Wi-Fi Assurance is Achievable No Matter What the Requirements

It’s possible to achieve Industrial wireless sensor network and Wi-Fi assurance with any diligently designed wireless network.

Wi-Fi Assurance Requires Great Project Management

It’s IP Assurance (IPA)’s unique Project Management office and experience that sets our company apart from our competitors. It is unique because our PMI certified project managers are also wireless engineers! At other companies, engineers operate without a phased approach, lessons learned, KPIs and other project management support. But at IP Assurance, that’s how we ensure our clients have a great experience every-single-time. The goal is for our customers to be successful and to utilize their Wi-Fi and Industrial wireless sensor networks fully without issues during the useful life of that wireless network.

What is Wi-Fi Assurance?

Assurance is another word for reliability. No wireless network will ever be perfect. Our advice is to run from any consultant that encourages buyers to believe so. The goal is to provide assurance that the wireless network will do what it was designed to do. The tricky part with Wi-Fi, or any type of wireless, is determining how it will be used and where the coverage will be required.

We Have An Automated Wi-Fi Tool – Why Do We Need Another Wireless Project?

Automated tools are great for operating a wireless network to provide Wi-Fi assurance. They use existing fixed access points to learn and report issues. And therein lies the problem – fixed and existing access points.

Existing access points suffer from longevity issues. That is, all wireless technology is exposed to Cooper’s law which drives new technology and improvements on a continuous 30-month cycle since 1895. Read more about Cooper’s law here. That fancy new wireless AP will have a new model roughly every 3 years and be out of support in 5 to 7 years. In roughly 10 years it will be irrelevant.

And because the APs are fixed, the automated tool won’t be able to “see” into new areas because the APs are fixed. This could be partially mitigated by having monitoring from the client devices but all this data will still be subject to considerable debate about what it might mean since client Wi-Fi device stacks are infamously unreliable in their implementations.

What this all comes down to is this: Are the business needs going to change within a 5-10 year period? It’s highly likely that they will. And these automated tools are not useful if business needs change. They will not address:

  • Need for new/multiple wireless protocols at the access layer (e.g. private LTE vs sensor networks vs Wi-Fi)
  • Benefits of new models of APs that deliver enhanced performance and capacity
  • Coverage of new areas
  • Need for serving additional density of devices (e.g. growth from the Internet of Things)

Periodic projects are needed to have Wi-Fi assurance that meet changing business needs .

Wi-Fi Assurance Process

Scope/Requirements/Architectural Standards

The first thing we do before we start engineering is to help define or fine-tune a client’s requirements. This is critical to ensure we can provide Wi-Fi assurance (meet a reliable delivery of service) for the client’s requirements. As is often the case, the client has many internal stakeholders so we provide a list of questions for the client to consider when drafting wireless requirements. This list is the result of experience designing wireless installations at hundreds of industrial, manufacturing and mining sites. It is pretty easy to miss some internal stakeholders when designing wireless networks. This can cause situations where Wi-Fi assurance can’t be provided with the initial delivery of the wireless network. IP Assurance’s process helps the client to identify all of the appropriate stakeholders.

IPA also includes a low-cost value-add architectural standards review. Having architectural standards is as critical as defining the scope and requirements. So, if a client is missing any, IPA will suggest standards and explain their impact and business case value.

Site Survey

IPA then conducts a site survey. To survey large areas in a reasonable amount of time, we use a proprietary survey method. For example, this method can survey large areas (plants of a million square feet and up) effectively in a reasonable amount of time (usually within one week). The quality of the maps obtained is a key success factor. The level of detail and the clarity of the maps directly relates to the quality of the final output. Following the survey, we conduct a technical review with the internal stakeholders. After technical review signed off, IPA moves to the next phase. IPA develops a bill of materials for the client to use the equipment vendor of their choice.

Construction and Validation

Clients typically use a local installer for construction. IPA is happy to provide installation oversight or IPA can manage the entire construction project, it all depends on what the client wants. IPA optionally can do a field acceptance test (FAT) when the equipment arrives. This test ensures the equipment operates as expected before it is installed into hard to reach or out of the way places. After construction, IPA conducts a remote pre-site acceptance test (SAT) audit. This to ensures construction was fully completed and all components of the system are online and ready.

Once construction is complete, IPA goes onsite for a Radio Frequency (RF) Validation and SAT. Our engineers tune and optimize the system and measure the real-world results against the original design. Clients receive a final report which includes a heatmap and any identified issues that were out of the scope of the project. Clients also optionally have their Network Monitoring System (NMS) configured ready for hand off to operations. For post-project support, IPA has the capability to operate remotely via their Remote Managed Services (RMS) offering.

