Wireless networks enable automation product design

Matching industrial wireless technologies to the application and seeking wireless simplicity are two considerations when integrating wireless capabilities into automation and controls.

By Justin Shade, Phoenix Contact February 11, 2018

When integrating industrial wireless technologies into an automation design, the biggest thing users need to consider are expectations about a wireless network. Wireless products are becoming faster and more reliable, but a lot of users expect the wireless product to function like a standard wire. This is not always the case.

A wireless system has latency not in a wire. This is a fundamental point that needs to be designed around. If this point is discussed during the design stage of the project, it is typically not an issue; the problem comes when it is not considered, and there are problems while trying to start up the system. The wireless manufacturer can typically help guide the user on what to expect regarding latency. The engineer designing the system needs to determine if that latency is acceptable for the specific application. Wireless latencies usually are not very large, but they need to be a point of discussion when implementing a wireless system. 

Match wireless technologies

With wireless technologies, there isn’t one technology or one device that will fit every application. There are products built for high-bandwidth applications, low-bandwidth applications, single user connection, multi-user connection, point to point, multi-point to point, and other applications.

To learn more about the available technologies, the best place to start would be to discuss applications with a manufacturer’s salesperson, wireless system integrator, or wireless value-added reseller. These contacts can walk through available products, how they function, and help identify the best option for an application.

Discussions also might include system design and pre-installation services the company provides to ensure an installation goes smoothly. Most manufacturers offer wireless classes that go over different technologies and products available, with hands-on labs to help get familiar with products. Trainings can help in learning about technologies and what applications they fit into. 

Seek wireless simplicity

When it comes to wireless systems, simplicity is the most important thing. The biggest driver of using wireless is the ease of installation, the reduced maintenance costs and the ability to get the system up and running. If the system cannot be installed correctly and quickly, then the system is no longer a cost-effective alternative to standard wired practice. This usability and ease of use can be as simple as one dashboard for configuration or a product designed to incorporate multiple pcs of the system like the radio and antenna in one housing.

Getting re-occurring feedback from the field and marketing teams to understand how the industry and use cases are changing to adapt products is critical. Making sure the future designs, functions, and features still are relevant to the market and not obsolete or going obsolete is an important detail.

Justin Shade is lead product marketing specialist – wireless, Phoenix Contact. Edited by Mark T. Hoske, content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media, mhoske@cfemedia.com.

KEYWORDS Wireless, latency

Consider wireless latency when integrating wireless.

Match wireless technologies appropriate to applications.

Seek simplicity when choosing wireless.


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Control Engineering has wireless tutorials.

Link to other automation product design articles.