Wireless Technologies

Wireless communication in tough, demanding applications is nothing new; "wireless" has been used for more than 30 years through the use of proprietary radios. During the last 10 years, standardized radio technologies like Wireless LAN (IEEE 802.11) and Bluetooth technology (IEEE 802.15.1) have become the dominating wireless technologies. In 2011, Bluetooth low energy technology also entered the scene. Compare the wireless technologies to find the solution that fits your application the best.

The main advantages for using a wireless solution are the following:

  • Greater mobility & freedom of movement
  • Bypassing long distances and applications where cables are an issue
  • Eliminate expensive and maintenance-heavy cabling
  • Fast and easy installations & commissioning
  • High flexibility when modifying an installation
  • Increased personal safety in hazardous areas (for instance, when needing to climb in a crane) by offering a control possibility from further distance than can be the case with a cable
  • Easy integration of devices into the network
  • Obtain flexible Human Interface Devices (HID)

Which Wireless Technology is the Best Choice?

One wireless technology cannot offer all the features and strengths that fit the various application requirements.  Standardized wireless technologies including WLAN (also commonly referred to as WiFi), Classic Bluetooth and Bluetooth low energy as well as number of proprietary technologies are all used to optimize for each application. The main requirement could either be high data throughput, robustness or low power (the latter especially for battery operated devices).

WLAN is often used for production planning and data acquisition as well as applications where rapid roaming is required. Bluetooth is used for Human Machine Interfaces (HMI), programming, service/maintenance and real-time control tasks.

During the last few years, other technologies like Bluetooth low energy technology have become increasingly used for sensors, actuators and other small devices that need to be interconnected.

 

Bluetooth technology

Wireless LAN / WLAN

Bluetooth
low energy technology

Data throughput

+/-

++

-

Robustness

++

+/-

++

Range

10-300m

50-300m

10-250m

Local system density

++

-

++

Roaming

+

++

N/A

Large scale network

-

+/-

+

Low latency

+++

+/-

++

Connection set-up speed

-

+/-

++

Power consumption

+

-

+++

Cost

+

-

++

Caption: The table offers a quick overview of the differences between the wireless technologies.

+ = Good
++ = Strong
+++ = Very strong
+/- = Average
- = Weak