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Wireless solutions gaining traction in industrial IoT applications, Berg study finds

David Murphy

Annual shipments of wireless devices for industrial automation applications reached 4.6m units worldwide in 2018, accounting for approximately 6 per cent of all new connected nodes, according to the latest study from the M2M/IoT analyst firm Berg Insight.

Growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 16.3 per cent, annual shipments are expected to reach 9.9m in 2023. The installed base of wireless IoT devices in industrial automation reached 21.3m in 2018.

While wired networking solutions are still predominantly used for industrial communications between sensors, controllers and systems, wireless solutions have gained a strong foothold in a number of applications. Wireless solutions are used for wire replacement in parts of the plant that are hard to reach or uneconomical to connect through wired installations.

In factory automation, wireless solutions are widely used to control cranes and automated guided vehicles (AGVs) in material handling applications. In process automation, wireless technologies are increasingly used to connect instruments, enabling plant operators to monitor and optimise processes in hazardous areas, while also ensuring worker safety.

Major providers of wired industrial network equipment also offer wireless solutions to enable customers to monitor and control devices wirelessly in parts of the plant that are normally not connected to the control room due to accessibility or wiring costs. These include Siemens, Cisco, Belden, Moxa and Phoenix Contact, which all offer comprehensive portfolios of industrial wireless devices such as routers, gateways and wireless access points along their wired solutions. Industrial wireless solutions are also offered by many mid and small-sized companies, which often specialise in specific product categories.

“Robust connectivity is critical to support industrial IoT use cases surrounding predictive maintenance and digital twins”, said Fredrik Stålbrand, IoT analyst at Berg Insight. He adds that, while reliability and security remain a challenge, wi-fi has emerged as the most widely-used wireless technology in industrial environments largely due to the wide availability of compatible hardware. There is also a growing trend among large industrial companies to deploy private 4G LTE networks instead of using wi-fi or wired solutions. “The introduction of 5G cellular technologies broadens the addressable market for wireless communications even furtherm as it allows for deployments in situations where requirements related to bandwidth, latency and capacity cannot be fulfilled today,” Stålbrand concludes.

There’s more information about the report here.

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