Rajant Kinetic Mesh: The Secret IIoT Ingredient to Make-or-Break Connectivity

February 27, 2020 Todd Rigby, Director of Sales

Despite the massive developments in the running of businesses over the last several decades, commitment to improving productivity, reliability, and safety remain. Organizations worldwide are going through digital transformations and looking to introduce or expand the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) to streamline operations and fulfill these goals.

However, when it comes to industrial networking environments, the only constant thing is change. Yet, many operators still rely on wireless networks with static configurations, such as LTE or Wi-Fi, which struggle to adapt to changing environments, requirements, and operational demands.

If operators are to unlock the full potential of the IIoT, their operations must be adaptable to deliver the mission-critical reliability needed to reach new levels in the areas of productivity, efficiency, and safety.

Making the right choice

Whether it’s the rising demand for more cargo or coal, every industry is under increasing pressure to scale their operations. From mining to ports, agriculture to oil & gas, operators across the globe are looking for ways to become more agile and innovative in how they prepare for inevitable market shifts and increasing demands.

As a result, they are looking to embrace new IIoT technologies to optimize production efficiency while minimizing expenses. Today’s mission-critical IIoT applications are nothing without reliable communications. Choosing the right network is essential for operators if they are to reap the full benefits of their IIoT implementations.

LTE isn’t enough for IIoT

For some applications, LTE solutions may appear to be an easy choice. However, in dynamic industrial environments where devices require low latency, real-time connectivity that doesn’t break, and sufficient upload bandwidth, LTE does not offer the support and reliability operators need to run efficiently.

For carrier-based LTE, one of the most significant issues is that commercial networks are tuned for consumer devices, which are continually downloading media, not for the needs of the industry where the end device is continuously generating and uploading data. Commercial networks worldwide allocate approximately 80% of the bandwidth to download, leaving minimal bandwidth available for upload. For high bandwidth applications, such as autonomous equipment using video, or critical plant machinery that generates masses of data, which then needs to be uploaded, having this type of constraint can be limiting and frustrating for the user.

Private LTE has overcome some of the challenges of carrier-based LTE. However, it still has its obstacles. One of the main issues of private LTE is its total cost of ownership. While the initial cost may seem competitive, the cost and complexity to operate and maintain such a network is something its proponents are not anxious to discuss. These networks require highly trained staff: at a price point, you are not expecting to pay. Finding industrial-grade client devices can also be a challenge. My recent Google search produced limited options.

Overcoming hurdles

Unlike LTE, Rajant’s Kinetic Mesh wireless networks provide low latency coverage to changing environments. By using BreadCrumb nodes, Kinetic Mesh networks can create a full coverage connection over any required area. BreadCrumbs have multiple transceivers, and each can maintain numerous active connections. Through the use of dynamic distributed routing, which involves BreadCrumbs automatically choosing the quickest path, guaranteeing the best service possible. This is perfect for areas with changing environments when it becomes obstructed; another link will be chosen quickly and smoothly, the same way a network switch functions.

Rajant gives you great deployment flexibility. You can have from zero to many LAN connections, depending on your project requirements. Additionally, nodes can be fixed or mobile. Kinetic Mesh networks are very efficient at making multi-node hops. More than one transceiver can work simultaneously within a BreadCrumb. This eliminates store and forward, which is a standard on competitors’ networks. This also virtually eliminates the latency issues these systems struggle with. The more nodes, the larger the area the network can cover, whether that be a vast city, a small port, or a remote exploration camp. By providing fully mobile wireless broadband connectivity that is simple, instantaneous, and fail-proof in any application, it can meet the needs of your project.

A Kinetic Mesh wireless network by Rajant runs a proprietary protocol that defines how BreadCrumbs interoperate. Rajant follows open standards when communicating externally with Wi-Fi or Ethernet-connected devices. This means your existing technology investment can also be leveraged and integrated to create a more reliable, higher performing, cost-effective solution. By comparison, LTE systems rely on a small number of large wired Base Station infrastructure to connect users. Private LTE networks often include smaller cell on Wheels or COWS to augment coverage. However, placing or relocating a cow requires a complete redesign of the frequency plan and routing table. This is a difficult and costly exercise for even minor network changes. This challenge isn’t a problem for carriers in urban deployments because they can spread the high cost of large engineering staff over hundreds of thousands of customers. But this overhead can be prohibitive for an industrial customer faced with a dynamic environment like a mine or a port where topography changes daily.

