How IoT, Wi-Fi and Streaming Video can happily coexist
If you would have asked any network engineer a few years ago to architect a wireless network to support operations Wi-Fi, web browsing, video streaming and enable IoT and they would have designed three independent networks for you.
Fast-forward to today and the ‘dream’ to do all three, and more, on one wireless network is a reality.
We chatted with Mark Leppard, our senior wireless specialists to understand how Wi-Fi networks have advanced to be able to do what wasn’t possible only a few short years ago.
AQ: How have Wireless Networks evolved in only a few short years?
ML: There have been many changes in industrial wireless. Like home Wi-Fi, industrial Wi-Fi has become much faster and supporting infrastructure, like wireless controllers, have become smarter and enabled a lot of the advances that we are implementing today.
The standards developed by the IEEE and the Wi-Fi Alliance are advancing quickly with great support by device and equipment suppliers alike.
A great example of this is Wi-Fi 6 (aka 802.11ax) which has had the fastest ever take-up by device manufacturers in history. From release of the standard, we saw Wi-Fi 6 devices delivered within 6 months. Previous timelines have been 18-months to two years for devices to adopt new standards.
AQ: How have the improvements in Wi-Fi enabled various use cases over one Wi-Fi network?
ML: Whilst speed is a focus for many, business users look for the ability of wireless networks to be able to support many devices, and the speed those devices take to move from one access point to another.
The new standard has an improved version of Multi-User MIMO that allows better density of devices to be connected to the access point (i.e. multiple users can communicate with an access point at the same time), whereas the previous generation only allowed for one device at a time. This basically means that Wi-Fi 6 is more efficient and greatly increases the number, or density, of devices that the wireless network can support.
Where this proves critical is to enable the rapidly increasing volume of IoT devices to use the available network, and minimise the need to use standalone networks, such as LoRaWAN, or even having another dedicated wireless network which adds greatly to IT overhead.
The network efficiency delivered by the Wi-Fi 6 standard also means that device handovers between access points across a site are much more efficient. This minimises dropouts and ensures that performance remains stable for users as they move across a site. This is a great use case for health care or industrial sites where workers move around a lot.
AQ: Is there a commercial case to move to Wi-Fi 6?
ML: This depends a lot on the business. If the existing Wi-Fi network is old, unsupported and just not delivering any benefit, it can be a good time to look at making the upgrade. New Wi-Fi 6 access points, such as those released by Ruckus, converge Wi-Fi and IoT connectivity such as Zigbee or Bluetooth, into one access point to bring more value to an upgrade business case.
If a business has a reasonably new Wi-Fi environment, a major upgrade may not be necessary. Investment can be made into back-end infrastructure such as wireless controllers to provide a medium-term fix to network inefficiency.
If a business is unsure of whether to upgrade of not, they should look to an industrial wireless specialist, like Aqura, to look at the business demands, the conditions the network needs to operate under, and then choose the right mix of assets to ensure that business needs are met from the time of commissioning to end of life.
Share your business needs with our specialists, and we’ll help with demystify the fact from the fiction and leave you with a clear signal.