Commercial necessities for wireless mesh networks
Interest in wireless sensor networks (WSN) continues to grow, but how should an application solution be evaluated? David Laurence emphasises that commercial aspects are as important as the technical ones, and there are some properties which should be non-negotiable. If the technical side ticks all the boxes, check on the following...
Multiple Application Support. Many monitoring products are single application systems that specialise in one particular measurement, such as food storage temperature or humidity monitoring. A flexible wireless mesh sensor network should be able to support multiple applications on the same infrastructure. You don't know how you may wish to operate systems in the future.
Scalable Architecture. Scaled architecture enables a small network to expand without changes to the underlying infrastructure. Given the wide range of data that can be collected, this is a smart investment in anticipation of future requirements. A scalable architecture that allows additional sensors to be added without significant advance planning or technical reconfiguration, is most valuable and should be able to increase in scale to thousands of points as the technology develops. Today, networks of hundreds of monitored points are becoming common.
Third Party Connectivity. No business operates its monitoring in isolation, and an effective wireless sensor network solution must offer facilities for connecting to external systems and third party software packages already in use. Support for standard protocols such as Modbus and OPC and WEB 2.0 connectivity through XML, SOAP, and ODBC ensures seamless and flexible connectivity with all SCADA systems and business applications. Ethernet in both wired and wireless forms is becoming the transport medium of choice.
End-to-End. Collecting the data solves only part of the problem; making sense of it is where the real payoff happens. Ideally, data should flow through the network gateway into a console that can display real time information, historical data and facilitate administrative tasks. A practical system should be able to send this sort of data through a firewall making it accessible on a browser via the Internet/intranet.
Business case focus. It is inevitable in the early days of new technologies to focus on the underlying technology itself. It is easy to forget that whatever is actually chosen should be a solution to a business problem. A supplier who can talk in these terms can be a powerful ally. The practical business case requires that the supplier should be able to offer an end-to end package ĘC measurement/data transmission/ data processing rather than a simple collection of wireless network boxes. This should ensure that the component parts will work together efficiently from both a technical and operational point of view.
Reference sites. Asking about reference sites ĘC and receiving a satisfactory answer ĘC provides an excellent method to assess the competence of a potential supplier.
Training and support. It has to be there and available in a manner in which it can be easily used.
David Laurence is marketing communications manager for Adaptive Wireless Solutions