An efficient option

Installing a Kinetic Mesh network could not be easier since all routing tables are built automatically when BreadCrumbs power up and refresh at the rate of 50 – 200 times per second. Each BreadCrumb manages its routing. It does this by maintaining multiple active connections and then choosing the optimum path to send data on a packet by packet basis. Kinetic Mesh networks offer total mobility and rapid scalability. Networks don’t degrade in performance with the addition of each node, like competitors’ networks. The Rajant network grows stronger and more capable as node count and density increase, creating ever more data paths. Since the network is self-configuring, it will automatically incorporate a new node into the existing structure without needing any adjustments by a network administrator. This makes installation and management a simple and efficient process. In other words, maintenance costs are meager.

The ability to scale, multi-tiered redundancy and low latency provide the basis for an exceptional customer experience. Rajant’s LX5/ME4 nodes are encased in billet aluminum and rated at IP67. Additionally these units have temperature ratings of -40 to 176 degrees Fahrenheit, making these units perfect for operation in industrial environments in the harshest climates.

Reacting in real-time

Most importantly, for networks to support industrial environments, they must be able to adapt to operational shifts and growth in real-time. Rajant’s Kinetic Mesh provides the mission-critical connectivity and reliability needed to reach new levels of productivity, efficiency, and safety. The technology’s primary use case is mission-critical IIoT in mobile, challenging, and ever-changing environments, such as mines, ports, oil and gas operations, agriculture, and rail.

Architected with autonomous adaptability, Rajant’s Kinetic Mesh is the only wireless network that can self-optimize routing to adapt to changing operational and environmental conditions. This gives IIoT data an unprecedented level of reliability. While competitors’ networks operate on either the “Break-Before-Make” or “Make-Before Break” approach to connectivity, Rajant provides seamless continuous connectivity.

Rajant recently launched its ES1 BreadCrumb, which is ideal for indoor IIoT applications and or deployment on light-duty vehicles. This model provides the same autonomous adaptability as our rugged models in a less ruggedized enclosure. The newest member of the BreadCrumb family, the DX2, weighs less than 5 oz. Customers can now deploy a high bandwidth network connection on a drone turning it from a toy into a valuable tool. By enabling this level of communication on a drone, you can stream 4k video or photogrammetry while the drone is flying across your site at top speed.

Kinetic Mesh v LTE

While an LTE client may track multiple infrastructure cells, it can only be connected to one at a time. As a connection degrades, the switch coordinates a handoff to another cell. While this is a reliable handoff, provided there are no typographical errors in the handoff table, LTE networks are notoriously brittle in the face of power interruptions or major weather events. Kinetic Mesh has the advantage of maintaining continuous connectivity automatically, with no chance of human error. With each BreadCrumb independently managing its routing, the collective effect is artificial intelligence, continuously selecting the optimum segments to deliver data via the fastest path. This AI can load balance, route around potential congestion, local interference, or even a hardware outage. Compared to LTE, Kinetic Mesh has flexibility, ease of deployment, redundancy, and lower OPEX and CapEx. We have countless customer stories of Rajant networks operating reliably through unimaginable circumstances.

Meeting IIoT demands

As the demands of IIoT continue to grow exponentially, the melding together of enterprise Information Technology (IT) with Operations Technology (OT) is also rising. This can open the door to real-time, operational intelligence that is not just reactive but instead predictive and can be carried out on the move.

This is critical, as today’s infrastructure and assets are existing in an age of autonomous operation where consistent bandwidth, flexibility, reliability, and scalability are essential. With the ability to instantly adapt to operational shifts and growth in real-time, Kinetic Mesh networks are fit to unleash the full power of industrial wireless – enabling operators to embrace the possibilities of the IIoT.

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