Industrial Wireless Networks & the Mobile User
Factory floors provide a wealth of information around the clock – the number of components manufactured at an auto plant, the amount of dough mixed at an industrial bakery, the status of every piece of equipment on the floor.
Traditionally, all this information is channeled via computer systems to one fixed location in an operations office. But manufacturers are increasingly seeing value in a mobile system that puts the collected information at the fingertips of workers and maintenance staff on the floor, often the people who need to see the data the most. By putting operators in control of the information, real-time, mobile interfaces can increase productivity and boost operator safety.
The challenge is designing a wireless infrastructure that has reliable coverage to all critical areas without overloading the mobile device used as the interface. The first step in the design process is to review the capabilities of the client device. In an ESTeem wireless network, the client device could be WIFI-capable (2.4 GHz or 5.8 GHz) hardware, like a cell phone, tablet or laptop, or another ESTeem radio programmed for a client (station) mode.
In designing a radio system with multiple types of hardware, you need to remember that the lowest powered device sets the range for the network. For instance, if an ESTeem Horizon 2.4 GHz radio, which operates at 1 watt of output power, is used as an access point in a system with a client device operating at 0.1 watts, the range of the network will be 0.1 watts. The lower powered device always sets the range for the network.
It is very important to understand the above principle when designing and testing a mobile network. If you only look at the receive signal indicator (like signal bars on a cell phone) on the mobile device when measuring the coverage area and the access point has a higher power output, you will not have an accurate picture for network performance. This it because the signal from the access point radio travels further than the signal from the mobile device.
To accurately test the network, you must also look at the signal level from the mobile device to the access point. This can be done by using the mobile device to open the wireless status page on the access point and reviewing the receive signal strength in both directions.
The ESTeem Horizon 2.4 GHz and Horizon 5.8 GHz radios can be used as the infrastructure on a mobile WIFI network. These hardened, NEMA4-rated access points work perfectly for difficult industrial wireless networks.
Our other Horizon radios, operating in either 4.9 GHz or 900 MHz, can also be used for mobile networks. These alternate frequency bands can provide the same overlapping, Mesh coverage for mobile hardware, with the added benefits of security and non-interference with standard WIFI frequencies.
Many new mobile applications, such as automatically guided vehicles (AGVs) or mobile robotics, can use the 900 MHz band for better coverage, security and frequency management without losing the high-speed 72 Mbps of the ESTeem network.