Deploying Wi-Fi HaLow in Logistics & Asset Management
A complete asset management system offers a comprehensive view of raw materials, WIP, finished goods inventory, and real-time tracking – all the way from the fulfilment process to the end customer. Measuring the health of capital equipment used to produce and move these goods minimizes downtime and outages. Together with sensor data that reports on the location of high-value cargo, a big picture can be painted. Regardless of whether a company owns the complete logistics chain, or shares resources with other companies, a transparent view of real-time information should be available at every point. The end result is predictable planning, compliance to regulations, and no surprises for the customers.
Wi-Fi HaLow™ is an industry standard wireless solution which provides a secure bidirectional flow of information for exactly these systems in sub-GigaHertz frequencies. Wi-Fi HaLow uses narrower channels than normal 2.4GHz or 5GHz Wi-Fi.
Morse Micro, a semiconductor company, designs low-power Integrated Circuits (ICs) compliant to this international standard. Equipment suppliers can build tags, trackers, scanners and monitors which operate across a wide range of distances and data rates. Such devices can access the internet through standard HaLow Access Points (APs) across all logistics and warehousing domains. They can replace proprietary wireless technologies that have limited reach, data capacity and battery life.
To illustrate the features of Wi-Fi Halow 802.11ah in logistics, four use cases are inspected in detail; a large warehouse, tags & trackers, pickers & scanners, and security systems.
Large Warehouses — distance & density
The network infrastructure of a large warehouse needs to provide ample bandwidth and enough capacity for all the devices on-site. IT organizations are faced with supporting personnel, equipment, robots, security devices, inventory tracking systems as well as building automation systems such as HVAC, power, lighting, safety.
Planning how to overlay service for 100,000 square feet of warehouse for conventional Wi-Fi service using 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands requires many dozens of Access Points (APs). Each AP needs a Power-over-Ethernet (PoE) cable connection back to a wiring closet switch. Furthermore, it may employ a server-based controller to manage security and roaming. The maximum density of clients that can be served this way is typically measured in terms of 100s of clients per AP – quite low.
In contrast, a Wi-Fi HaLow AP signal reaches 10x farther, covering 100x the area, and 1000x the volume of normal Wi-Fi. The penetration of sub-GHz signals through racks of inventory is better than for 2.4GHz signals used by traditional Wi-Fi. Each HaLow AP can support up to 8,191 client devices; many more than conventional Wi-Fi. To cover the same 100,000 square foot warehouse with HaLow requires only a few new APs or HaLow expansion radio cards.
HaLow can be added to existing infrastructure without impacting the RF performance of the highly-tuned higher bandwidth networks, or the wiring closet.
Easy modulation and fast implementation of Wi-Fi HaLow is not only beneficial in warehouse deployments, it also enables tags and tracker applications.
Tags and Trackers
Wi-Fi HaLow operates in sub-GigaHertz frequencies, with narrower channels than normal 2.4GHz Wi-Fi. The benefit of Wi-Fi HaLow technology for tags or trackers is that signals reach farther and penetrate objects better at lower total power. HaLow retains the Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing (OFDM) modulation scheme of Wi-Fi, which improves robustness of connections in multipath environments allowing the signal to reflect off objects.
With Wi-Fi HaLow routers, cargo carriers can establish 2-way satellite internet connections on their trucks, trains, planes, ships or warehouses. HaLow allows multiple customers’ shipments to be aggregated on board whilst still providing improved connectivity throughout. This eliminates any concerns about the location of a tag or tracker – even with countless containers. Each customer can have separate encrypted L3 tunnels back to their home platforms using Morse Micro’s internet-ready SOCs.
How this could look in practice? Find an example of fruit transportation below.
Perishable items such as fruit must be kept in optimal environmental conditions and therefore their transit from A to B should be monitored with a Wi-Fi HaLow smart tracker. These trackers can range from temperature sensors, to ethylene gas sensors measuring ripeness, all the way to accelerometers to measure g-force shock. With Wi-Fi HaLow Access Points (APs) on trucks, ships, trains or planes, these sensor readings can be communicated to all parties at any time. The tracker’s signals can penetrate through bulk materials – allowing connectivity even in densely packed cargos. Knowing the location and condition of the container of fruit can help the owner determine next steps, like selecting the best grocery store to receive the shipment at optimal ripeness. These tags can be built using low-cost coin cell batteries and last for years. They can be reprogrammed and redeployed for future shipments at any time.
The need for trackers increases where strict compliance to regulations is demanded. Transmitting data on cold chain profiles of foods, medicines or volatile materials requires increased levels of security to prevent tampering. Morse Micro’s Wi-Fi HaLow SOCs include secure boot technology that enables trusted platform connections of encrypted communications over the air. Wi-Fi HaLow data bandwidth allows for transferring larger amounts of stored data than just simple RFID tags or other proprietary network solutions.
Interested in reading more about the network capacity of Wi-Fi HaLow? Download this white paper here.
Besides providing the bandwidth for secure data transmission, wireless networks in logistical IoT also need to establish a robust connection. Find out what that means when applied to pickers & scanners.
Pickers and Scanners:
Mobile workers and automated robotic product handlers on the floor require the flexibility of traversing the warehouse without losing connectivity. Wi-Fi HaLow provides the robust connection needed – whether that’s for a robot bringing a shelf to the sorting line, or a human driving a forklift to an aisle. In environments like warehouses, signal strength is not the only challenge wireless networks face. Power is a concern too.
Many popular handheld IR scanners, printers, and picking assistance devices need to be recharged every day, or plugged in to wall power in order to maintain a Wi-Fi connection. With Wi-Fi HaLow the power required for the communications link is a small fraction of prior solutions. This greatly extends the time devices can be moving on the floor instead of being plugged in to a wall socket. HaLow can also be used as a long-distance bridge for RFID scanners that require mobility to different parts of the warehouse or loading dock.
Morse Micro’s HaLow solution can cater to any picker or scanner with its low power requirements and stable connections over wide areas.
Security & Safety
Surveillance cameras and motion detectors combined with smart access technology are popular tools for monitoring in logistics. For example, door locks and lighting fixtures together can ensure the safety of raw materials, finished goods or even of personnel – covering all aspects of building safety. Wi-Fi HaLow has the bandwidth to support wireless cameras and sensors deployed in hard-to-reach places - potentially where power cannot be supplied. In combination with the tag and tracking devices mentioned above, this coverage could be extended beyond a warehouse. Lost pallets or high-value assets can be tracked and located at any given time.
Wi-Fi HaLow technology for the above applications will have a positive impact on the efficiency and quality of IoT in logistics. A well-rounded solution for a variety of use cases and devices.
If you are looking to upgrade your own wireless network, reach out to the Morse Micro team here or learn more here.