Relying on secure wireless in harsh environments
Written by: Lyle Tanner | Customer Solutions Architect for Honeywell
Last week at Cisco Live US 2019, we announced our next generation heavy duty industrial wireless platform, the IW6300. This Class 1, Div 2, IP67 rated intrinsically safe WiFi mesh access point capable of handling some of the most challenging working environments. These harsh operating environments are often found in open mine pits, refineries, paper & pulp manufacturing plants, oil platforms, factory floors, and chemical plants.
Those familiar with Cisco’s industrial products will be quick to point out that the IW6300 isn’t our first wireless product to work in these harsh environments. In fact, our current HazLoc certified WiFi access points, the Cisco Aironet 1552 series, have been going strong for over eight years, including models that offer embedded industrial wireless protocol support from our industrial partners Emerson and Honeywell. The IW6300 builds upon the Cisco 1552 series capability of delivering rock-solid, secure WiFi connectivity to the harshest working environments by adding updated WiFi standards with improved throughput (802.11ac Wave 2), improved security (WPA3), better RF interference avoidance (Cisco CleanAir), reduced size & weight, improved temperature range, additional PoE options, future Cisco IOx edge compute support, and modular IoT expansion capability. This modular expansion capability is significant because it allows companies the flexibility of deploying WiFi coverage for connected worker solutions and later expand the solution to handle future IIoT connectivity modules, including the popular industrial wireless standards of ISA100 and WirelessHART, to support connected factory and connected plant solutions.
Connecting the unconnected
Reliable and secure WiFi has become the new normal in the carpeted office spaces, allowing office workers access to the corporate network and SaaS applications anywhere they go in the corporate offices, however, the non-carpeted spaces of factories, plants, mines and production facilities have remained widely unconnected, limiting the productivity improvements that connected workers are capable of delivering. The Cisco IW6300 heavy duty series access point will allow companies to deploy pervasive high-speed secure WiFi mesh connectivity to the non-carpeted spaces for both IT and OT connected worker applications with the flexibility to add industrial wireless support through an optional IoT add-on module. The ability for this platform leverage WiFi mesh, connecting remote mesh access points to the network without wires through the root access points, lowers the cost while improving the deployment time in areas with harsh environmental conditionals.
Simplify with new capabilities
While many industrial wireless protocols are capable of forming their own industrial wireless mesh, the ability to leverage a WiFi mesh network to backhaul sensor traffic just makes everything easier. By adding an Industrial IoT module to the IW6300, the industrial protocols see fewer “hops” in the industrial wireless network, have higher backhaul throughput, and all of the benefits of having the 802.15.4 IoT wireless gateways directly connected to the Ethernet network, without the cost of physically connecting them to the wired network. Another major advantage of leveraging the Cisco IW6300 to backhaul field device sensor traffic via the IoT expansion module is our ability to separate the IT traffic from the OT traffic. Many industrial and manufacturing companies follow industrial automation and control systems best practices for security, like those found in ISA99 and IEC62443, that segment ICS traffic from IT and end-user traffic. With an add on IoT module for the IW6300, we’re able to support these standards and keep WiFi user traffic segmented from IoT wireless sensor traffic.
Digital transformation is a journey and the Cisco IW6300 is the next generation industrial wireless platform to enable wireless connectivity in some of the most difficult to reach areas. I’m excited to see what kind of worker productivity, operational efficiency and improved safety outcomes our partners like Honeywell will be able to help our joint customers achieve through this next generation industrial wireless solution.