As the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) rapidly drives up the number of connected devices in facilities, everything – from the plant floor, to oil rigs, to substations – is transforming. This transformation includes an increase in the use of industrial wireless for a number of applications.

For example, wireless connections are being used more and more for things like data collection, access to remote equipment and connecting portable equipment to the plant network.

You may want to leverage industrial wireless to realize the efficiencies promised by IIoT, but are hesitant to move forward. Why? Perhaps you’ve tried wireless in the past and it just didn’t work out how you hoped in terms of reliability or security. 

Well, if that were the case, I urge you now to reconsider. Wireless technology and standards have vastly improved and today it is possible to deploy robust, reliable, secure industrial wireless solutions.

Industrial Wireless is Ideal for Moving Equipment

Industrial wireless can provide a payback when used to communicate with moving equipment.  In this type of application physical wiring may be impossible or fail too often.

Use Industrial Wireless to Meet Network Needs

An effective industrial wireless solution includes today’s top technologies. These features will allow your industrial wireless network to meet your needs for:

  • Robustness – Today’s data speeds now exceed 100 Mbps wired link and will soon reach up to 450 Mbps.
  • Reliability – In terms of noise, new signal filtering technology proactively eliminates noise before it gets to the processor. And for data loss, Parallel Redundancy Protocols allow for zero data loss and zero failover architectures.
  • Security – Management Frame Protection encryption and advanced firewalls provide end-to-end data and system protection that exceeds wired.
  • Maintainability – Expandable solutions can now grow as needed.

In order to design a secure industrial wireless network, we like to follow what we call the “Golden Rule of Industrial Wireless Security.” The golden rule – deploy securely, monitor regularly – suggests that you consider several aspects before deploying your network, such as protecting network devices, misconfigured devices, Denial of Service (DoS) potentials or accidental vulnerabilities. Taking these things into account will help you to achieve the first part of the golden rule, deploy securely.

The second part of the golden rule, monitor regularly, reinforces the fact that our industry is constantly changing. New security threats or accidental security incidents appear daily. Therefore, establishing a process to regularly monitor and update your system is critical to your wireless security.

Belden provides multiple levels of guidelines for secure deployment and regular monitoring of wireless networks, depending on where you are in the process. Overall, we’d recommend you:

  1. Start by conducting a vulnerability analysis. You must understand your vulnerabilities and associated risks. Belden works with several partners that provide risk assessments. Or, it is possible to implement a zero-cost assessment on your own, using these tips.
  2. Divide the network into operational zones and conduits. By dividing up large networks into smaller ones, you can improve the manageability, reliability and security of your system. Often, taking this step can mitigate the consequences of unintentional errors.
  3. Review the latest wireless standards. Advances in technology and standards have made industrial wireless applications much more stable, reliable, fast and secure, and a lot easier to deploy. Specifically, Parallel Redundancy Protocol (PRP) as defined by IEC 62439, improves wireless network performance by decreasing data loss, improving transmission time by decreasing latency and reduces jitter.
  4. Identify your application’s needs. The network must be designed around the application, including data rates, coverage area, distance, obstacles, frequency needs, security and redundancy.
  5. Determine physical needs of the network. Physical needs of your network could include mounting locations, power availability or housing requirements.
  6. Select the right equipment. While it may seem that implementing wireless security is complex, modern industrial wireless equipment makes it easy to do. Looking for equipment features, such as easy disablement of telnet, http and serial configuration methods, support of WPA2 authentication protocol, Integrated Access Control List functionality and Built-in Layer 2 and Layer 3 firewalls, will keep your wireless infrastructure secure.
  7. Determine the appropriate wireless operating mode depending on your application. This could include access point, access client or point-to-point (multi-point) modes. Your network will also dictate if you need a basic service set (BSS) or an extended service set (ESS).
  8. Implement real-time monitoring. You can utilize the cloud for real-time threat intelligence and automatically program your industrial network to recognize new threats.

Letting go of your fears about wireless networking will allow you to truly realize the benefits of IIoT, including reducing costs and improving uptime for your facility.

Related Links

Industrial Wireless

Belden Products for Industrial Wireless