Predictive maintenance: Wireless, a game changer

Bye, bye cables and connections, hello radio antennas.

Wireless systems have brought communication technology to the next level and open up exciting new possibilities. However, attention to the details of how wireless systems carry out this communication is not always considered in system installation and initialization. This can lead to dead-ends at the time of the on-site deployment. So, what are the best practices for deploying a wireless sensor network? We provide you with instruction and tips below.

First, clarify that when it comes to the issue of deployment, wireless capabilities exist. Once you have verified that the wireless system in question is able to meet the specifications of the monitoring that you want to set up (type of machines and faults to follow, frequency of monitoring, nature of the data to be collected, etc.), you can verify that the sensors are adapted to the environment of the plant (temperature, dust, etc.,) and that they offer sufficient autonomy and adequate measurement capabilities. Next, you will need to ensure that the network and the communication protocol used by the wireless system are sufficiently secure and correctly sized in relation to the needs of the application.

NB: To clearly define the specifications of your wireless monitoring application, we invite you to check out our free white paper “Predictive maintenance: towards a change of paradigm?”

Now, let’s go back to the issue of deployment. What should you start with?

  1. It is important to address all the connection questions between the wireless sensor network and the main network of the company (connection points, security, connection to the server, data format, etc.). For these questions, it is best to involve IT services at an early stage.
  2. In addition, it is necessary to create a cartographic work of the site. The objective is to have an overview in 2D (or 3D) with a precise scale, and to identify on this overview all the important elements for the project: location of the machines to equip with wireless technology, location of the sensor on the machine, location and description of all elements that could hinder radio waves (nature, thickness, height), and location of network connection points. These two steps are essential prerequisites which will make it possible to evaluate the network coverage and to identify the areas that could pose problems. The success of the deployment depends on diligence in these steps, because in a wireless system, unlike in a wired system, the signal either passes or it does not. For our EAGLE system, for example, taking these steps also allows you to define how many gateways and repeaters will be needed to provide efficient coverage, and where they will need to be placed. On sites of several square kilometers, it is best to work on an overview to define the areas to cover, then you can make a detailed assessment, area by area, of how to optimize the location of the various components of the system.
  3. Next you will need to check directly in the field for all potentially problematic areas and ensure that the deployment scheme designed on paper will function as envisioned. This is when you will finalize your system and validate the installation plan.
  4. Lastly comes the installation phase of the sensors and their initialization in the management interface.

At this stage, the keywords are method and rigor!

There are two options: install the sensors and then create them in the management interface or start by creating them in the interface before installing them. Whichever option is chosen (we strongly advise against mixing the two approaches), it is imperative to establish a document in which each sensor, identified by its serial number, is associated with a specific location on a given machine and its avatar in the management interface. Otherwise, it will be impossible to be certain that we are measuring what we want to measure.

There you have the guidelines for installing and preparing to install a wireless network. If you have more questions or concerns, please contact us; we would be happy to help you.

by Guillaume Lavaure | | September 21, 2017
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