Because it tends to remain out of sight, the full scope of industrial Wi-Fi is often overlooked by users. However, by 2020, industrial Wi-Fi is projected to be one of the largest segments with more than 18 billion connected devices.
Industrial Wi-Fi differs in key ways from consumer Wi-Fi, and that brings unique challenges. Industrial Wi-Fi requires availability and reliability in harsh environments, where it is necessary to monitor and control assets. It also needs a greater range than consumer because the assets in industrial environments are spread far apart. Wi-Fi was developed for close range connectivity and still relies heavily on wired infrastructure. Large industrial environments make it difficult to install the necessary infrastructure, seamlessly, to deliver the wide ranging coverage needed. The high noise and signal attenuation in industrial environments also diminishes the capabilities of current networks.
The high power consumption of Wi-Fi access points and devices also presents an obstacle, especially for environments that rely on alternative power sources like solar. A massive Wi-Fi installation can deplete the power grid of these sites and lead to issues with other devices that demand power. The sheer number of connected devices on these networks put a heavy burden on their capabilities. An industrial network must be robust enough to accommodate the massive number of devices.
Finally, ensuring the security of sensitive information on a wireless network is a key concern. Wi-Fi networks are prime targets for infiltration and hacking, and that could compromise sensitive data and information, or even the control and function of connected devices. The potential consequences of a breach of an industrial Wi-Fi network are dire.
So how can you find a solution that can address these challenges and risks, overcome the limitations of an industrial environment, and deliver the reliable connectivity needed to leverage your Wi-Fi network for all your needs?
Choosing the right equipment is the first step. Access points and enclosures that are specifically designed for these environments will protect equipment while maintaining the necessary aesthetics. Moxa’s Industrial WLAN solutions, for example, are designed to resist external effects of the environment, from the physical like dust, water, and shocks or vibrations to electromagnetic disturbances and variations in voltage. Similarly, Ventev produces a range of NEMA-approved enclosures that will make any access point safe for use in an industrial environment. Ventev also goes a step further with temperature controlled and powered enclosures that can ensure your network stays up and running under the most extreme conditions.
Combine these infrastructure solutions with the latest field devices, equipped with cutting edge security features, and an application interface that allows you to monitor not only your assets but also your network for issues or breaches. With all your bases covered and your network reliable and secure, you’ll be able to enjoy the improved efficiency and productivity of a fully connected industrial environment.