Wireless technology is a part of daily life. Odds are, you’re reading this very blog post on a smartphone, laptop or tablet connected to Wi-Fi, right? Before that, you likely checked your email, favorite news sites or other sources of information without giving a second thought.
It’s true, the days of landlines and DSL have largely disappeared from our daily lives.
But I’d venture to guess that if you are reading this in an office setting – on a desktop computer or a docked laptop – you are still “plugged-in” to a wired internet connection.
In an age where you can turn your home thermostat up while you’re sitting miles away in your office, why are businesses so hesitant to take advantage of these advances, especially in industrial settings?
Often, it comes down to one thing: reliability.
With a wireless system, real-time data is available right as it is being collected.
Is Industrial Wireless Technology Reliable?
Businesses often criticize wireless as too unreliable to serve their needs when uptime is absolutely critical. The truth is, wireless technology has become much more reliable in recent years – so much so that even discrete manufacturing and automotive companies trust wireless system architecture in their daily processes. This is especially important as these industries involve processes that mandate extreme precision and reliability.
If you think about other wireless networks in your day-to-day life, and how they’ve improved over the last decade, the changes are remarkable. Home WiFi went from very slow, very weak coverage to offering high speed coverage that can reliably blanket most homes. Likewise, cellular data connections have transformed from very slow, very poor coverage to mobile broadband that allows us to stream videos reliably almost anywhere we go.
The Benefits of Industrial Wireless Technology
Achieving reliable wireless coverage in an industrial environment is even more challenging than these consumer examples, but similar advancements have been made over the years in industrial-class wireless technology, too. It’s now possible to provide the reliable uptime needed to give your business sufficient flexibility and freedom to concentrate on more pressing business matters. Protocols such as Parallel Redundancy Protocol (PRP) enable industrial wireless systems to provide wired-network reliability.
Not only is industrial wireless technology reliable, but it brings many benefits to your operations. It can help you increase the flexibility and profitability of your processes and employees. Wireless is often thought of as a means to cost-effectively and securely connect to remote sites – and it does that very well. However, there are other business benefits of deploying industrial wireless technology including:
- Remote workers. Not to be confused with allowing your staff to work off-site, remote workers utilizing a wireless system are free to work elsewhere on the manufacturing floor, while maintaining access to all the information necessary to monitor and control machines and processes. This allows for functional multitasking without the need to run back to control panels at specific machinery.
- Real-time data collection. Adding wireless sensors can be a cost-effective and minimally disruptive way to gather additional operational data from an existing system. This benefit proves especially helpful in applications like quality control or employee safety, where access to data is needed faster than ever before.
- Improved diagnostics. With access to greater amounts of more timely data, you can avoid manufacturing issues before they happen. When you’re taking full advantage of wireless technology – either to add additional sensors to your systems or to connect to remote machines for real-time diagnostics – you can find and fix and issues before they turn into big problems that slow or stop operations. Your business benefits from enhanced efficiency, reduced downtime and, ultimately, increased profitability.
And, all of these benefits come without compromising security. Many businesses don’t implement wireless technology purely because they fear a wireless network is not as secure as its wired counterpart. Because it is an open network (and therefore anyone can potentially listen in or transmit data on the channel), robust industrial wireless network products include a number of built-in technologies to encrypt data and detect and protect against unauthorized devices trying to join or interfere with the network. These are in addition to the other security technologies used to harden the network since, after all, the truth is any system – whether wired or wireless – is prone to security issues if not properly designed and maintained.
By utilizing a wireless system, workers can be anywhere, while still having access to all the information necessary to monitor systems and the network.
The reliability, security and many benefits of wireless technology prove the case for implementing industrial wireless technology in your operations. Keeping pace with the latest in industrial wireless technology helps businesses continuously leverage the benefits of going wireless.
Want to learn more about wireless technology in industrial applications? Review this case study about one company taking advantage of the benefits of wireless technology, take a look at Belden’s wireless microsite or download this white paper on how to design a secure wireless network.
Have you implemented industrial wireless technology into your operations? What benefits have you seen? I look forward to hearing from you.
Jeff Lund is a senior director of product line management in Belden’s industrial IT group where he is responsible for Belden’s cyber security products as well as for driving IIoT initiatives. Jeff has over 20 years of IIoT experience in a wide range of applications and is co-chair of the IIC marketing working group. Jeff has a MBA from Wharton and a BS in Electrical and Computer Engineering from UC Davis.