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The wireless networks in industrial automation.

Wireless networks

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Automation > Resources > Technologies > Networks > Wireless networks


Radio communications, Wifi, Wireless utilities, Alternative wireless technologies, Organizations.

The Wireless Networks Are More And More Used In The Industry

The wireless networks are interfering more and more in the industrial automated applications.

We meet them to establish communications between terminals, to exchange data with sensors or with machines, to register input data typed by mobile operators, or to set the communication between a programming console and a control device.

There are many wireless technologies : the radio transmissions and all the radio frequency communications technologies using it, the infrared modulation, the ultrasonic waves, the power-line communications (PLC), light-emitting diode (LED) modulation (Li-Fi).

The wireless technologies the most often met in the industrial world are the radio transmissions.

The targeted objectives vary according each technique : the usage can be personal or collective, from a few people up to thousands of people.

A wireless network can also be designed to interconnect digital systems only, or to connect sensors with a control system.

Finally, all that leads the design of the architecture and the features it is wanted.

But these technologies are not all relevant to industrial applications.

The radio-frequency wireless networks.

In the industry, we can use the radio frequency transmission as a pure medium by using radio modems and some network protocol operating over.

We can also find the RFID technology (radio frequency identification), the Wifi technology, the ZigBee technology, all the digital cellular networks and satellite communications.

Out of the industrial applications, we can find Bluetooth, wireless local loop (WLL), Wimax and Wusb (wireless USB).

The alternative wireless network technologies.

We can meet the power-online technology for some industrial applications.

Apart from the industry, we can meet infrared modulation and ultrasonic waves modulation (these technologies are applied to sensors used in the industry, but not to industrial communication usages).

The emerging technologies.

One of the technologies to follow could be the LiFi technology.

Its greatest advantages are the very large bandwidth allowing a lot of communication channels, with a high frequency modulation allowing fast data transfers.

Shortly, some of its features present highest performances than the Wifi technology.

For these reasons, may be it will be in use in the future for some industrial automated applications.

Advantages and disadvantages of industrial wireless networking.

The main advantages are a very flexible structure with a few cables, well adapted to communicate with mobile devices and mobile users, or to build flexible automated workshops.

Some disadvantages relative to the wireless technology in use are the high sensibility to the interactions with the environment (the reflections of the electro-magnetic waves in an industrial context upset or block the radio transmissions for instance), a very highest consumption of energy by using some wireless technologies (the so popular Wifi networks for instance), and the high sensibility to hacking and piracy.

Radio Transmissions

Radio waves fundamentals, Radio frequencies resources, Wireless network guide, Radio frequency modem.

Radio Frequency Wireless Networks Technologies Basics  

The Cisco company provides useful and well illustrated educational papers related to the wireless technologies in general and particularly to radio transmissions, giving you a precise overview about.

These papers develop these technologies according to many angles (the topologies, the safety, the implementations, the services, the synchronisation, the performances and many more).

And many other things ...

Radio Frequency And Communication Knowledge  

This folder groups well illustrated and comprehensive tutorials offered by the National Instruments company.

We are introduced to radio frequency and wireless communication systems, before learning about radio frequency and micro waves spectrum, analogical, digital and measurement modulation, wireless communication standards.

Other resources are available in the radio frequency academy.

Radio Communications Resources  

Here you will find a lot of technical resources related in radio communications in general.

It is question of antennas, cellular telecommunication, radio-frequency technologies, radio wireless networks, satellite communication and telecommunication networks.

In the "formulae" section, you will find a useful formulas guide.

You will more particularly read the radio waves propagation and antennas folder, which is a very important matter to appreciate in an industrial context.

This folder presents the electromagnetic waves, their spectrum, their characteristics, with a special sub folder related to their propagation.

Then you can discover the different antennas technologies (Distributed antennas, MIMO technology), the different radio antennas types, cable and connectors features, and finally some case studies.

Wireless Community Networks  

This interesting guide (available in both html and pdf format - see the html page) is not a technical document really, although it contains a technical section.

