106. Idea – What is Wireless Ethernet? Transcript
I think this is a good practice. It was like, never be satisfied. You go out and you look for the circumstances that you want, and if you can’t find it, make it. Always be curious about what you’re doing or having, or making something better.
Welcome to EECO Asks Why. A podcast that dives into industrial manufacturing topics, spotlights heroes to keep America running. I’m your host, Chris Grainger. And on this podcast, we do not cover the latest features and benefits on products that come to market instead we focused on advice and insight from the top minds of industry because people and ideas will be how America remains number one in manufacturing in the world. So welcome to EECO Asks Why, today we have an idea episode and we’re going to be talking about is what is wireless ethernet and to help walk us through that. We have Vic Parangelo, who is the regional manager at ProSoft. So welcome Vic.
hey Chris, thanks for having me.
I’m excited to have you, man. So you’re located where at again?
Uh New York, on Long Island.
Okay. We’re recording. It was February. So what’s the weather up there?
Today is nice, but the past two weeks we got 18 inches of snow one day, then nine inches, a few days later. Yeah, they’ve been keeping me busy with the snowblower but Hey, it’s winter right?
That’s right. That’s right. We’ll keep that weather up there. North Carolina, I like it a little warmer, but man, this is a fun topic. I’m excited. You are an expert in this space and maybe to get us started just with our listeners who may not be familiar with what wireless ethernet is.
Can you give them a little explanation here?
Sure wireless, ethernet is using electromagnetic waves to transmit data through the air, just like radio, instead of a traditional physical copper or fiber optic cable, cellular is another form of wireless. There’s also a 900 megahertz frequency hopping, which is an older form that’s fading out, industrial wifi, it was another form of wireless ethernet and it’s utilized in this hundreds of different industrial applications. It’s essentially hardened ruggedized form of 802.11 wifi, which is the same that you have in your house. I’m sure Chris, there was a time when the computer in your house had a cable an ethernet cable running to a router, and now I’m guessing it’s wireless. You had some previous episodes where you guys were talking about just so many different applications and demystifying, industrial wifi, I think it was Scott McNeil and he got into great detail.
He talked about UDP versus TCP packets and packet loss and latency values. The whole thing roaming, and he stresses the importance of, doing a spectrum analysis versus just a site survey. And, he really talked about owning your airspace before you deploy a wireless solution.
I like to say, you’ve got to sniff the air. You have commercial products your phones and your TV and your tablets, but even like your thermostat and your doorbell. And now it’s, it’s getting crazy. Now you have things like smart fish tanks and cat feeders.
But industrial wifi, you know, used in factory automation for whether it’s discrete or process. No, this is what you’re talking about. Communications between industrial devices, machine to machine sensor to machine mobile worker to machine, but you’re just getting data from point A to point B wirelessly.
And in really the most simple terms you use wireless, ethernet when you can’t, or just don’t want to use a cable, but if you think about it, with wireless there’s no trenching, you don’t need permits, you’re not pulling wires, running conduit. You can hit long distances and you couldn’t with the cable or places you just don’t have accessibility.
You don’t have to dig up blacktop. Sometimes it’s just simpler, lower cost and easier and faster to deploy. And, it opens up a whole new set of use cases that you just couldn’t do before with a cable.
Right. Right. That’s thank you for breaking that down. Cause I think most of us now with, like you said, we know what the ethernet is from a wireless standpoint in our house, tying that to the industrial is a different world. So great explanation. And you mentioned a buddy Scott McNeil a few times in some episodes he was in, he definitely, he is a, an expert as you are in this space. And I’m curious are you seeing any trends out there in the wireless seats in that world that are catching your eye?
Yeah. Chris does a few trends. I’d say the first trend is that there’s an increasing amount and type of devices that are using wireless again, the smart fish tank, smart cat feeder. The smart garage door opener, there’s also, increased security concerns and then there’s increased throughput requirements.
So ethernet evolved, it’s evolved in so many aspects of our life and an industry. No, there was a time when wireless just couldn’t handle the throughput requirements, and with mobile applications, you just couldn’t do sip safety over wireless without ultra fast roaming radios. You really have to take a look back at the IEEE 802.11 standard and walk back through history to understand how we got to where we are today.
