Complementary Wireless Communication Technologies

Ever wonder why we have multiple forms of wireless communications on our PCs, smart phone, and tablet devices? 3G, 4G, 802.11, Bluetooth all serve a purpose in the types of information that is conveyed wirelessly between devices. For example, a Wi-Fi connection between your smart phone and home or office network provides higher bandwidth communications for music and video. Bluetooth devices such as wireless keyboards and earpieces provide short-distance connections with your smartphone.

WirelessHART and HART-IPIn a Control Engineering Asia article, The Power of Two, Emerson’s Jonas Berge highlights the need for different communications to assist personnel with tasks such as:

Equipment and personnel tracking, as well as remote operations of unmanned sites, remote teamwork, and video surveillance…

Jonas notes that IEC 62591 WirelessHART complements 802.11 Wi-Fi communications [hyperlink added]:

The WirelessHart radio (IEEE 802.15.4) has extremely low power consumption, ideal for battery powered transmitters that must run unattended for years. Wi-Fi, meanwhile, is optimized for high bandwidth applications of high data rate devices which are powered or can be recharged every day.

WirelessHART communications were designed to coexist with Wi-Fi communications. Different application protocols make use of Wi-Fi communications [hyperlinks added]:

Profinet is the choice when integrating Profibus devices to Ethernet; Hart-IP is the choice when integrating 4-20 mA/Hart and WirelessHART devices to Ethernet; and HSE is preferred when integrating H1 devices to Ethernet, and so on.

HART-IP

Click to enlarge

Jonas shares how the HART-IP protocol opens up greater integration of HART-based devices:

The new Hart-IP protocol enables large scale integration in large plants having large numbers of WirelessHart devices and multiple WirelessHart gateways tied together using Ethernet or Wi-Fi. The same backhaul network is shared by RTUs, video cameras, and portable computers, etc to bridge data from the field to the control room…

…Hart-IP and other application protocols can be carried even longer distances using combinations of microwave, satellite, mobile phone network, or the internet depending on what is available.

He highlights a number of applications enabled by wireless communication including location tracking & identification, online information access, document retrieval, field maintenance worker and operator, surveillance video, and remote teamwork.

Jonas notes the rapid change of Wi-Fi communications in the office and home space [hyperlinks added]:

…since 1997 Wi-Fi has gone from IEEE 802.11 to 11a, 11b, 11g, and 11n, in rapid succession, and next 11ac and 11s.

He closes with the constant focus on security for all of the wireless technologies. Specifically for WirelessHART [hyperlinks added]:

…security includes AES-128 encryption and key rotation to prevent eavesdropping, authentication and Access Control List (ACL) to prevent undesired devices to join the network, data integrity verification and sequence number to detect tampering of data. WirelessHart security is “always on” and easy to setup using a standard handheld Hart field communicator without proprietary infrared tools or the need to manage certificates.

Make sure to read the article for more on the applications and ways these wireless technologies and protocols complement each other.

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