WBA explains how Wi-Fi 6/6E enables Industry 4.0

The Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA), the global trade association for the development of Wi-Fi technologies, has released guidelines revealing key features for the advancement of Wi-Fi 6/6E standards related to the Internet of Things (IoT). ) and industry 4.0.

his paper, Wi-Fi 6/6E for Industrial IoT: Enabling Wi-Fi determinism in an IoT world explores how the latest features of Wi-Fi are ideally suited to meet the unique, demanding requirements of a wide variety of existing and emerging IIoT applications, including production/industry 4.0 and logistics, with autonomous mobile robots (AMRs), automated guided vehicles (AGVs), predictive maintenance and augmented/virtual/mixed reality (AR/VR/MR

Created by the WBA’s Wi-Fi 6/6E for IIOT workgroupLed by Cisco, Deutsche Telekom and Intel, the white paper provides an overview of Wi-Fi 6 and 6E capabilities ideal for sensors and other IIoT applications, such as scheduled access enabled by trigger-based uplink orthogonal frequency domain multiple access in Wi-Fi 6. This provides the ability to reduce or eliminate twist and bound latency, which the WBA believes leads to increased levels of determinism that apply to all real-time and IIoT applications.

The WBA also highlighted that Wi-Fi 6E supports up to 1.2 GHz spectrum, making it ideal for use cases that require both multi-Gb/s throughput and determinism, such as industrial AR/VR/MR and sensor fusion. The report noted that Wi-Fi 6 offers many deterministic quality-of-service capabilities, such as the traffic prioritization that is an important part of time-sensitive networking for Industry 4.0 applications. Another example is multi-link editing, a capability that offers high reliability for applications that cannot tolerate packet loss.

The fine timing measurement protocol specified in IEEE 802.11-2016 enables time synchronization as well as accurate in-range and position/location determination. This, according to the WBA, can be used for: AMRs and AGV applications such as route planning, exception handling and safety-related aspects, including proximity-based collision avoidance. This capability requires no additional Wi-Fi infrastructure, so manufacturers can deploy it immediately, for example as part of their Industry 4.0 migration.

The report also highlighted that the target wake-time feature added to Wi-Fi 6 provides more efficient energy savings and scheduling improvement. WBA considered this capability suitable for battery-powered IIoT nodes that rarely need to transmit, such as a sensor that uploads data only when an engine’s temperature exceeds a certain threshold.

The WBA noted that manufacturers are increasingly IIoT vibration, temperature and lubricant viscosity sensors to help catch emerging equipment problems before they result in extensive, expensive downtime. It added that IIoT sensors provide real-time insights into production output, inventory levels and asset locations. Wireless has become the preferred way to network these sensors as it is faster and cheaper to deploy than copper or fiber.

The 52-page report also included guidelines for RF/network implementation for factories, warehouses, logistics and other use cases. For example, it recommended leveraging 802.11ax/Wi-Fi 6 scheduling capabilities to optimize traffic patterns and manage critical quality of service requirements. Another example cited was the use of high-gain directional antennas to increase channel reuse and bypass metal shelving and other signal attenuating features commonly found in warehouses.

It also said that as more equipment is monitored, wiring becomes prohibitive, so the industry has moved towards the incorporation of wireless technologies to reduce the cost of getting more information about their processes. It noted that in a recent case in the oil and gas industry, switching to a wireless installation resulted in a 75% cost reduction in installation.

“Wi-Fi has been a key driver of the global IIoT market, which is on track to have a compound annual growth rate of approximately 23% between 2017 and 2023,” said Tiago Rodrigues, CEO of the WBA. “Wi-Fi 6 and 6E expand the capabilities by providing the multi-Gb/s data rates, additional spectrum, deterministic performance and other advanced capabilities needed to support demanding applications such as Industry 4.0.”

More than three dozen suppliers, service providers and other organizations participated in the development of the white paper, which described many of their current projects† Examples included CiscoIntel and partners are working on use cases related to AMR and AGV, with key requirements being <10-20ms latency, <50kph speed, and 0.99.99999% reliability, and Cisco and Mettis Aerospace working on sensor applications where very high reliability, low power consumption and high device density are required.

Cisco Wireless CTO Matt MacPherson said, “The next industrial evolution will depend not only on the ability to connect more things, but also to add greater reliability, intelligence and security. This can only be done when the world’s leading companies partner with forward-thinking Industry 4.0 customers to explore and implement new, groundbreaking technologies.”

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