I think it started, you know, 802.11 started with what was called the fee amendment 1999. And that was 11 megabits per second. So as they discovered the capability and began to, forecast real application, they found that 11 megabits per second, just wasn’t fast enough. So in parallel, the A group got together to increase that rate to 54 megabit per second, which really increased usability.
Then I think it was in 2003, the G group, they added 54 megabit capability to the 2.4 Gigahertz band. After that in 2009, when wireless was really gaining and gaining a lot of capability with what’s called the N amendment. Now along with greater speeds, up to 300 megabits per second they added the flexibility and the functionality in both 2.4 and 5 Gigahertz bands.
Plus some new technology became available like channel bonding and mimo antennas or MIMO, depending on how you say it. And it goes on the AC amendment, increased the speeds up to one gigabit per second. And then finally, now I think it’s the AX amendment, which I think it’s supposed to be released this month, that has an estimated max rate up to 11 gigabits. When you talk about opening up an entire new potential for applications, that’ll be exciting to see what happens when these technologies start entering applications. If they haven’t already.
Yeah, no doubt, man. Thank you for walking us through that history and the evolution there, and for the listener out there that may be listening Vic that’s not the expert that you are, can you break it down for fifth grader?
How does it work?
Sure. So wifi basically works as an AP as an access point and you need to establish a network for client devices to connect to the access point. The client devices need to operate on the same frequency. They need to have the same network name and the WPA phrase to link up.
You go to your buddy’s house. I heard you said, you’re always asking, “Hey, what’s your password?” So once they link, the access point and the clients will communicate, it is exactly the same as the router in your house, your smart TV, garage door. Those are all devices that connect to communicate to an access point.
The cool thing is some clients can also be repeaters, right? So these radios act as a client, but they can also repeat the signal off to another client, which may be out of range of the access point. You might have a similar setup in your house, something like an Orbie mesh network. This allows a good signal to hit the far side of the house away from your access point.
When the access point you don’t can’t hit it directly. And believe me, this is a great investment to keep the wife and kids from complaining.
That’s all right. Very good. I really like how you break that down. The access point. It didn’t have the different repeaters. So when you think through, from an industrial standpoint, these environments, man, you’ve been in them, they can be very challenging to say the least.
So what are some headwinds that you see these industrial users experiencing that, that may be helpful for them to know, prior to actually designing that system.
So there’s a few headwinds. Number one, the throughput over wireless is generally slower than a physical cable video technology might catch up over time, but at this point, if you have some ultra high throughput requirements, like your stream in 4k video, a cable’s going to beat wireless. That’s one thing also. There’s a perceived reliability issue with wireless. Now that can really be nipped in the bud by just doing a proper site survey and spectrum analysis before deployment. You want to size the cables properly. You want to select the right antennas for the application. And also being a little bit vigilant. You want to look for rogue signals, which maybe aren’t there today, but could pop up tomorrow and interfere with the operation.
Another thing, you know, line of sight is very important, perfect line of sight is always helpful, but sometimes environmental factors come into play, you know, but sometimes environmental factors come into play. I mean, A wireless network might work perfectly for years and then all of a sudden it gets flaky, because if a tree grew in the way right. And interferes with the signal, but it would only in the summer, it works fine in the winter because it’s one of the leaves are in bloom, when someone comes to me is considering using wireless ethernet. I always ask 10 questions. What kind of devices are you connecting? That’s important. How many devices are you connecting and keep in mind, you might add more devices later. How much data are you moving? Is it sip safety? How often do you need to send that data?
What are the environmental factors like you’re talking about the tree, but also, as an indoor in a warehouse and a lot of metal beans or is it outdoor with perfect line of sight? And then there’s different types of antennas. You could use one of the local laws for wireless. It’s definitely apply in the US but if you’re deploying a solution outside of the US there might be laws that come into play.
And then the last two are, what frequencies are available and what channels are available. Those are usually the 10 questions, things you need to consider before you deploy the wireless.
