWave terms as VVDSTM (voice, video, data and sensor). VVDS transport is now a requirement for your wireless network.

Another change occurring in traditional SCADA networks is that link distances are decreasing. In the past, SCADA networks with wireless links of more than 10 miles were common. Today, wireless links in excess of 10 miles typically use high speed, microwave, point-to-point (PTP) systems because of the increased capacity demands of VVDS.

The WP201 links the formerly unconnectable and is designed to not only meet the harshest environmental conditions, but also encrypts the data to keep it secure and protected. It can be used in a wide variety of industries like oil & gas, utilities, mining, disaster recovery, facility automation - anywhere  where field sensor information needs to be transmitted to servers for Sensor-2-Server™ (S2S™) connectivity. The applications are almost limitless.

With higher speed, shorter wireless links, FreeWave defines wireless networks in three tiers:

  • Long Haul (or the Distribution Layer) are wireless links from 5 miles, and greater and are typically implemented using high speed, PTP microwave systems.
  • Short Haul (or the Aggregation Layer) are wireless links from 1 to 8 miles that are easily implemented using high speed, 2.4GHz or 5GHz radios with directional antennas to create point-to-multipoint (PMP) networks for data and information aggregation, or PTP links that provide network ingress/egress points.
  • Close Haul (or the Access Layer) are PMP networks with wireless links operating from a few feet to a couple of miles to transport VVDS data.

Designing and deploying wireless networks using a layer approach that enables each layer to be optimized for transport and for cost ─ leveraging the right equipment at the right point.

The WP201 and its remote Wi-Fi and short haul capabilities is the first in a series of S2S products that FreeWave is offering to be that critical communication bridge in the IIoT world.  So in your own operations, what are some ways you might incorporate the WP201 into your network?

More Stories By Scott Allen

Scott is an executive leader with more than 25 years of experience in product lifecycle management, product marketing, business development, and technology deployment. He offers a unique blend of start-up aggressiveness and established company executive leadership, with expertise in product delivery, demand generation, and global market expansion. As CMO of FreeWave, Scott is responsible for product life cycle/management, GTM execution, demand generation, and brand creation/expansion strategies.

Prior to joining FreeWave, Scott held executive management positions at Fluke Networks (a Danaher Company), Network Associates (McAfee), and several start-ups including Mazu Networks and NEXVU Business Solutions. Scott earned his BA in Computer Information Systems from Weber University.

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