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Group plans ‘first mass-market Wi-Fi IIoT technology’

09 August, 2018

Four companies – Microsoft, Advantech, Behr Technologies (BTI) and Hitachi Solutions America – have joined forces to develop what, they claim, will be “the first mass-market, end-to-end wireless gateway solution to ensure connectivity with sensors for production-level industrial and commercial applications”.

They argue that no single technology provider can enable IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) by itself, and that their joint effort will deliver a scalable, reliable and secure wireless technology for IIoT networks. The out-of-the-box technology for connecting large numbers of sensors will be interoperable with legacy systems, and will lead to sensor node batteries that last for up to 15 years.

At the heart of the project is a software-based technology called “telegram splitting”, developed and patented by Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute, and designed to tackle the problems with current wireless communications technologies.

It can transmit data from hundreds of thousands of sensors securely and efficiently over long distances, with low power consumption. It is claimed to provide unrivalled robustness against interference and to maximise system capacity through extremely short “on air” times.

The vendor-independent technology can link sensors over distances of up to 15km in open areas, and 5km in dense urban environments. It can be installed on off-the-shelf hardware and integrated into existing IIoT systems. It can also be integrated with Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform, allowing sensor data to be captured and interpreted “on a massive scale in the most demanding environments”.

The technology’s other benefits include high scalability through frequency- and time-multiplexed telegrams, and the ability to penetrate buildings. It will allow the economical deployment of networks based on one, or a few, off-the-shelf base-stations/gateways.

Michael Schlicht, head of the communications systems division at the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits (IIS), believes that the technology has “high potential to become the commercial standard for wireless IIoT connectivity”.

Fraunhofer has licenced the technology to Toronto-based Behr Technologies (BTI), which is using it as the basis for a low-power, wide-area network (LPWAN) communications system called BTI Mioty that is the first to use the Etsi (European Telecommunications Standards Institute) telegram-splitting ultra-narrow-band (TS-UNB) technical specification for low-throughput networks. Behr says that BTI Mioty will allow organisations to deploy private IoT sensor networks with unprecedented capacity, high quality-of-service (QoS), and low cost-of-ownership.

When used with Advantech gateways, Mioty can transmit up to 1.5 million messages per day over distances of 5­–15km, without needing a carrier. Layered on top of this infrastructure, Hitachi’s IoT Service Hub will allow organisations to connect and monitor devices and analyse the data in real time to improve operational efficiencies.

The BTI Mioty Wi-Fi IIoT technology is designed to integrate with Microsoft's Azure cloud platform

BTI’s CEO, Albert Behr, describes the jointly-developed technology as “truly transformational” and says it will give users an out-of-the-box IIoT system that “provides critical machine data and telemetry in areas they cannot currently access”.

“Mioty has been specifically developed for massive and lowest-cost LPWAN communications and is poised to be the commercial standard for wireless IIoT connectivity,” he adds. “The use cases are endless, and it will deliver a wireless IIoT solution that is unparalleled in the market.”

The first application resulting from this collaboration is a new approach to workforce safety. Data on the health of hundreds of workers in high-risk industrial environments can be monitored using wearable heart-rate monitors and transmitted via Mioty over unlicensed, sub-gigahertz frequencies to an Advantech base station. From there, it is communicated to the Microsoft cloud, where Hitachi’s IoT Service Hub can provide actionable insights on the workers’ health and send alerts if they are in danger. Employers can use this system to protect their workforce with unprecedented responsiveness at a fraction of the cost of previously available technologies.

“We are ushering in a new era of IoT communication that will enable organisations around the world to realise the promise of industrial automation in ways that were not previously possible,” predicts Rashmi Misra, general manager of IoT Solutions at Microsoft.

The potential market the technology is addressing is huge, with the analyst IHS predicting that there will be more than 30 billion IIoT devices in service by 2020, and 75 billion by 2025. GE predicts that investment in IIoT will exceed $60 trillion over the next 15 years.




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