IIoT WAN vs M2M
Factories everywhere have thousands upon thousands of components that all work in coordination to produce any multitude of products every year. In the past, a worker would push every button, move every product along the production line and monitor every single step. This has changed as time has gone along. A new modification is made to the assembly line making everything more streamlined and efficient. There were conveyor belts and task specifications added so that not every worker assembled a product, sensors were added to determine when certain steps in the production process was complete. More and more robots were added to further increase the efficiency of a process. Another modification that was made along the way was Machine to Machine (M2M) connections between components on the line. M2M connections are hardwired connections between components that monitor and have automated responses based on predetermined logic. These connections make monitoring easier, since the automated responses remove a worker from constantly monitoring and overseeing the process.
The M2M connections that have been in place are now going to be further taken advantage of in the next age of improvements. This next age will be adding IIoT capability on top of the existing M2M and process infrastructure. It is important to note that IIoT and M2M are separate monitoring and procedural schemes. M2M does not require IIoT infrastructure but IIoT requires that of M2M. The M2M infrastructure typically uses a public network for the connections that are established in order to monitor, notify, and adapt to modifications. As companies move towards the new age of IIoT monitoring, changes will need to be made to the existing network infrastructure.
The infrastructure changes for M2M to be incorporated alongside IIoT is specifically a stronger and more suitable internet infrastructure for the environment. For processes to be monitored with sensors and end devices that may be in remote areas or in very large factories, a wide area network, or WAN, will need to be established. There are multiple options for a WAN such as cellular internet, Low Power WAN (LPWAN), and Satellite internet. These network options all have their positives and negatives but ultimately only time and development will show which is the most suited for the production and monitoring environment. The goal of these network options is for low battery usage, high peak data rate, large network range, and easy to maintain. These networks must be robust because IIoT must not only apply to factories but also to cities where there is a merging of IIoT transportation improvements and delivery companies.
Cellular internet has positives because it already encompasses most of the earth and it already has high data speeds in the megabytes. But there can be dead zones in the area that make communication very difficult and the tech is very expensive when compared to LPWAN. These drawbacks make cellular a viable option for some uses but not all.
Satellite coverage allows for large scale connectivity due to a large network already in place. One of the major positives that is offered by satellite and neither of the other options is that there is satellite coverage around the entire globe and to some of the most remote locations that can not be covered by cellular. The drawbacks for satellite are low data rates and high battery consumption.
LPWAN has some major positives since the battery life for most products can last up to 10 years,it is not very expensive, and the data transfer rate is relatively high. This network type can be likened to a very basic WiFi system. It has a “coverage area up to 7x greater than cellular and great for basements and parking garages” (AT&T Whitepaper). There are two transmission techs, there are licensed and unlicensed LPWANs. Both offer long transmission battery life and are not very expensive, but the licensed LPWAN offers better coverage, more secure, and higher data rate. The unlicensed LPWAN is publicly available to anyone through its open spectrum. LPWAN is a great option for almost all factories and applications since it has so many positives.
The use of M2M technology will be complimented with IIoT technology on top but in order to work as efficient as possible there will need to be improvements in the infrastructure. These improvements will allow for companies to monitor every stage and component of their production, and faster adaptations to problems.
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Results Engineering is an IIoT/Industry 4.0 systems integrator that has been working in plants for the last 30 years. Our role is to guide our clients on the path to IIoT implementations, achieving ultimate plant control.