It is intended to the (public) community leaders, but we can think its reading offers a great interest for any organization leaders who are not skilled in computers, in the industry or anywhere else, while its contents is important in matter of strategy when building a wireless network.

As the author Robert WILLIAMS has written, using the Internet to provide services is not a bed of roses.

In the first chapter, you can find considerations about budgeting a wireless connectivity in a very practical way.

The second chapter is more technical. You will read considerations about data transfer rates, the protocols, the operating systems, how to build a local area network, presentation of the Wide Area networks (WAN), how the radio frequency connections are working, and finally how do we can secure a wireless network and how important it is ?

Robert L. WILLIAMS -

Radio Modems

The oldest technique used in industrial wireless networking is the data transmission through radio modems, which modulate and demodulate the radio electromagnetic waves.

The radio waves are only a medium, and the modem modulate the radio waves in function of the data to be transmit.

By this way, the radio modems are compatible with all the networks and protocols you want, such as the IP networks, the field networks and so on, through virtual private networks (VPN) if you need it.

Wifi And IEEE 802.11 Technologies

Wifi reference tutorial, Wifi basics, Wifi 802.11n overview.

IEEE 802.11 Reference Tutorial  

Although this document is not up to date (it has been published in year 2002 ; it is not question of the 802.11 n standard for instance), these 93 pages are a complete reference concerning the 802.11 standard bases.

You will find in this paper detailed informations about medium access control (MAC), about MAC management, about the physical layers and their extensions to the standard, about design considerations, about the protocols in usage, about the frame format and many more.

Mustafa ERGEN - University of California (USA) - Berkeley -

IEEE 802.11 Wireless Networking Basics  

After a short 802.11 networking overview, these pages focuses on the 802.1x wireless security.

It is talked about authentication, shared keys, encryption, WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy), WPA (Wifi Protected Access), EAP (Extensible Authentication Protocol) and TKIP (Temporal Key Integrity Protocol).

Finally, this paper introduces the free authenticating server RADIUS and how it works.

This document published in 2005 is available as a pdf document too (see the link at the top of the html page).

IEEE 802.11n Introduction  

This technical paper published in 2008 introduces the 802.11n technology, how it works and what could be the benefits by using it.

The first chapter talks about the main concepts such as MIMO (Multiple Inputs Multiple Outputs), the bandwidth, the modulation and the MAC layer.

The second chapter introduces the 802.11n interoperability, while the third chapter introduces the 802.11n network management (planning, surveying and securing).

Wireless Utility Software

Airtraft, Kismet, Stumbler, Wavemon.

Wireless Networks Analyses, Diagnostics And Intrusive Detections

To manage a wireless network, it is necessary to use some tools to configure it, to survey it, to register how it is performing in a specific context and to diagnostic it.

Below are some useful tools dedicated to wireless networks, and you can find other networks utility software working with them (Wireshark, NMap or NTOPNG for instance), usable for all the networks in general.

AIRTRAFT 1.0 - A Wireless Sniffer  

Airtraft 1.0 is a radio frequency wireless network sniffer. It detects and establishes exactly the data being transmitted over a Wifi 802.11 network.

It tracks and identifies all the access points (legitimate or not), it provides statistics on performing (by user or / and by protocol), it measures the strength of the signal for the different devices on the network and delivers many other functionalities.

Airtraft 1.0 is an open source software distributed under the GPL licence. It is designed to run under the Linux operating system.

KISMET - Wifi Network Detection And Intrusive Detection  

Kismet is a software used to detect all the Wifi 802.11 networks - hidden networks and visible networks - and to detect all the intrusive attempts in a passive way.

An Add-on is available to allow Kismet working on other protocols and networks.

STUMBLER - Wireless Network Analyse And Diagnostic Software  

Stumbler is a software running under the MS windows operating system, which allows detecting all the Wifi networks respecting the 802.11 a, 802.11 b or 802.11 g standards.

It allows to check the configuration of a Wifi network, to detect the locations where the Wifi signal is weak, to detect interferences between several wireless networks and to detect intrusive attempts.

