You’ve probably heard, said or read the term “Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)” several times this week alone – it’s become a widely-used buzz phrase, capturing the attention of the media and businesses across all industrial markets due to the transformative impact it’s starting to have on the global economy. The ability to use the manufacturing data enabled by the IIoT is what puts the “smart” in smart factory. Researchers say the move to smart factories could add $500 billion to $1.5 trillion in economic value in just five years.
The IIoT is no longer on the horizon: It’s fully in motion and quickly becoming a strategic priority for every organization. From better data collection and utilization to greater productivity and efficiency, the benefits of intelligent environments are clear, and fundamental to running an industrial business today.
To truly capitalize on the IIoT movement, you need to start by designing the right communication network that lies within your smart factory. Intelligent sensors, actuators, remote monitoring and other network components and capabilities can make or break your team’s success. Knowing how they all operate together, and how different types of solutions can impact overall connectivity, is critical. Companies that do this well have a lot to gain. It’s a strategic advantage for the immediate future while your competitors are still trying to figure out their own IIoT strategy and approach.
Wireless Connectivity for Industrial Applications: 3 Main Benefits
Wireless connectivity accelerates the path to dependable, real-time communication and data transfer, which are prerequisites for the IIoT. The technologies that make up wireless infrastructure are bolstering industrial communication standards, bringing a whole new level of reliability, security and flexibility to industrial settings.
Let’s dive into each of these three immediate benefits a bit more:
- High reliability: A wireless communication network can operate on multiple frequency bands at once. This allows for simultaneous data transmission and ensures high priority information gets to where it needs to go, with limited interference. Reliable communication is especially important in applications with harsh environments, for instance, a manufacturing plant that handles corrosive chemicals or applications that accept no downtime and the highest accuracy, such as tooling machines. Making sure these applications operate correctly and hazardous materials are properly sealed requires a dependable communication framework for maximum accuracy, with no room for network downtime.
- Better security: Wireless technologies often come with pre-defined configurations that offer a deeper level of security. Device authentication and data encryption methods that align with IEEE 802.11 standards offer reliable and secure networks for industrial automation and control system applications. For example, teams operating in oil and gas applications, where energy security has become a major issue, pay particular attention to these features, as they can make or break the ability to detect and respond to cyber-security issues.
- Extended flexibility: The lack of wired components allows for more movement across the factory floor and doesn’t hinder the operator from completing specific tasks. Tailor-made solutions, with various configuration options for different functions and protocols, allow wireless technologies to be used in many unique and specific application scenarios. Robots, AGVs and modular production lines are good examples. Food and beverage, automotive manufacturing plants and driverless systems in the intralogistics space especially benefit from having more flexibility, as production often requires varied movements and the ability to jump from task to task. Large cables often get in the way in these applications, but with wireless, installation is simpler, maintenance costs are lower, and there is no risk of damaged or corroded cables.
In addition to these core benefits, wireless solutions are critical for efficient factory settings because they transfer large amounts of data quickly and securely.
And unlike traditional communication networks networked with wires and cables, which often have hidden installation or maintenance costs, wireless networks can offer a strong return on initial wireless infrastructure investments. In fact, many factory automation teams have already made the switch to wireless, since these benefits far outweigh past fears about the challenges of reliable wireless networks.
The IIoT is a strategic priority and wireless connectivity can help industrial companies accelerate the move to the “smart” factory.
What to Look for in a Wireless Solution
Wireless connectivity brings companies one step closer to Industry 4.0; however, there are a few critical technical factors teams should consider when choosing solutions that will support the requirements of the IIoT.
Start by asking yourself these questions to help you identify the right technologies:
- Standards/Approvals: What country or region-specific approvals will you need to meet? Does this product adhere to the protocols for your company’s key geographies? Does the technology comply with industry standard IEEE 802.11n transmission for WLAN applications?
- Data Speed: What data speeds will you need to meet, both now and in the future? 450 Mbits/s, 1 Gbit/s, more? Will you be able to send and receive more than one data stream at a time with multiple-input, multiple-output (MIMO) to optimize data speeds and reduce errors? Does the technology allow you to use two data channels simultaneously to double the data rate?
- Ruggedization: What environmental conditions does your application face? Vibration, moisture, dust, exposure to chemicals? What EMI/RFI considerations are there? Make sure your solution is built to withstand your specific harsh conditions in order to deliver on high network availability needs.
- Installation: Where will your access points be installed – on DIN rails, industrial cabinets, directly on a machine, or on racks and other equipment? What distances and square footage have to be covered? Will this product or solution integrate seamlessly into your existing communications infrastructure?
Industrial applications are increasingly moving toward and relying on wireless technology, no matter which industry teams operate in. Whether you’re responsible for transmitting or controlling data, or working with large or small machines, wireless offers you the efficiency and reliability your facility needs.
To help bring these benefits to life, read more about Belden’s recent collaboration with Bosch Rexroth, as they tapped Belden’s wireless technology to offer more value to their customers. You can download the case study here: Bosch Rexroth Chooses Hirschmann to Support Wireless Connectivity for Industrial Tools.
Where are you on the transition to a wireless infrastructure? Have you experienced any of these benefits, or are there others we’re missing? I look forward to hearing from you.
- Application note: Wireless AGV Communication Proven Successful in Demanding Manufacturing Environment
- Case study: Bosch Rexroth Chooses Hirschmann to Support Wireless Connectivity for Industrial Tools
- Web page: How is IIoT Changing Industry?
- Blog: 4 Big Trends that Impact Industrial Automation and What To Do About Them
- Blog: What is Really Going on in Industrial Automation?