Editor's Choice

The ultimate wireless mesh for Industrial IoT in SA?

29 May 2019 Editor's Choice Telecoms, Datacoms, Wireless, IoT

While the uptake of user-centric IoT (Internet of Things) technology is fairly slow due to various socioeconomic factors – such as the cost surrounding smart devices, insufficient power station capacity and limited and expensive Internet coverage – Industrial IoT might be easier to adopt, and better suited for a country like South Africa.

While the uptake of user-centric IoT (Internet of Things) technology is fairly slow due to various socioeconomic factors – such as the cost surrounding smart devices, insufficient power station capacity and limited and expensive Internet coverage – Industrial IoT might be easier to adopt, and better suited for a country like South Africa.

Technology such as Analog Devices’ SmartMesh IP embedded products – which are among the industry’s lowest-power and most reliable standards-based wireless sensor networking (WSN) products – could improve a lot of things in South African industries.

With advanced network management and comprehensive security features, SmartMesh delivers reliable, scalable, energy-efficient wireless sensor connectivity. Using up to eight times less power than other solutions, SmartMesh provides energy-efficient wireless mesh sensing even in harsh, dynamically challenging RF environments.

How SmartMesh applications could benefit South Africa

As Africa’s most structurally developed nation, South Africa has experienced many construction booms – most of them in the five main economic areas. Analog Devices’ SmartMesh could help with predictive maintenance of the largely metal and concrete buildings which include industrial plants, data centres, commercial buildings, bridges and tunnels.

Because of South Africa’s geographical location, solar energy holds the most potential as a form of renewable energy. Placing thousands of SmartMesh nodes in utility-scale solar farms to operate within radio range of each other could, according to Altron Arrow Engineer Conrad Coetzee, “increase the run time and reduce maintenance requirements of the solar farms. Knowing the state of each solar panel or cluster can reduce maintenance costs and reduce cabling requirements. The technology could also be used in wind power generators for preventative maintenance and thus help reduce catastrophic failures.”

A large amount of South Africa’s population flocks to the five main economic areas. Navigating daily life in these areas could be improved through street parking applications, smart street lighting networks spanning multiple city blocks, and even commercial irrigation for golf courses, farms and residential areas.

With a shocking 2,09 million crimes reported in 2018 – more than 400 000 of which were commercial, shoplifting, hijackings and cash-in-transit heists, asset tracking has become a huge factor for all industries in South Africa. By

placing networks on all vehicles, including rail cars, cargo containers, semi-trucks and aircraft, Analog Devices’ SmartMesh could track the location, status and condition of assets throughout the supply chain – making it easy for stakeholders to maintain total control of their assets at all times.

According to Coetzee, smart farming is also one of the areas of growth in the industrial sector, although slow due to political factors.

A wireless mesh network could improve safety and security through early warning systems, animal tracking, efficient working, soil and plant notifications.

“This is still a big untapped market for the IoT industry, where there is a requirement for low-power, high-reliability and ‘always on’ networks,” says Coetzee. “By combining all of this together, the farmer can be in full control of the process and can plan for the future in terms of crop selection or the choice of livestock needed to sustain their farming.”

Analog Devices’ SmartMesh network consists of a highly scalable, self-forming, multi-hop mesh of nodes (known as motes, which collect and relay data) and a network manager that monitors and manages network performance and security, and exchanges data with a host application.

SmartMesh motes and managers are complete wireless sensor network solutions that combine a time-synchronised, channel-hopping link layer with hardware based on Analog Devices’ Eterna system-on-chip technology for a complete wireless networking solution with better than 99,999% data reliability, longer than 10 year battery life, and encryption, authentication and message integrity checks.

Providing low-power wireless mesh networks for demanding industrial process automation applications, SmartMesh customers include conglomerates with solutions for building automation, data centre energy management and renewable energy.

Over 76 000 SmartMesh enabled systems are deployed in 120 countries, securely connecting a variety of smart devices to applications delivering on smarter, greener, more efficient solutions. Analog Devices’ Paul Davies and Coetzee both believe that SmartMesh fits into the South African market due to the absolute reliability of the technology and its scalability – which can range from anywhere between a few sensors to thousands. They also assert that it is the only low-power RF mesh network suitable for many of today’s industrial applications.

For more information contact Conrad Coetzee, Altron Arrow, +27 11 923 9600, ccoetzee@arrow.altech.co.za, www.arrow.altech.co.za


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