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

It’s hard to imagine living our lives today without the Internet. From finding information and getting directions to online shopping and YouTube entertainment, the Internet has become essential to the daily lives of most people in the developed  world.

Now let’s try and think about how our lives will change because “things” are rapidly being connected  to the Internet. It is estimated that the number of connected devices today is about equal to the world’s population, or seven billion. By 2020 that number is going to increase to about 28 billion.

The impacts of the Internet of Things (IoT) are being felt not just in homes but in manufacturing facilities too. The combination of IoT along with another important smart factory trend, the increasing use of industrial wireless, is transforming the plant floor.

In today’s article I take a look at how current wireless network design is proving to be important in realizing benefits from the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).

IoT Image

Illustration of a discrete manufacturing system with a completely connected infrastructure and significant use of industrial wireless applications.

What does IoT Technology Mean for Manufacturing?

The IIoT is about a lot of industrial devices networked together, generating more – and better – information faster. This is not about having real-time information from sensors and actuators – that has been standard in industry for about 20 years.

This is about having information from disparate sources, some of which are in the factory and some of which are outside of it, available at your fingertips.

An outcome of connecting many devices together and linking them to systems located elsewhere is that a massive amount of data is generated. The key then to leveraging the IIoT is to use this data to generate analysis that yields business results and innovation.

For example, let’s say you have trouble with a machine. Imagine that you could troubleshoot the problem using data not just from sensors, actuators, PLCs etc. but also from drawings, videos and help text. Now add in system patches and updates from the Internet, plus voice and video connections with the machine building company and other remote resources. The end result: less downtime and greater productivity for both mechanical and human resources.

Now what other problems could be solved faster by being able to bring together a wide variety of information quickly?

IoT Technology Increases Usage of Industrial Wireless

Adoption of the IIoT will likely increase your use of industrial wireless technology for a variety of applications. The drivers for this are the desire to:

  • Improve worker productivity and safety
  • Improve system uptime
  • Eliminate fixed HMI
  • Eliminate the control room
  • Leverage remote resources

The most common types of applications are:

  • Data collection (monitoring/recording)
  • Access to remote equipment / for remote resources
  • Enable worker mobility
  • Back-up to a wired system
  • Moving / rotating / portable equipment

IIoT Industrial Wireless Application: Data Collection

Wireless data collection can reduce costs, improve uptime and enable remote monitoring. If you have an area that someone visits daily, weekly or monthly to manually collect data, this is an application where industrial wireless can help. 

Perhaps you have an area that should be on your energy management system but isn’t. Or, maybe you have key PLC/HMI, VFD, or MCC (Motor Control Center) sensors that you would love to gain visibility to. Or maybe there is condition monitoring that would improve production, such as checking fan/ motor vibration or balance. All of these situations are ideally suited for industrial wireless.

Using Industral Wireless

Collecting data from an offshore drilling rig is a good example of an application that could benefit from industrial wireless. The diagram above shows a standard wireless network design for a use similar to this.

Industrial Wireless Today: Reliable and Secure

You may have tried wireless in the past but found out that it was not robust enough for your needs. Or, you have security concerns about using it.

Over the past few years there have been significant advances in wireless technology and standards. The outcome is that you can achieve high reliability and security with today’s solutions, as explained in the table below.

Yesterday Ind Ethernet

Yesterday’s industrial wireless has been overhauled with new technologies and new standards. (Click here for larger image)

Additional characteristics of good industrial wireless solutions are:

  • They meet industrial standards. For example being tested and certified to meet several global wireless industrial standards (EN, CE, ATEX, UL, C-Tick, …)
  • They have a Mean Time between Failure measured in decades (e.g., over 50 years)
  • They are backed by very long warranties (e.g., lifetime)
  • They have built-in security firewalls
  • They provide fast roaming with authentication
  • They detect and notice unauthorized access
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Related Links

Industrial Wireless

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