Wireless in Industrial Environments

How to prepare for successful wireless network deployment

The wireless network has come a long way. Over the years, problems have been resolved, resulting in wireless networks that now rival their wired counterparts. So much so, that wireless networks are increasingly becoming part of the standard office environment. Networks for professional industrial environments, however, have completely different requirements to those used inside an office. We are not talking about people working wirelessly on laptops and smartphones, roaming at low speed.  In the warehouse it is truck mounted wireless terminals, constantly moving around, roaming at high speeds between different access points. Eddy Van Herbruggen, networks specialist at Zetes, highlights the benefits of and requirements for a successful wireless implementation.

Advantages of going wireless

  • Visibility: Real time communication with WMS and ERP allows for a better view on stock movement.
  • Security:  Security levels applied to a WLAN environment are often higher than the protection on wired network infrastructure, amongst other things, thanks to the built-in firewall that separates the wireless network from the wired network infrastructure.
  • Quality: Quality and reliability of wireless networks are a lot better than in the past, whilst the effective throughput and quality of service are much higher.
  • Reliability: Today’s wireless networks allow VoIP telephone applications, mission critical machine-to-machine communication and mobile users to communicate over the same network infrastructure in a reliable way.

"The quality of the site survey and network design are critical elements for a successful wireless network deployment."

Quality of initial site survey and network design defines success

The quality of the site survey and network design are critical elements for a successful wireless network deployment.

Site survey

A site survey is necessary to have a detailed view of environmental needs in terms of wireless network coverage, especially in industrial environments, where a standard approach doesn’t always offer the right solution. When the IEEE802.11 standards where created in 1997, suppliers moved away from their dedicated WLAN solutions to the new standard IEEE802.11 protocol. Some moved from narrow band solutions using 9600 bps to a WLAN environment of 1 Mbps. Working with a partner who has a broad knowledge of all solutions available on the market is therefore a must. It is also essential to have a good understanding of the specific requirements for mobile equipment used in industrial environments.

Network design

Assessing wireless network requirements is the first step in any project. Although the standard protocol enhanced the wireless network speed, it also made deployment more complex. Therefore network design needs specific attention as well. It’s important to understand the needs of the WLAN user and adapt network design to meet these needs. The benefits of a cabled network can be compared to a meshed network, whereby access points communicate over the wireless network to the network infrastructure. There is no “one size fits all” solution. Especially for wireless networks, it is critical to identity best fit, for current and future needs. And projects in complex industrial environments require detailed analysis of the site survey and network design before deployment commences – that’s the smartest approach for a successful wireless network.