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The Visible Value Blog

How to make your wireless networks industrial strength – part 1

Posted by Steve Northcott

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December 22, 2015 at 5:04 AM

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Are you and your WiFi technology a match made in heaven, or is it a tortuous, high maintenance relationship?

It’s surprising how many organisations have been using WiFi technology that isn’t the right fit for them. Industrial environments require far more than a standard wireless solution to cope with day to day operations, and an inconsistent connection can seriously impact productivity, reliability and efficiency.

In complex working environments such as plants, warehouses and ports which are open to interference and extreme temperatures, industrial networks need to be reliable, persistent and surpass expectations, no matter what’s thrown at them. However, matching the power and performance needed to guarantee a dependable connection for everyday use is no easy task.

This latest blog series aims to bring both clarity and solutions to four of the most common WLAN issues highlighted in our companion paper, ‘Is your wireless network industrial strength?

  1. Eliminating bottlenecks and network outages

Bottlenecks and outages often occur when the network traffic is funnelled through one wireless controller and if a spike occurs, the overall performance can plummet. The best solution for industrial environments that experience latency and packet loss is a completely different architecture that employs distributed intelligence. A distributed architecture is purpose-built to withstand ten times the volume of traffic, easily handling the evolving demands of an industrial environment by letting organisations segment and route traffic accordingly to control bandwidth. The result of a distributed network is audio clarity, applications that run uninterrupted and reliable mobile service, rather than periods of painful downtime and lost productivity.

  1. Connecting in chaotic environments

Industrial environments are forever changing as machinery, stock and equipment are moved around. This can result in signal drops, as standard WLANs are unable to adapt. The distributed architecture eradicates this issue with a high performance algorithm which mitigates the interference from obstacles and provides seamless coverage in real-time with autonomous adjustment of channels at access points.

  1. Hard working solutions for hardworking spaces

Dust, dirt and temperature extremes in the industrial space are the cause of another key problem for WLANs, as networks are prone to freezing or overheating leading to degradation and permanent damage to the service. Industrial strength, ruggedised access points can be positioned anywhere in an industrial environment, including inside cold storage areas.

  1. Assuring connectivity for multiple classes of devices

The range of devices that require support from a WLAN is ever increasing, and your network needs to be able to sustain the connection to a wide range of powerful desktop and laptop computers, as well as less powerful handheld computers. When networks are scaled to an industrial environment they need to take into account the power and connectivity issues of this entire range of devices, not least advances in technology that are just around the corner.

Most wireless planning software is tailored towards higher powered laptops, and as a result workers’ personal devices experience connectivity issues due to decreased power transmission and receiver sensitivity. Device power refers to the battery life too, so another factor to bear in mind when planning your industrial WLAN network is the rate at which the battery life decreases as a result of constantly trying to connect to a poorly configured network. With a properly configured WLAN, battery life can be boosted by up to 20%.

Keep an eye out for part two of this blog series, or alternatively, download our full eBook which outlines a number of points to help you understand the fundamental requirements for reliable, high performance industrial wireless networks and build a better connection across your organisation. For further information and to download the full eBook, click the button below:

Topics: Supply Chain, Retail, Manufacturing, EMEA, Wireless LAN, WLAN, Warehousing, mobile devices