Nov 2015

Constructing Reliable Mobile WiFi Networks for the Industrial IoT

In this age of the Industrial Internet of Things, reliable mobile WiFi networks are the cornerstones of all converged IP networks. Today, most operational processes use wireless networks to increase mobility for applications such as automated guided vehicles (AGV) and transportation vehicles. In this article, we will focus on AGV applications to explore the challenges in building a reliable WiFi network for mobile equipment - and the solutions that create systems you can count on.

Challenges for Material Handling and Automatic Warehousing System

In a traditional warehouse, staff spend most of their time walking between shelves to store and retrieve items. An expansion would proportionally increase the time that workers move from one location to another in the newly enlarged space. Furthermore, an increase in costly human errors, owing to misplaced items and other causes, is expected. Various types of AGVs (automated guided vehicle) and AS/RS (automated storage and retrieval system) that use automation to solve these problems have been introduced.

An exemplary example is the automated warehouse system introduced by Kiva (now known as Amazon Robotics) and Amazon in 2011. Robots move the shelves horizontally to help the staff store and retrieve products more quickly and accurately. Even though this system does not use vertical space as effectively as other AS/RS systems, it can be deployed faster, and it provides better scalability for medium and small warehouses. Selecting the most suitable wireless technology, as well as implementing it correctly, is the key to successful AGV, AS/RS or robotic systems. From experience, several common wireless network connection problems in warehouse applications are often repeated:

Challenge #1: Roaming reliability

WiFi networks have limited signal coverage, so multiple access points are necessary for full coverage throughout an entire warehouse. It is critical to ensure that the clients can roam seamlessly between these access points with minimal handover interruption time.

Challenge #2: Power supply quality

Robots and other mobile devices often have very limited space and weight-carrying capacity for a WiFi module, and the power system usually cannot be grounded properly. So system integrators have to go to great lengths to ensure that onboard devices are not affected by the inrush current (a surge of power commonly created when electrical devices switch on or start moving) generated by the robot’s motors; otherwise, the electronic circuit or electronic equipment could burn out or suffer a significantly reduced lifespan.

Challenge #3: Communication blockage

Metal blocks radio signals - and large metal objects, such as vehicles and metal shelving, are common in industrial, freight and transport environments. System integrators need wireless expertise and experience to determine the most efficient positioning of APs and antennas in order to eliminate communication blind spots caused by stationary or moving metal objects.

Challenge #4: System adaptability

Many kinds of warehouses exist; some require special environments such as very high or low humidity, or sub-zero storage temperatures. System integrators need to be able to build a system that is adaptable to different customer requirements and many different environments. It is important to choose hardware that can handle extreme temperature ranges and that has good ingress protection to keep out dust and moisture.

Building a Reliable Mobile WiFi System with the Moxa AWK-A Series

Moxa’s AWK series devices provide all the basic building blocks of a reliable, high-performance mobile WiFi network. The new AWK-A series features several standout technologies to ensure reliable mobile WiFi systems for your mobile applications.

  • Client-based Turbo Roaming technology ensures millisecond-level roaming time between APs, making seamless communication a reality.

  • Dual Isolation technology features 500V insulation and Level 4 ESD protection to isolate power and antenna ports from electrical interference.

  • DFS Channel Support greatly improves the overall bandwidth capacity of wireless networks.

  • Industrial-grade Reliability include -40 to 75°C wide operating temperatures and high IP rating to endure harsh conditions.

To learn more information, please download the white paper to learn how to build reliable, responsive, low-cost mobile WiFi networks for the Industrial Internet of Things.

 
 
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