Wireless solutions for production environments
Connectivity is currently the most crucial factor for the digital transformation currently underway in industry and its role is becoming increasingly important. One of the biggest demands on industrial communication is the efficient provisioning of highly-productive and reliable machines and systems. Under these conditions, there is an increasing focus on the next phase of industrial connectivity, which will involve even more mobility, automatic configurability and simple integration of a large number of Internet of Things (IoT) devices.
The fortiss TSNWiFi project specifically examines industrial applications based on infrastructures that take advantage of the benefits of wireless and wired deterministic technologies. The fortiss scientists are also working on improvements to close time synchronization and timely planning for wireless technologies, which can thus serve critical applications in production environments.
The TSNWiFi project is making a contribution to WiFi6 (IEEE 802.11ax), the latest wireless standard for machine-to-machine communication and Internet of Things in complex industrial environments. Unlike earlier WiFi standards, WiFi6 has features that enable precise time synchronization and limited latency. In addition, wireless technologies offer significant advantages such as lower (operational) costs, scalability, flexibility when changing the production system and the elimination of expensive, high-maintenance cabling. In order to provide time-critical applications with periodic and sensitive data traffic with restricted guarantees, further enhancements to wireless technologies are required however. This includes the remote control of critical devices in production lines.
Because WiFi6/6E/7 is still under development, fortiss is conducting research into novel software-based solutions that optimally support industrial scenarios and applications. The software-based methods developed as part of the TSNWiFi project are contributing to the integration of wireless technologies into industrial environments.
TSNWiFi is contributing to three important aspects. To enable precise time synchronization, the researchers are analyzing the relevant time synchronization of the wireless mechanisms that can be used with orthogonal frequency division multiple access (OFDMA) WiFi. Researchers are furthermore examining the mechanisms for suitable isolation of the data traffic and also defining the time-managed access that meets the requirements of the time-critical network data traffic.
The project is contributing to a comprehensive view of the current industry standards that already rely on wireless technologies for various vertical markets (production, mining, energy, public infrastructures) and is recommending important requirements for future fields of application.
The fortiss scientists have furthermore analyzed the current WiFi6 and WiFi7 standards and software-based mechanisms for supporting close time synchronization developed on the basis of the IEEE 802.11mc standard. This includes time-critical scheduling based on the “target-wake time” approach integrated into the IEEE 802.11ax standard, as well as isolation of the data traffic based on the definitions of the WiFi6 resource unit.
The results of the TSNWiFi project will then be integrated into a demonstrator set up in the fortiss Industrial IoT lab.
With the meaningful results of the TSNWiFi project, researchers have gained a better understanding of the integration of wireless technologies in industrial environments and the associated advantages. A recommendation for an enhancement to the current wireless standards, which is designed to enable deterministic guarantees for industrial scenarios, was developed as well.
Upon conclusion, the project resulted in open-source software integrated into open-source drivers, which improves the behavior of the WiFi6 standard.
The TSNWiFi project is supported and financed by Huawei Technologies Düsseldorf GmbH. The international company develops intelligent, digitally-networked systems as the foundation for a virtually self-organized production environment.