Sunday 21st Apr 2019 - Logistics Manager Magazine

Going autonomous? May as well do it from a distance

The use of wireless Internet of Things devices is steadily growing and is set to continue to grow. And this goes hand in hand with industrial automation. Can you have one without the other?

Maria Highland, reporter.

IoT analyst firm Berg insight has released a new research report which found that annual shipments of wireless devices for industrial automation applications reached 4.6 million units worldwide in 2018. This accounted for roughly 6 per cent of all new connected nodes. The report predicted that, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 16.3 percent, annual shipments are expected to reach 9.9 million in 2023.

Likewise, the installed base of wireless IoT devices in industrial automation hit 21.3 million in 2018. This is not surprising given that wireless solutions are swiftly replacing the use of wires in industrial locations where it is hard reach or uneconomical to connect things through wired installations.

This is particularly useful in factory automation. Wireless solutions control cranes and automated guided vehicles (AGVs) in material and in process automation wireless technologies connect instruments, enabling plant operators to monitor and optimise processes in hazardous areas from a safe distance.

“Robust connectivity is critical to support industrial IoT use cases surrounding predictive maintenance and digital twins,” said Berg Insight IoT analyst Fredrik Stålbrand. He added that installation and maintenance of wireless solutions are proving to be more flexible and economical compared to wired technologies, enabling reconfigurable manufacturing system design.

“Wi-Fi has emerged as the most widely used wireless technology in industrial environments largely due to the wide availability of compatible hardware,” added Stålbrand.

And large industrial companies are taking the next step and beginning to deploy private 4G LTE networks instead of using Wi-Fi and even wired solutions: “The introduction of 5G cellular technologies broadens the addressable market for wireless communications even further as it allows for deployments in situations where requirements related to bandwidth, latency and capacity cannot be fulfilled today,” said Stålbrand.

So, more wireless connectivity and a higher bandwidth capacity may provide more automation options for your warehouse. Best get investing.