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NIST Partners 'cutting The Cord' (and Wires) From Factory Communication Networks

Providing wireless communications in a factory, plant or other industrial environment these days means more than just helping employees talk with each other while they work. By eliminating physical connections such as wires and cables from a facility's communication network, wireless technology offers many manufacturing, chemical processing and municipal (such as water treatment) organizations a means to run their entire operation more efficiently, more productively and at less cost. However, a perceived lack of reliability, integrity and security has hampered the adoption and use of industrial wireless, especially when wireless communication can often be corrupted or disrupted in harsh industrial settings.

Through its Wireless Systems for Industrial Environments project, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is working with private-sector collaborators to overcome these obstacles and make industrial  communication a more viable choice. The latest milestone in this effort is a newly published study in which rigorous scientific experiments evaluated how well radio frequency (RF) signals propagated in three different factory environments: an automobile transmission assembly facility, a steam generation plant and a machine shop.

"Understanding how RF platforms work or don't work in these harsh environments is the first step toward designing and deploying reliable wireless networks," said NIST's Rick Candell, the lead researcher on the study. "With the data from this research and future tests, we can define factors that can hinder RF propagation—including heat, vibration, reflection, interference and shielding—and then develop measures to address them."

NIST partners 'cutting the cord' (and wires) from factory communication networks