Wireless Technology for Industrial Applications

“Technology does not drive change — it enables change.” – Anonymous

Industrial applications traditionally require telecom infrastructure for voice communication with limited data capabilities. The advancement in the technology, followed by integrated application environment enabling machine-to-machine (M2M) communication has changed the game.  The industrial communication networks are expected to deliver secure and reliable M2M connectivity in addition to high-capacity with an intelligence to meet application performance requirements without compromising service level agreements.

Advance telecommunication systems are in demand by the major vertical industries to enable M2M communication for Digital Oil Fields (Smart Fields), Smart Grids and Security Agencies to enable multimedia collaborative work environment to enhance overall productivity of the organization and reducing the operational expenses thus making the role of wireless network more important. 

The main challenge, in the industrial communication across different verticals,  is to select a technology for single radio access network to reliably deliver the following services:

– Reliable Voice Connectivity (Calls, Group Calls)

– Real-time Data Acquisition (SCADA, Intrusion/Threat Detection …)

– Real-time High Definition Video Surveillance

– Enterprise Data (Emails and Business Apps)

– Mobility

The technologies available in the market today, to deliver the above services from various wireless technology providers. are based on the following standards:

– OFDM/MIMO based proprietary systems or extension to standards

– IEEE 802.11n (WiFi) based systems

– WiMAX (IEEE 802.16e or IEEE 802.16m)

– LTE revision 8 (3GPP Forum)

The various flavors of the technology are available to address service delivery requirement e.g., wireless systems with proprietary extensions may perform better than standards based system in some cases, LTE provides robust coverage and capacity with flexible upgrade path etc.

The wireless access network solution offering high-capacity with reliable connectivity from various technology providers can be designed and deployed to meet the coverage and availability requirements of industrial customers.  However, the budgetary constraints have significant impact on the selection of the technology to meet near-term and long-term requirements of specific industry.

The co-existence of multiple wireless technology (WiMAX and LTE, 3G and LTE, Braodband Wireless with WiFi Systems etc) is another important factor that should be taken in to account in process of decision making as this helps in reducing the cost of ownership while keeping the options for other technology to be integrated with less complexity in future.

In a nutshell, all the available technologies are capable to address the needs of the industrial customers in form an end to end solution with pros and cons. Its important for end users to understand and draft-out their realistic requirements to select the right technology , keeping in view the budgetary constraints, total cost of ownership and operational costs.