WAVEMON - A Wireless Network Monitoring Software  

Wavemon is a software designed to monitor the wireless networks. It allows to know at first sight the most important informations relative to your network, such as the configuration of the devices, the power management parameters and the status of the network.

You can visually estimate the quality of the radio transmissions, the amplitude of the radio waves and the signal / noise rate.

Alternative Wireless Technologies

Bluetooth, Wireless Local Loop, Li-Fi, Infrared transmissions, Wimax, Wireless USB, ZigBee.


Bluetooth is a radio-frequency wireless network intended for personal usage, providing a low transmission range, from 10 meters to 100 meters maximum according to the class of the emitter.

Its main objective is to interconnect digital devices, such as peripherals, computers and tablets.

WLL - Wireless Local Loops

The wireless local loop is a wireless communication medium installed and provided by the telecommunication or internet access providers to interconnect their subscribers in general inside a wide area (one city or more for instance).

So, the operators avoid to build a wired infrastructure.

One of the application is the WiMax network.

Li-Fi - Transferring Data By Modulating The Light Of LEDs

The Li-Fi is a wireless remote communication technique. It allows emitting data by modulating the light of lighting devices using LED.

The objective of the technology is to establish a network inside a building or inside a house, without using the radio frequencies.

Its specificities are that the transmission is uni-directional (up to now), and the communication must be direct (a wall or a door block the light rays indeed).

The data flow rate could be hundred times faster than using a wifi network (up to 1 gigabits per second). Right now, the transmission range does not exceed 10 meters.

The Li-Fi main features are a low energy consumption, a very large bandwidth with an almost infinite amount of channels, direct data transmission, a low transmission range with classical bulbs (nevertheless, laser beam can be used with other visible light communication - VLC - technologies, in this way, the transmission range is about up to 60 kilometres), no electromagnetic interferences and a natural indoor robustness according to hacking.

Infrared Modulation

Infrared modulation communications are similar to Li-Fi, in the way it is a modulation of light, excepted it is in the area of the non visible waves inside the electromagnetic spectrum.

They are often used for personal usage, in the cars and in the medical world (there are none electromagnetic interference with the medical devices).

Right now (2014), the flow data rate is about 1 gigabits per second and the transmission range is about 10 meters.

WiMax - IEEE 802.16 - A High Performing Wireless Network For Wide Areas

The WiMax (IEEE 802.16 standard) is a wireless technology using the radio frequency modulation to transmit data.

Its objective is to provide fast Internet access by covering a large surface of a territory (a range of several square kilometres), for hundreds up to several thousands of subscribers.

The Wimax networks are using the wireless local loops (WLL) and are compatible with other IP networks and with Wifi networks.

WUSB - Wireless Universal Serial Bus

WUSB is the wireless version of the universal serial bus standard (USB).

Such as USB, WUSB is designed to interconnect personal peripherals and digital devices inside a small area.

The data transmission rate is about 480 megabits per second within a distance of 3 meters.

ZIGBEE - A Low Energy Consumption Wireless Network At Low Cost

ZigBee use the radio frequency modulation to transmit the data.

It is designed to interconnect sensors and other wireless networks at the lowest cost.

Wireless Organizations

Wireless Networks Manufacturers Associations - The consortium provides all the Bluetooth specifications with some articles related to the security, the architecture and the topology.

The association provides some technical folders and papers too. - CTIA is an international association involved in all the wireless technologies (cellular networks, personal communication services, mobile applications and more). - The Li-Fi consortium is an international association of manufacturers and searchers, involved in optical wireless communication technologies (The Li-Fi technology itself, the infrared laser communications technology and more other).

on the web site, you can discover some technical overviews in relation with the Li-Fi networks, the optical mobility technologies, fast data transfer, infrared connections and more. - The Wi-fi consortium is an industrial manufacturers association promoting the Wi-fi technology, which certifies the products using its technologies. - Wireless USB is a part of the USB consortium.

The association develops and delivers the specifications of the WUSB standard, with a few tools. - The ZigBee alliance specifies and promotes the ZigBee network technologies.

On its web site, you can find the overviews about the different ZigBee technologies, with some technical papers to download.

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