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INDUSTRIAL WIRELESS COMMUNICATION Industrial wireless communication – a key element in the digital transformation

May 11, 2022

Connectivity and Communication is the heart and backbone of digitalization. Industrial networks have critical network requirements. To provide industries with the best possible infrastructure for exchanging data of all kinds, industry specific features are useful for multiple application in implementing automation for automotive manufacturing, transportation & logistics, Oil & Gas industry, F&B, Wind energy generation plants, and so on. - Sameet Saraf, Head, Business Development – Digital Connectivity & Power, Siemens

With production plants extending across remote locations, implementing industrial wireless technology is a must for businesses that need real-time information to reduce their non-productive time when facing extreme environments. While modern and intelligent production equipment require and generate increasing amounts of data, recent advances in industrial wireless technology have enabled the provision of cost-optimized solutions capable of robust and reliable communication. Since Wireless Automation eliminates requirement of data transfer via physical connections, it helps to eliminate system down time due to wiring hassle, thus making it faster and more secure.

Why Industrial Wireless LAN?

The IWLAN standard has been developed over the years primarily with the following scenarios in mind:

  • Reliably fast response times

  • High availability of the communication

  • Very fast roaming for mobile applications

  • Ease of maintenance – minimal wear & tear, simple commissioning

These scenarios differ from the environment and hardware requirements as well as the communication requirements of enterprise/office applications.

Why Scalance W for Industrial WLAN?

Determinism, functional safety, mobile applications, high availability, robustness, flexibility, industrial security & centralized management are essential pre-requisites to efficiently manage industrial network. Siemens has developed the most reliable and dedicated industrial wireless LAN – IWLAN with special additional functionalities to meet industry specific requirements. Siemens has market leading
portfolio based on more than 30 years of rich experience in industry automation and digitalization.

Determinism: Wireless communication via Industrial Wireless LAN (IWLAN) is already used in countless solutions, for instance, by mobile network participants in Automatic Guided Vehicles (AGV) or in Crane applications. Not only the hardware, but also the software of the network components must meet special requirements for use in the industry. For example, with iPCF, the Scalance Access Points poll the clients in their radio cell at regular, very short intervals (about 2ms per client). This enables real-time telegrams (PNIO or Ethernet/IP) to be transmitted as priorities and thereby ensuring deterministic communication.

Functional Safety: While data security is an increasingly important element in communications, use of the PROFIsafe protocol is regarded as critical and essential requirement in safety-related automation applications. For example - Remote operated Cranes, Mobile Robots, Logistics applications like ASRS and high bay storage systems, Offshore platforms and so on. Siemens Scalance Wireless supports “PROFIsafe over Wireless” to implement safety system and achieve the highest Performance Level (PL e) or the highest Safety Integrity Level (SIL 3).

Fast Roaming: Signal reception is all-important in WLAN networks. Thanks to the short polling sampling times, a client very quickly determines whether the connection to its Access Point is still live or not. So, handover times of well below 50 ms are attained. When conventional antennas are not suitable for typical communication requirements in applications like EMS conveyors, Rail Guided Vehicles and Crane based ASRS system, Siemens RCoax is the answer. With RCoax radiating cables, you can use Wireless LAN without any of the restrictions: the RCoax radiating cable acts as an antenna for SCALANCE W Access Points. The cable is laid along the route used by the relevant transmitters/receivers and provides a guaranteed, reliable and interference free wireless connection thanks to its special radiation properties.

High availability: If any device fails on site, then replace your SCALANCE W components quickly and safely using our removable media C-PLUG. It backs up configuration data and firmware, so that the SCALANCE W can be easily and quickly replaced in the event of faults.

Robustness: SCALANCE devices with IP65 protection class are suitable for use outside the control cabinet, like in production halls and outdoors under harsh environmental conditions. Various approvals for traction applications and areas susceptible to explosion are available for our devices that are used in enhanced environmental conditions (EEC).

Flexibility: Wireless communication via industrial LAN can be used in countless solutions depending upon industry specific use case like wireless communication between AGVs and PLCs for instance, or in Crane application to receive and transmit the signals wirelessly in challengeable circumstances, establishing communication between machine to machine, and machine to PLCs.