Gotcha. So I mean that, that headwind of reliability, though, it sounds like you can hit that off with the right type of planning and implementation and designing the correct system.
You got to keep in mind that, industrial wireless radios are not your LyncSys router in your house. They’re hardened. They’re, for the environment they are meant to like, not fail, right? You can’t handle, if you’re watching Netflix and you lose your internet. Oh but if you’re it’s the factory at GM goes down because the wireless went down. That’s a big problem.
Yeah. That’s a different story there. What about the engineer out there is thinking right now they’re Vic and they’re listening to you talk, but they’re just, they’re bent, man. I gotta have that blue hose. This is critical. It cannot be replaced with wireless, how do you talk to that individual?
I tend to not twist anybody’s arm. I’m not going to waste their time trying to offer something that’s helpful or valuable, who insists that blue hoses can’t be replaced with wireless. You can’t lead a horse to water. But, I’ll say, “Hey, you can save a lot of money on time and inflation.” You can get up and running quickly. Implementation is easier. It’s extremely convenient now, but ultimately it might just allow you to do something that you couldn’t do before when the physical cable, and now you’re talking like, next level functionality.
No doubt. I love it. I, and that, that whole piece, where you don’t have to there’s less capital. You’re not having to make those big cable runs and things like that. So it definitely has its place. And we were talking, getting ready to work together here. You mentioned some pretty cool use cases, man that, that got me going. Share those with our listeners about what you’ve seen, where wireless ethernet is being used.
Sure, sure. Wireless, you know, wireless, uh, Amusement park ride. That’s my favorite. You can’t drag an ethernet cable around with the rollercoaster car. So it’s big and amusement park rides automotive manufacturers, you got the skillets going around constantly as they’re building cars. Those could be connected wirelessly, the other PLC on a skillet and then a bunch of access points that it stops just happened to. Uh, Broadway shows, right? When you’ve got the stage, the set mobile set things move around on a set. That was pretty cool. Your Amazons, your Walmarts. They’ve got, AGVs running around all over the place.
Those are all talking wirelessly back to an access point, a couple of other ones like tire and rubber facilities. These places are surprised to learn some of them making upwards of 40,000 passenger car tires a day. So they got to store these things. They’ve got to stack them.
And another cool one. The last one, I’d say, if you don’t cranes at ports that are unloading container ships container from ships, eliminating the cables involved in that. Those are all, some pretty cool applications that I see all the time. The biggest thing with wireless or SIP safety has always been, a key thing that prevented the use of wireless ethernet. You know and these kinds of applications, all of those cool ones I just described, but the latest wireless technology has given wireless ethernet that ultra fast roaming times, right below 10 milliseconds. So as low as two milliseconds, this is critical when you’re talking about allowable packet losses during what’s called roaming and the roaming is a hop over from one access point to the next.
So Vic, that’s very great points. Cause sip is very important to consider with this wireless. Now, do you happen to remember that roller coaster, because I know you sent me one, I can’t remember off the top of my head, but it was pretty cool.
Yeah. Yeah. So it was a drop tower called SkyFall over in Europe.
And it’s pretty cool because imagine you’ve got this ring full of 24 people sitting and they bring them up, I don’t know, 300 feet, four feet, and then they drop them. And they need to, maintain communication with that unit as it’s going up and down with people. And there’s lots of sexes on there, is there waiting to see is the seatbelt clicked over? So you imagine this thing just cycling back and forth is, managing that with a flexing cable. There was a technology used on that actually called radiating cable, which is a special antenna that runs the entire length of the drop. So instead of an antenna pointing at it, it’s got like perfect line of sight the whole way down because the antenna literally runs the whole way down.
Nice. Nice. Very cool. We’ll link that video too. Cause when you send it to me, Vic, that thing was, that was super cool to yeah man. I was like I don’t do those rides. I think, our executive producer, he likes that stuff, but It looks pretty cool, man. Good stuff. Now, big, a big topic, Vic, that we’ve talked about a lot on the show, cyber security, and you recently with some recent events in this country, you’ve seen that happen be even more prevalent. So when you introduce wireless ethernet and to the cybersecurity together, how do we make sure that the data is not getting into the wrong hands, man?
