Editor’s Note: This article was created with expertise from Mike Miclot, our vice president of marketing for industrial IT solutions.

Ten years ago, buying a glossy magazine and reading it was a self-indulgent treat that I allowed myself from time to time. Today, with a much lower per magazine cost, I read a wide variety of magazines on my iPad. In particular, I have gone back to National Geographic. Its digital cost is affordable, its photos and videos are spectacular, and I don’t have to make agonizing decisions about storing or recycling a great-looking document.

Over the last decade, you have likely implemented an industrial wireless application and decided afterwards that it really was not worth the cost and drawbacks that came with it. Like my old, dusty hard copy National Geographic, industrial wireless solutions may be filed in the “don’t suit me” compartment of your brain.

I would like to urge you to dust off your thinking and consider how advancements in reliability, performance, security and ease-of-use have changed the industrial wireless game. In particular, if you deal with moving equipment or transportation systems, industrial wireless applications could solve some of your challenges. 

Today, I will look at three applications for moving people or goods, and explain how they save money and make data collection and reporting easier. I will also explain how some of the earlier issues with industrial wireless have been addressed with today’s technology.

The bus system in Nantes France uses industrial wireless

The bus system in Nantes, France, uses industrial wireless  for operator,
customer and load applications.

Wireless Network Design Reduces Costs for Data Collection and Application Updates

The bus system in Nantes, France, has implemented an industrial wireless network to embed and communicate with three systems in each bus:

  • An operations support application, which delivers voice and written announcements that are displayed in each bus
  • A customer information application, which identifies customers via their passes and tracks their use of the system
  • A passenger load counting application

A Wi-Fi network is used to unload and reload the information of each bus and also to maintain the bus’ applications.

This implementation required high security, which was achieved using equipment compliant with today’s standard IEEE 802.11N wireless LAN technology. The encryption provided is exceptional, particularly considering that many industrial Ethernet protocols are unencrypted when travelling over a wire.

Another requirement was that wireless access points and WLAN controllers have IP ratings that supported operation between -20°C and +50°C.

This solution involved the implementation of 435 IP67 wireless access points, as well as WLAN controllers at the main bus station.

New call-to-actionEmployee Safety Enhanced with Wireless Transfer of Video Surveillance

In a different bus system application, this time for the city of Luxembourg, an industrial wireless network was installed for automatic reporting and retrieval of trip data, including ticket and traffic information. Hand carrying of data by drivers was replaced by automation transmission via WLAN, reducing costs and improving accuracy.

In addition, video surveillance files are now transferred from the bus to the central station and thereby improving safety for the bus drivers.

Simplified industrial wireless network

Simplified industrial wireless network design for the city of Luxembourg is shown above.
(Click here for larger image)

WLAN Transmission Paths Used for High-Volume Shipping Container Movements

The Port of Antwerp, in Belgium, is one of the largest sea ports in Europe, providing a more central transportation location than many of the North European sea ports. As a consequence, its terminal handles a high volume of shipping containers involving approximately 3,000 movements per day, 365 days a year.

To track container movements, the terminal uses a WLAN network with two VLANs spread over two frequency bands – 2.4 Gigahertz (GHz) and 5 GHz:

  • The 2.4 GHz band provides communication with handheld WLAN clients operated by personnel on the dock, these workers register containers as they are unloaded from ships.
  • The 5 GHz band provides communication to container cranes (straddle carriers). Touchscreen PC displays in the cranes receive data from the production WLAN that tell the operator which container movements to execute.

The WLAN network for this application includes 70+ access points, two redundant WLAN controllers and 120 industrial switches. Its speed, reliability and ease of use enable the port to track and transport containers with high accuracy.

How Today’s Industrial Wireless Technology Addresses Previous Issues

Let’s go down the list of issues that many people experienced with industrial wireless in the past and see how things have improved.

Yesterday's Issues Today's Solution
Robustness Not fast enough, not enough throughput Data speeds now exceed a 100 Mbps wired link, and are rapidly expanding, up to 450 Mbps
Reliability (Noise) Unable to consistently perform in a difficult environment New signal filtering technology proactively eliminates noise before the processor sees it, providing very clear signals to access points. See Hirschmann Clearspace article
Security Data inaccuracy (poor integrity), unauthorized network access Management Frame Protection encryption (IEEE 802.11w-2009) plus advanced firewalls provide end-to-end data and system protection that challenges and often exceeds wired
Maintainability Difficult to manage and maintain Expandable solutions can now grow as needed; Management tools for system configuration and security are now available. See Hirschmann OpenBAT

Yesterday’s industrial wireless has been overhauled with new technologies and new standards.

Whether your applications move people or goods, or if your facility uses mobile equipment, I hope that the examples and information in this article will prompt you to reconsider an industrial wireless solution.

Have you implemented a wireless application? Are you happy with its performance? I look forward to hearing from you.

Related Links

Industrial Wireless

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