Wireless Deployments: Giving Antennas a remote chance

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Wireless Deployments: Giving Antennas a remote chance

The cost of IoT sensors continues to fall, allowing more organizations to roll out remote IoT and M2M over Wireless deployments that often require hardware to tough it out in harsh conditions with minimal maintenance. Antennas are particularly vulnerable and bad buying decisions can make them the weakest link.

by Andy Bird

Today, we are seeing the boundaries of IoT applications expanding and a rich variety of industrial deployments driving major returns on investment for organizations. Shell is a prime example. The global oil and gas company has used IoT technology to monitor the condition of remote oilfields across Nigeria and has reportedly achieved a million dollar saving through the reduced requirement for regular physical site inspections.

Now we are looking beyond the Shells of this world and seeing IoT projects that are no longer limited to the largest businesses. Think of an agricultural firm that has deployed Global Positioning System (GPS) trackers to monitor the location of vehicles and machinery spread across an extensive region.

Cutting maintenance time and physical inspections can be crucial to performance.

Andy Bird, the managing director of GTT Wireless

Wireless Deployment: Andy Bird - the managing director of GTT Wireless

By tapping into real-time positioning data, agricultural managers can monitor driver technique, identify areas for optimizing tractor coverage, and ensure vehicles are nearby for scheduled maintenance.

Beware the Rising Damp

With these deployments come regular hardware and geographical challenges. For organizations with assets operating across a vast area, constant connectivity and high levels of reliability are vital. Hardware that is proven to resist challenging conditions such as heat, dust, and repeated vibration, without sacrificing performance or functionality, is essential to cut the need for continuous maintenance or replacement.

It is important for organizations to prioritize hardware components and M2M applications that are proven to endure challenging conditions in outdoor environments. Antennas are no exception.

Wireless Deployments - Magic Mushrooms

Magic Mushrooms: Mushroom-style antennas reduce the threat of vandalism and strike damage and are protected against dust and moisture.

We see a lot of antennas sporting a subminiature version A (SMA) coaxial connector. These may be cheap and readily available, but they are by no means suitable for mission-critical operations – water being a major threat. These antennas might deliver suitable connectivity but incremental stresses, such as the slow accumulation of moisture, can have a catastrophic effect on housed circuit boards.

Threats from all Angles

To meet industry needs for rugged IoT-capable antennas, manufacturers have begun to develop extensive, enterprise-grade ranges specifically tailored to resist challenging and remote conditions. Antennas that incorporate waterproof N-type connectors are ideal because they are highly resilient to shock, vibration, and other physical disturbances, as well as being IK09 rated against external impact up to 10 joules.

Mushroom-style antennas in particular are designed to enable IoT applications and support key communications standards such as Wi-Fi, LoRa, and LTE for greater data speeds, low power consumption, and long-range transmission. These low-profile designs reduce the threat of vandalism or strike damage and are typically IP67-rated (impervious at a meter’s depth for half an hour) for protection against dust and moisture.

No One-Size-Fits-All

Flexibility is a key consideration when implementing IoT projects. Each wireless deployment has specific hardware requirements – and indoor or sheltered IoT deployments may not require rugged hardware. For this reason, it is important for designers to identify an antenna that offers multiple connectivity options for greater customization, whether this is N-type connectors, jack plugs, or SMA pigtail cables. If the scope of a wireless project changes from 3G connectivity to GPS, for example, designers must take care to ensure suitable antennas are available from the same range to ensure project continuity, interoperability, and comparable protection levels over the entire project.

Test is Best

GTT Wireless operates a dedicated component IP67 testing facility to verify the durability of its N-type antennas to ensure the aerial will not be the weak link of an ambitious wireless project.

Wireless Deployments - GPS Monitoring Agriculture

Out and About: With widespread use of GPS in agriculture to monitor vehicles and machinery over an extensive area, hardware needs to meet lots of new challenges.

The company strongly encourages designers to test interoperability by using a visual design tool to demonstrate how compatible antennas can be integrated into an enclosure. This is particularly important when selecting an accompanying variable-sized rugged enclosure to ensure seamless integration of all components. Each component should be color-coded for instant identification to support easy installation, especially for large scale wireless deployments with hundreds of units.

Time to Connect the Dots

Deploying IoT for real-time, remote applications, such as vehicle movements and operations across a large area, can give a major competitive advantage, but this can be compromised by the unreliability of poorly protected off-the-shelf components. Although SMA connectors certainly have a role to play in many wireless projects, there is little doubt that N-type connectors are now a key component for outdoor or remote wireless deployments. As IoT technology continues to mature and the use cases expand, it is vitally important for businesses to start to implement resilient outdoor connectivity now.

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