You know, You start talking about things like wireless ethernet has WPA 3 256 bit AES encryption. These are the precautions that are taken to ensure security. And I’ll be honest. I don’t really know how it works. I’m not exactly sure how it can be hacked or not. But, you know, some locations where wireless ethernet is used and they’re fairly isolated from the public. So in cases like that, nobody really has access to the signal anyway, but even if they did, some radio is have this rogue access signal detection, and even this air marshal compatibility or capability. So basically they can detect a source of interference and unfriendly IP address, a Mac address, and they can actually kill it.
That’s just the sky marshal air Marshall. My, my son explained it to me this way. I liked his explanation. He said, imagine you had a padlock, right? And you needed a key and only one key works. And you have a pile in front of you with one times 10 to the 77th key to choose from. So that’s one with 77 zeros after it. It’s a lot of keys and only one key works. It’s pretty much unhackable by just brute force method.
Okay that makes me feel better about it, for sure about it. How about the engineering? You mentioned your son or any young engineer out there, just interested and learning about some of these best practices that you’ve been unpacking. Where should they be investing some time to get better?
So as far as best practices, I think I can think of four. The first one, I think the biggest one is to find mentors. This is extremely important. You invest the time. To find the people who have proven to be good at what you want to do, right?
Like system design, they’re out there. You can learn from them. These are very successful people, you’ll eventually grow beyond what you know, what they are, but most of them are very happy to help. They want to talk about what they know, what they’ve learned and share with you.
I learned a lot just listening to your podcasts. I mean that’s one you know, read, I like to read biographies and audio books while I’m driving, because I can learn in two hours or in two days what it took an expert decades to learn. That’s all I compressed into two hours. That’s very efficient. I think that’s a great practice.
Another one is, really organize your notes. I write everything down and I’m not talking about on a napkin. I like journal. I have journals on my shelves here that go back into the late eighties. And I referenced them once in awhile on my bookshelves and the last one, I think this is a good practice and it’s never be satisfied.
You go out and you look for the circumstances that you want. And if you can’t find it, make it right. Always be curious about what you’re doing or having, or making something better.
No doubt. Vic, this has been a lot of great information on this topic and we call it eco S while we were always wrap up with the why so the list for the listener that’s out there, that is interested in wireless ethernet. Why should industry embrace that technology and start utilizing its capabilities?
So, I don’t think industry needs to embrace wireless for the sake of adopting something new, but again, that’s what we’ve been saying here, ethernnet wireless, ethernet does offer a solution in an area where traditionally that cable just doesn’t work. You know, it opens the door to new possibilities that didn’t exist before. Long distance. The max length of ethernet cable is a hundred meters without a repeater. Wireless Ethan, that can go miles. Right? And then when you incorporate cellular, you can hit anywhere around the world.
You know, Chris funny little fact cellular coverage is the number two most available resource on the planet next to air.
There you go
Costs, you know compare theVic: 19:12 cost. Like we’ve talked about running conduit, pulling wire, trenching under roads, wireless deployment is so much easier sometimes. And then there was, the sip safety we talked about, this is a big one. All the generation radios just didn’t have, it couldn’t cut it in mobile applications that required sip safety. Now they can, you know, I think. Chris, there’s all this talk about digital transformation, right? Industry 4.0 the IIOT, pick your subject headline. I’ve heard it said that the basis of any IIOT strategy is data. And I agree with that statement, but how do you get the data? I take it one step further and say the basis of any IOT strategy is connectivity. Nope. You need to connect, get your hands on the data. And there’s definitely data out there that just can’t be reached with a cable.
No doubt. Love it. Love it. And enhance wireless ethernet that gets you there. So for the listeners that want to learn more connect with Vick, check out the show notes, we’ll have all the resources and links there that he mentioned be able to connect with you directly on LinkedIn and other areas as well as ProSoft. And Vic, man. Thank you. This has been a lot of fun. I really enjoyed what you did broad on this fun topic.
Thank you. Thanks for having me.
Absolutely. Thank you, sir.