mobile | classic
Dataweek Electronics & Communications Technology Magazine

Follow us on:
Follow us on Facebook Share via Twitter Share via LinkedIn


Electronics Buyers' Guide

Electronics Manufacturing & Production Handbook 2019


Wireless secrets and lies
9 August 2006, Telecoms, Datacoms, Wireless, IoT

Many of the semiconductor firms that play in the wireless space would have you believe that a single-chip Zigbee design is the answer to everyone's prayers when it comes to developing an industrial control system.

However, although chip-based solutions work well within a laboratory environment, they lack several attributes necessary to make them successful on the factory floor.

Firstly, the issue of interference needs to be seriously considered. A wireless control implementation that is truly capable of proving itself worthwhile will need to exhibit strong resistance to the various EM sources that are found in the average industrial setting, with the ability to easily move between different channels. With the Zigbee standard occupying the already over-cluttered 2,4 GHz band (which is also used by Wi-Fi and Bluetooth) it is at a disadvantage from the start.

Then there is the question of robustness. Any control solution must be able to cope with both extremes of temperature and a certain degree of mechanical stress, as life in the world of heavy industry is generally far less forgiving than most semiconductor solutions will be used to. Also, industrial locations tend to be very lossy, with a great deal of metal around that affects the strength of the signal, and reduces expected performance levels.

Reliability must be assured. For one thing the task of troubleshooting can be a long drawn out affair. Then there is the simple matter of safety too. Clearly, when working with heavy machinery there are various potential dangers involved in having a control system that might fail, and this must be taken into account at an early stage. For example, the possibility of a crane or forklift not responding correctly could have calamitous consequences. So, in order to avoid such circumstances, efforts must be made to implement a wireless control solution that is effectively 'bullet-proof'.

The roll-out of any chip-based solution will definitely require the services of an experienced RF engineer, who are normally in very short supply. Whereas with a radio module alternative, most of the complex work has already been done by the manufacturer, and as a result this will usually only call for the services of an applications engineer of average ability - far easier to get your hands on.

So herein lies the common misconception; single chip does not necessarily mean easy implementation, in fact it is usually the exact opposite. Often, the development time needed to put a semiconductor-based solution in place far outweighs the perceived cost savings, and in the end comes with a higher overall price tag, because of the man hours required to set it up correctly.

Quality versus cost

In general, the size of an industrial control system does not really justify the amount of silicon needed to make a single-chip solution truly cost-effective. Also it is worth mentioning that such implementations will often be overkill when it comes to speed. There is no great need for huge data rates in these sort of applications, it is far more a matter of reliability. This brings up another major flashpoint: the semiconductor vendors may have the specifications needed to meet the demands of high-end communications systems, but by trying to play in industrial radio they are far from their home turf. For reasons more to do with their own self interest than actual suitability, they have elected to go for a piece of the action in the industrial sphere, but in truth they do not really possess the tools to do the job.

Appearances may be deceptive

The fact is, engineers need serious solutions, not just PR stunts. What is required is a communication system that meets the actual specifications that are set, and at the same time is tough and dependable. By way of an analogy we could think of this in terms of a cross-country race. There is no point in putting a sprinter into that sort of competition, as it will not be speed that is the telling factor, it will be a mixture of stamina and ruggedness that will win the day.

With this in mind, companies like Radiometrix in the UK make sure it approaches such problems from the right angle. The firm's LMT2/LMR2 transmitter/receiver modules can provide a multichannel, low-power, high-reliability data link which can deal with interference issues, and has more than adequate range for the vast majority of industrial control systems. The LMR2 has a receive signal-strength indicator, which measures the incoming signal over a range of 60 dB. This allows the assessment of data link quality, and accurate prediction of available range margin which can be tolerated before there is a major drop in performance.

The devices conform to both EN300220-3 and EN301489-3, and can maintain a good signal over a span of at least 500 m, making them suitable for even the largest of factory sites. A data rate of 5 Kbps can be happily supported, and with up to 32 channels on offer there is ample room to manoeuvre in order to avoid interference.

Do not believe the hype

In conclusion, industrial control implementation cannot be just an afterthought. It is simply not sensible for WLAN manufacturers to assume that they can encroach on this arena using their consumer-oriented products, in an attempt to gain some additional revenue. Focused solutions are what is required. The industrial space needs devices that are optimised to those specific applications, not ones that are, in fact, targeted elsewhere, which basically have some additional functionality crudely bolted on the end.

