State of Wireless Networking

The Results from a 2013 Survey of 150 Industrial Networking Readers Provide Insight into Wireless Options

By Jim Montague

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A survey of more than 150 readers of sister-publication Industrial Networking in February 2013 found that:

Nearly 57% of respondents presently have wireless in their applications and facilities, while 43.2% do not use wireless. Of the 57% with wireless Ethernet, the most common types employed are:

Wireless HART 31.6%
802.11b/g 28.6%
WiFi (802.11n) 9.2%
Proprietary protocol 9.2%
802.11a 5.1%
ZigBee (802.15.4) 1%

Meanwhile, 47.5% of respondents have approved projects to deploy wireless during the next year, but 52.5% have not. Of the 47.5% of respondents who plan to deploy wireless, the most popular types are:

Wireless HART 35.8%
802.11b/g 16.1%
WiFI (802.11n) 14.8%
ZigBee (802.15.4) 4.9%
Proprietary protocol 6.2%
802.11a 2.5%


In addition, respondents' most common uses or intended uses for wireless are:

Monitoring 59.7%
Control 27.7%
Alerts/alarms 12.6%


Also, respondents needed varying cycle times from their wireless devices, including:

1 second or slower 52.8%
500-999 msec  20.8%
100-499 msec 15.2%
Faster than 100 msec 11.2%
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  • Interesting data. Confirms my expectations.

    “WirelessHART” (IEC 62591) is one word, without space

    I guess “Proprietary protocol” means non standard radio technology

    802.11b/g, 802.11n, and 802.11a are all Wi-Fi, not just 802.11n

    It would be interesting to know what industrial Ethernet application protocols run over the 802.11b/g, 802.11n, and 802.11a radio. Is it mainly Modbus/TCP? How about PROFINET, FF-HSE, EtherNet/IP, and HART-IP over the Wi-Fi radio? Maybe they are running proprietary protocols over standard radio? In the next survey you may wish to probe deeper into this.

    Note that ZigBee is not the only protocol using 802.15.4 radio. WirelessHART and many others use that same radio. ZigBee is an application protocol. ZigBee is not the same as 802.15.4 so 802.15.4 should not be in bracket next to ZigBee it perpetuates the misunderstanding they are the same.

    It would also be interesting to know more about update periods slower than 1 second. I believe most wireless applications are far slower than 1 second. How about 30 seconds, 1 minute, 30 minutes, and 1 hour. It may be interesting to ask this in the next survey because I believe many remote monitoring applications fall into this range. Personally I expect this type of “moderate speed” measurements will increase dramatically in the next years as wireless is used for plant modernization with pervasive sensing of missing measurements as a second layer of automation beyond the P&ID using WirelessHART: http://community.emerson.com/process/emerson-exchange/b/weblog/archive/2013/10/03/why-are-there-missing-measurements.aspx

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