Wireless technology is becoming more commonplace in manufacturing, with data transmitted over Wi-Fi networks, supported standalone or connected devices (with several devices coming together to create an Industrial Internet of Things (IIot)).
By “Internet of Things” (IoT) this refers to a system of interrelated computing devices, mechanical and digital machines, objects, animals or people that are provided with unique identifiers (UIDs) and the ability to transfer data over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction. The term is increasingly being used to define objects that “talk” to each other: to gather information, analyze it and create an action.
How to select Wi-Fi technology
When selecting Wi-Fi technology, as part of the user requirement specification, the organization should define:
The specific radio frequency wireless technology type (e.g., IEEE 802.11b).
The characteristics of the modulation.
The type of radiated radio frequency power.
Specification of each radio frequency or frequency band of transmission and the preferred frequency or frequency band.
Specification of the bandwidth of the receiving section of the equipment or system in those bands.
Functions and performance of the wireless data transmissions including data throughput, latency, and data integrity.
Information about any limitations on the number, output power, or proximity of other in-band transmitters used in the vicinity that might adversely impact a device’s system operation.
As part of an “industrial” Internet of Things, common examples of Wi-Fi enabled technology includes sensors on product lines to increase efficiency and cut down on waste. This connectivity allows for data collection, exchange, and analysis, potentially facilitating improvements in productivity and efficiency as well as other economic benefits.
The progression of the technology is an evolution of a distributed control system (DCS), enabling for a higher degree of automation by using cloud computing to refine and optimize the process controls.
Wi-Fi 6 is coming
One mechanism for expanding the use of the technology and with making Wi-Fi more attractive is the roll-out of Wi-Fi 6, which began in 2020. This next generation of wireless technology will help to advance the communications process for IoT devices that have low power capabilities and limited battery life.
Due to a feature called target wake time, Wi-Fi 6 IoT devices will be able to shut down their Wi-Fi connections most of the time and connect only briefly as scheduled in order to transmit data they’ve gathered since the last time, thus extending battery life.