Industrial Security: Siemens provides products and solutions with industrial security functions that support the secure operation of plants, systems, machines, and networks to protect them against cyber threats. The wireless AP has WPA2-PSK and WPA2-RADIUS security. Authentication is mandatory for WPA2 (RADIUS). The dynamic exchange of keys in each data frame installs an additional level of security. Also, it is iPCF encrypted and uses 128-bit AES encryption having a shared password (Pre-Shared Key). The wireless AP has inter AP-Blocking functionality. If the Inter AP-Blocking function is enabled, the clients can only access permitted Layer 3 devices. Communication with other non-authorized devices are prohibited and blocked. In this example, only communication with the server is allowed; the clients cannot communicate among themselves.

Centralized Management: With SINEC NMS – Network Management System from Siemens, it is now possible to bridge IT and OT requirements for WLAN – even without a WLAN Controller hardware. It enables easy and fast commissioning, configuration of multiple Access Points to allow handling big infrastructure. It’s even possible to have centralized management of the devices like firmware mass rollout, centralized backup and restore, automatic config rollout and role-based user management for access control.

Industries benefitted by IWLAN

Being a pioneer Industrial communication solution provider, we understand specific requirements of each industry to provide them with best-in-class solution for Wireless Automation. Let us glance through some customized solutions provided by Siemens for Automotive, Intralogistics, Transport industry and Oil & Gas industry.

Transportation: Transportation companies have a major responsibility to provide reliable and punctual service. However, passengers not only want to get from point A to point B, they also want to enjoy a certain degree of comfort on the way. More importantly, a maximum level of personal safety must be guaranteed for both passengers and employees. To ensure maximum safety and comfort of passengers, wireless connections via IWLAN (Industrial Wireless LAN) from the rail depot or station to the stationary train permit communication between the train set and the control room. However, you can also set up an IWLAN connection along the entire route. This allows to reliably transmit important train data wirelessly, such as train control and signaling. Also, passenger information such as multimedia content like news tickers, timetables, or advertisements, can be transmitted via IWLAN. With the right IWLAN antennas, web connections remain stable even in tunnels. Another benefit is passenger safety – IWLAN can also transmit video monitoring images from the traveling train to the control room. Automotive: Automotive manufacturing is among the most profitable and fastest-moving industries worldwide. The huge production pressure makes it mandatory to avoid plant downtimes that can result in significant losses. Production in the automotive industry is also strongly influenced by automation. Robots handle many of the work steps, a lot more than in most other industries. So, smooth collaboration between humans and machines attracts high requirements for personal safety. Wireless data communication with Industrial Wireless LAN (IWLAN) plays an important role in many areas of the automotive industry in supporting reliable and safe operations. An example is controlling robots in the production cells where body, engine, and drivetrain are brought together, or through wireless networking of heavy load overhead monorails in logistics. Safety of the personnel is ensured at all times. The plant performs an emergency stop immediately in critical situations thanks to real-time communication via PROFINET or EtherNet/IP applications.

Intra-logistics: Logistics need low-maintenance, safe Industrial Wireless LAN (IWLAN) solutions that can be used both indoors and outdoors – for example, to run storage and retrieval systems, shuttle systems, or Automated Guided Vehicles (AGV). All systems need to be safe for people and efficient to use. But as diverse applications in the logistics and intralogistics sector can be, the potential use cases of IWLAN devices from Siemens are varied. An IWLAN solution pairing a SCALANCE W Access Point and a Client Module makes it easy and safe to control storage and retrieval systems. AGVs play an important role in plant logistics wherever transport tasks arise in production. The Industrial Point Coordination Function with Management Channel (iPCF-MC) iFeature is especially useful in high-bay warehouses that work with shuttles. Here, directional or omnidirectional antennas can serve warehouse aisles at either the beginning or the end. The shuttles have the corresponding automation components.

Oil and Gas industries: In the oil & gas industry, the challenges are big, the stakes are high, and the conditions harsh. With a communication portfolio that enables implementation of reliable, high-performing communication infrastructures, Siemens can provide dependable and robust connectivity for even the most demanding applications.

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  • Sameet Saraf

    Head, Business Development – Digital Connectivity & Power

    Siemens

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