The manufacturing environment is a fluid one with many moving parts, making it the perfect environment for the Internet of Things (IoT). By 2020, discrete manufacturing is expected to spend $40 billion on IoT platforms, systems and services. Moreover, industrial applications lead all industries in IoT adoption, at 45 percent.
Wi-Fi 6, the next generation of Wi-Fi technology, will play a vital role in helping manufacturers utilize IoT to improve operational efficiency, increase return on investment (RoI) and create distinction over competitors, while also speeding delivery of products and services. When Wi-Fi 6 certification debuts later this year, it will enable four times higher network bandwidth and four times more concurrent users than Wi-Fi 5.
Specifically, this new generation of Wi-Fi provides coverage and support for 2.4GHz, which makes it ideal for IoT devices. Inherent capabilities in Wi-Fi 6 enable wireless to be more deterministic, an especially important feature for mission-critical IoT assets in manufacturing automation. Moreover, Wi-Fi 6 supports IoT devices without broadband degradation and significantly extends battery life, ensuring uninterrupted connections for the “things” that are connected.
Wi-Fi 6 also enables a wireless channel to be divided into a large number of subchannels, all of which can carry data intended for specific, individual devices. For instance, one subchannel might provide higher bandwidth, while another provides low latency. This feature means that mission-critical applications will be prioritized for data. As such, Wi-Fi 6 is well positioned to support the provision of cost effective, enterprise-level connectivity in an industrial environment.
Wi-Fi 6 also supports orthogonal frequency division multiple access (OFDMA), enabling an access point to communicate with more devices at once, while also allowing devices to simultaneously respond, a feature that isn’t available in earlier iterations of Wi-Fi. Also important to industrial environments is the ability to enforce policy through Wi-Fi 6 scheduling and segmentation, translating to much better control over who or which device is allowed to transmit data at any point in time.
All of the new features and capabilities that Wi-Fi 6 introduces will have significant impact on IoT in manufacturing. To that end, the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) recently announced a series of Wi-Fi 6 trials with Mettis Aerospace, which designs and manufactures precision-forged, machine and sub-assembled components, primarily for the aerospace and defense industries.
Through the collaboration, a number of industrial enterprise and IoT use cases will be trialed, including multi-stream live video monitoring, real-time energy monitoring, ultra-reliable low-latency communications with sensors on critical systems and augmented reality.
Without question, IoT is having a tremendous impact on manufacturing for both enterprises and their target customers. It helps detect and avoid issues that might result in delays, while also enabling managers to better allocate resources, improve productivity and make the workplace safer. In fact, more than 70 percent of companies believe that implementing IoT reduces costs and improves products.
That impact increases exponentially with Wi-Fi 6, which delivers faster network performance, connects more devices simultaneously and firmly establishes Wi-Fi as the defacto medium for Internet connectivity in the manufacturing space.