With so many wireless technologies available — including up-and-comers Wi-Fi 6, private LTE (CBRS band), and 5G — selecting the right one for your industrial IoT deployment can present quite a challenge. Over the past 30 years, many access technologies have come and gone, and we’ve learned that no single solution fits every scenario. To choose the best option for your business, we advise starting with these steps:
- Define your use cases
- Identify your application requirements
- Determine the environment and deployment constraints
I previously discussed each of these and more in greater detail in the blog post A Four-Step Guide to Selecting a Wireless Technology. Because wireless isn’t a one size fits all, we’re constantly testing and validating emerging technologies to ensure that we help customers select the best solution for their use case.
The internet of things (IoT) is really all about connectivity and using that connectivity to drive outcomes. In warehouses and distribution centers, the goal is to fill as many orders as possible on a given day or shift. Recently, manufacturing customers have asked us about using autonomous robots to address this — to that end, we decided to test Wi-Fi 6 and Private LTE for an autonomous mobile robot (AMR) in a warehouse setting to determine both feasibility as well as reliability of the wireless signal.
To conduct this test, we engaged the Cisco warehouse team in San Jose. This team was immediately able to brainstorm three potential use cases for an AMR: 1) moving goods, 2) conducting inventory, and 3) security monitoring. This goes to show the importance of working with your operations team when exploring industrial IoT use cases — they will be able to quickly and more easily identify the most practical use cases.
Every good test has a set of requirements, desired outcomes, constants and variables. Wireless technologies for industrial IoT must be easy to use, reliable and scalable. While testing Wi-Fi 6 and Private LTE, we specifically evaluated:
- How to automate the deployment of the technology in the context of SD-WAN
- Whether AMRs would become stuck by radio interference
- How many AMRs could be deployed in a single distribution center
Each access technology was deployed while the IP network — SD-WAN-based — enabled local traffic and Internet cloud services access. After the initial prototype’s development, deployment of the products, and configuration of the overall end-to-end data flow, I’m happy to say that the testing was a success!
Instead of giving away all the details, I’d encourage you to watch the video we recorded, so you can see for yourself how Wi-Fi 6 reliability can reach low latency numbers, while Mobile Packet Core may be set with User Plane Function locally switching the traffic over the CBRS p-LTE band. Each test was conducted with the results recorded for future validated design guide development — so, what’s next? We’re excited to be testing 5G, and more. Have something you’d like to see Cisco test? Drop it in the comments of this blog!