Wi-Fi Assurance Engineers

IPA engineers are battle tested – literally. Many of IPA’s engineers installed and maintained wireless assurance for the USA’s military in Afghanistan and other conflicts. During these tours our engineers encountered conditions that required them to push the wireless systems past their designed operating parameters. IPA’s head engineer, Patrick Conlan, even authored a book entitled Cisco Network Professional’s Advanced Internetworking Guide (CCNP Series).  Using his background as a former Wireless training instruction, Patrick ensures that every engineer working on our team has the support they need to deliver successfully to clients. What’s more, Patrick is happy to train our engineering team in whatever they need to do to operate and provide Wi-Fi assurance on a daily basis.

Wi-Fi Assurance Means Happy Clients and Repeat Business

Because Industrial business and requirements often change, many of our customers have us back to re-tune, build out new areas of the plant or make the wireless system ready for new technology (e.g. autonomous vehicles, location tracking, augmented reality, etc.). That’s the kind of trust IP Assurance has built in our business of providing Industrial wireless sensor networks and Wi-Fi assurance.

About IP Assurance

IP Assurance has engineering experience with many vendor networks including Cisco, Emerson, Honeywell, Aruba, Redline, Cambium, Mist and many others. In addition, we have extensive experience in Real-Time Location Services (RTLS) with vendor systems including AeroScout and Vuteur. Thinking of exploring private LTE? From the access layer to the core, IPA has customers covered. IPA provides this expertise with a global team that has successfully executed projects throughout the world. Find out more about us.

IP Assurance | Committed to designing and integrating smart infrastructure.

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Manufacturing WiFi improvement during production

The Challenge

Our client came to us with the challenge to upgrade the WiFi, wired and location tracking components at their multiple million square feet custom glass manufacturing facilities. Not only that, but the facilities would need to continue to operate at full capacity during the build-outs.

This project includes working in and around operating lines without disrupting plant output. Some examples of the equipment online and running during the project were; glass tempering lines, glass cutting lines, automated sorting systems and framing lines. Our work also included maintaining existing connectivity while migrating to a new system.

The Evaluation

The manufacturing process relies on tracking and locating materials all the way through the fabrication process. This kind of tracking requires reliable and efficient WiFi. The old location tracking system had significantly deteriorated over the years. We found there were dead zones to deal with and inability to implement new features required by the business. Business needed the system to be more accurate and have greater functionality. We also discovered that a lot of the hardware was older than the first iPhone!

The Implementation

During the evaluation we discovered just how out of date and insufficient the existing system was. Not much had changed in the network in the manufacturing plant as technology improved. Our team of engineers needed to do quite a lot to make sure this manufacturing facility had full coverage networks and WiFi.

  • First, they defined network architecture standards in order to build-out a greenfield facility.
  • Next, they developed standards template for building out and improving current process control networks which includes connectivity to PLCs / HMIs.
  • During the build-out we planned training sessions for network architecture. The sessions focused on the isolated systems, like PCN. We conducted these sessions when we were already onsite to do surveys and validation surveys.
  • Our team added/replaced/augmented switching infrastructure to handle the load.
  • We replaced any device that was out of support. Typically these devices were 12-15 years old, at the time, some of these devices were older than the first iPhone! The devices were WLAN (APs, controllers) and location tracking system (RTLS).
  • Our engineers upgraded the location tracking system and validated the custom API.
  • This project included net new fiber cabling to upgrade all backbone lines to 10GB.

The Result

Our Customer let us know that the new network and installed WiFi measurably improved their business. They told us that the new technology easily paid for the cost of the network upgrades with the labor savings and additional automation mechanisms now available to them

Contact us to hear more about manufacturing wifi install!

Refinery WiFi design

The Challenge

Our client, a big Oil and Gas plant operator, came to us looking to install wireless at one of their refineries. This was a particular challenge because a past design was partially in place and not working at all. IP Assurance could not design from scratch, we needed to work with what was there. Instead, we needed to carefully change what was there already to get a totally new wireless infrastructure.

The Evaluation

IP Assurance staff dug into the existing design and evaluated each access point to make sure there was optimal coverage. Then the design was changed to minimize any new equipment costs and to take advantage of what was already there.

The Implementation

The implementation of the previous design was incomplete. Our engineers modified 50% of the existing access point locations. Also, we added 20% more access points to the refinery WiFi install. During the process we were able to guide the client to industry best practices for installing fiber optics, which benefitted their control systems as well. Once the physical install was complete, we tuned the system for optimal connectivity. We also adjusted the system for maximum capacity.

The Result

The oil and gas refinery wireless install went smoothly and the client was so happy that Phase II has already begun. The extra capacity allowed all of the plant operators to monitor and take logs for the control systems remotely. With the extra connectivity, they added monitoring devices like vibration, temperature, and tank level sensors. Before the changes, those devices could not be connected. This means the plant is safer. IP Assurance went on to install WiFi for eight other plants for the same pleased client.

