Technology and services inside High Roller Observation Wheel communications

Technology and services update on engineering the communications for the project includes more diagrams, more application and project details, and a list of Moxa communication equipment used, from the engineering experts involved. See related application update article.


Setting a new Guinness World Record for observation wheel height, the High Roller provides passengers with a smooth 30-minute ride with unimpeded 360-degree views of the Las Vegas skyline. Video screens show passengers their cabin's position as it travels around the wheel and are also used for in-cabin entertainment programs. The IP-based communications infrastructure makes every aspect of the control and emergency systems accessible to operators at the central control room, enabling the High Roller to meet the highest standards for operational reliability and passenger safety.

Technology and services update on engineering the communications for the project includes more diagrams, more application and project details, and a list of Moxa communication equipment used, from the engineering experts involved. See related application

Communications related products and supplier services referenced are from Moxa.

Equipment combined high-quality design and construction and special features for industrial performance and reliability. With years of experience in wide temperature networking equipment and fanless operation, the equipment ensured years of uninterrupted communications, even in the punishing Las Vegas heat. The dual redundant network topology helped ensure an exceptionally reliable wireless connection that suffers no performance loss even when faced with the heavy wireless interference from surrounding casinos and hotels.

Perhaps even more valuable to the project was the technical expertise demonstrated by the supplier team in IP communications and industrial control systems. The communications component supplier understood how to apply networking technology to industrial control systems and became a critical asset in later stages of the project. The high complexity of the network and unique features of the site introduced unanticipated issues that were extremely difficult to resolve, especially with the number of systems and equipment vendors in place. 

Networking complication

"We came to a point where the networking issues were threatening to delay this very high-profile project," according to Randy Printz of Themed Development Management, project manager overseeing design and deployment of the High Roller. "The network was one of the most critical aspects of the system. All of our safety critical data is carried on this network. If the network doesn't work, we're not operating."

The communications provider's field application engineers had extensive expertise with control systems and networking technology to assist with the project.

Diagram shows the passenger cabin for the High Roller: The industrial control network on the High Roller wheel was to be transmitted using various methods: fiber, coax cables, Wi-Fi, and wireless jumps through the rotating components. Each cabin had 2 jum"We reached out to the team for help, and they came out on very short notice, spent a considerable amount of time working side by side by with us, on more than one occasion," said Printz. "They were incredibly experienced and professional, and were able to work cooperatively with us alongside our equipment vendor, primary suppliers, and contractors to not only resolve these issues, but help us achieve extremely high network reliability."

The communication supplier engineers assessed the entire communications infrastructure, not just the parts involving its hardware. Based on their recommendations, some additional steps were taken that helped address all communication issues and ensure that the control network was extremely reliable. No other component supplier provided this service, which proved essential in the ultimate success of the project.

Specialization in industrial networking was key, said Lance Heywood, integrated control system designer at Heywood Engineering, one of the contractors working on the project. The networking manufacturer staff members are familiar with industrial equipment and know how to connect to things like programmable logic controllers (PLCs). "They understand the difference between reliability in a business setting and reliability when it is a life safety critical system," Heywood said.

Project challenges

System integration was an important part of the project, according to Printz, the High Roller project manager. He said, "We had a number of unusual and unique situations. We were dealing with two prime contractors. Schwager Davis handled the integrated ride control system, and Leitner Poma handled the passenger cabins, and both needed wireless communications systems. With a project like this, you have fixed pieces and you have moving pieces, and they need to communicate wirelessly to each other.

So we were looking for a system that could meet the needs of these two suppliers. We were looking for commercially available products. We wanted to stay with common, known components, not be the guinea pigs for a brand-new unproven technology. We were also looking for engineering expertise. This was a unique application and we knew we were going to need significant contribution in engineering support and after-sales service." Based on these criteria, Printz said, the communications supplier was chosen. "By the end of the project, they had met and exceeded our expectations in nearly every way."

Jon Mauch, project manager at Leitner-Poma, said he had previously worked with the communications supplier on ropeway projects with positive results.

Mauch said, "There was an importance level of having a highly reliable network. The network was an essential part of a life safety application so redundancy was critical. The only way that the cabin communicated with the ground controller, whether it was for control or for emergency communications, was through the network. The industrial control network on this wheel was to be transmitted using various methods: fiber, coax cables, Wi-Fi, and wireless jumps through the rotating components. Ultimately we ended up with 2 jump points per cabin, 56 jump points just for the cabins. This was going to be in an area where we hadn't been before. It was far more complicated than the type of installation we normally see, especially with the number of jump points involved."

Having a company with networking and control system equipment familiarity "proved to be a critical advantage when we needed it most," Mauch said.

Heywood had experience with the communications supplier with networking equipment for people-mover projects. This was the first network communication that also included a services offering. 


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