Supplied By: RF Design
Tel: +27 21 555 8400
Fax: 086 653 2139
  Share on Facebook Share via Twitter Share via LinkedIn    

Further reading:

  • The wireless technologies that will define the IoT era
    25 September 2019, TRX Electronics, Telecoms, Datacoms, Wireless, IoT
    As Internet of Things (IoT) applications proliferate, so do the wireless technologies that enable them. It is hard keeping track, because there are just so many possible options, with a constant stream of updates and further additions to factor in too.
  • Bluetooth modules based on Nordic SoC
    25 September 2019, RF Design, Telecoms, Datacoms, Wireless, IoT
    Laird Connectivity has selected Nordic Semiconductor’s nRF52840 Bluetooth 5/Bluetooth Low Energy (Bluetooth LE) multiprotocol system-on-chip (SoC) to power two products in its BL654 Series: the power-amplified ...
  • SoCs and software for smart home and IIoT
    25 September 2019, NuVision Electronics, Telecoms, Datacoms, Wireless, IoT
    Silicon Labs has introduced the next generation of its Wireless Gecko platform, Series 2, designed to make Internet of Things (IoT) products more powerful, efficient and reliable. Building on the RF and ...
  • Indoor LoRaWAN gateway
    25 September 2019, Altron Arrow, Telecoms, Datacoms, Wireless, IoT
    The LPS8 from Dragino Technology is an open-source LoRaWAN gateway that lets the user bridge a LoRa wireless network to an IP network via Wi-Fi or Ethernet. The gateway’s LoRa wireless technology allows ...
  • LoRa temperature and humidity sensor
    25 September 2019, Altron Arrow, Telecoms, Datacoms, Wireless, IoT
    The Dragino LHT65 temperature and humidity sensor is a Long Range (LoRa)-enabled device with an external connector to connect to external sensors such as a temperature sensor, soil moisture sensor, tilting ...
  • Bluetooth/Wi-Fi combo module
    25 September 2019, iCorp Technologies, Telecoms, Datacoms, Wireless, IoT
    Feasycom has released the FSC-BW101, a Bluetooth/Wi-Fi combo module supporting Wi-Fi dual-frequency (2,4 GHz/5 GHz) 802.11a/b/g/n/ac and Bluetooth dual-mode (classic Bluetooth + BLE. With a working temperature ...
  • Li-Fi illuminates the way to higher data rates
    28 August 2019, TRX Electronics, Telecoms, Datacoms, Wireless, IoT
    Radio spectrum is a precious resource and it quickly gets filled up. It did not take long for users of Wi-Fi in urban areas to understand how interference from nearby routers would affect the communications ...
  • Managing the IoT on an energy budget
    28 August 2019, Altron Arrow, Telecoms, Datacoms, Wireless, IoT, DSP, Micros & Memory
    Historically, users wanted MCUs because they could process data and solve problems faster than a human could. MCUs also help make products more convenient and consistent in behaviour. The microcontroller ...
  • Power controller for smart home appliances
    28 August 2019, RF Design, Power Electronics / Power Management
    Qorvo has introduced a new intelligent power control solution for reducing energy consumption, bulk, weight and noise in smart home appliances, AC-powered fans and compressors. This mixed-signal system-in-package ...
  • Accounting for PIM with distributed antenna installations
    28 August 2019, RF Design, Telecoms, Datacoms, Wireless, IoT
    Passive intermodulation (PIM) distortion is the result of discontinuities, metal-to-metal contact, and material properties that lead to nonlinear characteristics of typically linear passive transmission ...
  • FiRa Consortium seeks to revive UWB
    28 August 2019, Telecoms, Datacoms, Wireless, IoT
    A new consortium has been launched in an effort to resurrect UWB (Ultra-Wideband) technology, which gradually faded into obscurity following its initial release due mainly to its inability to compete ...
  • Project kickstarts SA’s use of TV white spaces
    28 August 2019, Telecoms, Datacoms, Wireless, IoT
    The US Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) has awarded a grant to support a project to help improve Internet access to rural areas of South Africa. The grant, which focuses on facilitating export opportunities ...

Technews Publishing (Pty) Ltd
1st Floor, Stabilitas House
265 Kent Ave, Randburg, 2194
South Africa
Publications by Technews
Dataweek Electronics & Communications Technology
Electronics Buyers’ Guide (EBG)

Hi-Tech Security Solutions
Hi-Tech Security Business Directory

Motion Control in Southern Africa
Motion Control Buyers’ Guide (MCBG)

South African Instrumentation & Control
South African Instrumentation & Control Buyers’ Guide (IBG)
Terms & conditions of use, including privacy policy
PAIA Manual


    Classic | Mobile

Copyright © Technews Publishing (Pty) Ltd. All rights reserved.