Wi-Fi 6 IoT trial completed

By Dylan Bushell-Embling
Friday, 06 December, 2019

Wi-Fi 6 IoT trial completed

Members of the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) have successfully completed what is said to be the world’s first Wi-Fi 6 IoT trial in the UK.

The phase one trial at the Mettis Aerospace factory aimed to demonstrate the potential of Wi-Fi 6 for industry 4.0 applications, and marks an important part of the WBA’s Wi-Fi 6 test and development program.

WBA members including Broadcom, Cisco, iBwave and Intel all participated in the trial, which was also supported by Concurrent Engineering and Keysight.

Tests included evaluating the potential of Wi-Fi 6 to support applications such as 4K video streaming, large-scale file transfers, messaging and voice/video communications as well as the first stage of IoT sensor and mixed reality testing.

Previous implementation tests with Wi-Fi had failed in Mettis’s challenging factory environment. But during this, trial speeds of 700 Mbps were achieved using 80 MHz channels, and low-latency applications such as video calling and streaming achieved results below 6 ms.

The Wi-Fi 6 network was able to provide total connectivity across the factory floor and enable improved synchronisation of machinery and equipment with centralised monitoring and control systems.

Cisco access points were deployed and configured based on a detailed site survey undertaken by iBwave to provide optimal coverage taking into account obstructions, noise levels and the variability of the environment.

Devices including smartphones, tablets, laptops and webcams equipped with the Broadcom and Intel Wi-Fi 6 chipset were then used to connect to the network and perform a series of tests to assess the strength of the network.

WBA CEO Tiago Rodrigues said this validates the potential of Wi-Fi 6 infrastructure to work well despite the presence of interference and noise in a challenging factory environment.

“The completion of this initial phase marks a significant milestone for the adoption of Wi-Fi 6. The Mettis facility is an especially challenging environment for wireless communications with furnaces, presses and heat, a lot of moving heavy machinery and the presence of dust and in-air particulates,” he said.

“Nevertheless, the field tests in this highly charged atmosphere have proven that Wi-Fi 6 technology works well and can play a vital role within the industrial enterprise and IoT ecosystem. If Wi-Fi 6 can deliver highly reliable, high-quality and high-bandwidth communications in this type of factory environment, then it can deliver it almost anywhere.”

Mettis Aerospace expects to be able to use its new Wi-Fi 6 infrastructure to vastly increase the data it collects from devices across the business. This will enable the company to enhance its manufacturing processes and increase productivity.

As part of the trial, Concurrent Engineering’s PTC Vuforia augmented reality software was used by the maintenance team to enable ‘walk by’ machine monitoring, whereby positioning a tablet near a piece of machinery provided an instant reading of the real-time pressure and performance of the machine.

Phase two of the trial will focus on further tests of the mixed reality applications and IoT sensing of key assets.

The Mettis factory is meanwhile located within the region selected by the UK Government as a 5G test bed for manufacturing. According to the WBA, the test results demonstrate the key role Wi-Fi 6 can play in the broader 5G infrastructure.

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