Contact Us to hear more about refinery WiFi design and installs!

Autonomous mining fleet needs great WiFi

The Challenge

The efforts of the research and development arm of a global mining operation were stymied because their vehicles were not communicating properly over WiFi. The existing communication infrastructure wasn’t able to run their autonomous vehicles project. The project goal was to remotely operate and monitor fleet maintenance for a sampling of mining vehicles: a haul truck, a dozer, a loader, and three small test vehicles.

The communication system needed to facilitate four things. First, it needed to handle real-time data from sensors monitoring several systems like the fleet management system (FMS); the global positioning system (GPS), the proximity system. Second, it needed to transmit real-time live video feeds. Thirdly, it needed to handle two-way communication for vehicle control commands and feedback. Last, it needed to provide full redundancy from the core to the farthest edges of the more than 20 square mile property. The existing facilities were not up to the challenge of running everything in the mine over WiFi.

The Evaluation

IP Assurance engineers evaluated the project requirements and existing facilities at the R & D Center. The existing wireless infrastructure could not provide the bandwidth or coverage to support the project—a wireless MESH network could.

The Implementation

Our team began with a ground-up redesign and installed new power (power-switches, UPS, electrical busses, and the like) and network fiber distribution systems, along with a fully redesigned data center switch block. Our distributed campus model provided coverage for the entire property.

The final design supported full data, voice, real-time video, surveillance video, and a wireless network to accommodate thousands of employees and hundreds of contractors and temporary workers.

Upon completion, the IT infrastructure:

  • Provided the required bandwidth and coverage for all applications—with room to grow
  • Removed all single points of failure
  • Redundantly connected 10-Gig Core Switches
  • IP phones and Call Managers for better quality of service and reliability, the integration of a 2-way radio system, and the elimination of multiple phone systems

The Result

The MESH deployment allowed the research project to be finished. As well, test results facilitated a full, corporate-wide deployment of the fleet management and vehicle health and maintenance systems.

IP Assurance designed and implemented the infrastructure to facilitate communication to the mobile mining fleet over WiFi. This allows a centrally located fleet dispatcher to track maintenance and monitor driver fatigue, tire wear, and engine health. The fleet system has now been implemented at 11 mine sites in North America, South America, and Africa.

The remote operation portions of the project proved out. Research into the remote operation of autonomous vehicles continues at the proving grounds. The proving grounds are the R&D site operated by a heavy equipment manufacturer—using an IT infrastructure designed and implemented by IP Assurance.

Contact Us to hear more about mining wifi installs.

Super Bowl Stadium WiFi install done right

The Challenge

In 2011 the existing IT infrastructure for the Dallas Cowboys Stadium was not good enough to handle the data traffic needed to host Super Bowl XLV. Nothing would ruin a great day of football like lagging data and dropped connections. Except maybe warm beer and soggy hotdogs or rain. Our client approached us to improve the network, so it could handle game day load. Our expertise is networks in complex environments, so we were up to the challenge. Come hear a story about a stadium WiFi install done right, even if we can’t control the weather.

The Evaluation

The network needed to handle traffic for all outdoor ticketing system, vendor connections, security-video cameras and, AT&T Wi-Fi access for thousands of fans! Our staff surveyed the entire outdoor property at Arlington Stadium. We did a thorough analysis of the survey results. Then we designed a system that could handle what was expected and more.

The Implementation

We were able to design and implement an extremely challenging and complex RF architecture. We did this by using a Wireless MESH Network. It supported full coverage of all outdoor areas and has centralized control to maximize both security and performance and be Super Bowl ready!

The only wired network access to the outside came from the roof. The roof access point is over 100 feet above the surface in the parking areas. We needed to connect all the wireless to this connection point. We installed a total of 8 Root Access Points (RAPs) on the roof, which required the use of directional antennas. The MESH Access Points (MAPs) are installed on street lights in the parking areas, each roughly 30 feet above ground. These linkback to the antennas on the roof. Many of the parking areas are between ¾ and 1¼ miles from the building. The distance means creating a clear line of sight was critical.

Additionally, the event (semi-temporary) coverage areas were designed and installed specifically for the Super Bowl.

The Result

Our design of a network provided the resources necessary to handle the data traffic generated on game day. Our advanced Wireless MESH install managed traffic for one of the largest events in the world. It handled all the data needs for the team, league, referee, and security communications; media channels; and avid fans .

The network supported and sustained thousands of users for the entire Super Bowl event. It can now be used for large event coverage going forward. Now that is what is known as stadium WiFi install done right.

Contact Us to hear more about stadium WiFi installs.