Warehouses are increasingly moving toward smart and artificial intelligence (AI) solutions.
These smart and AI solutions are highly precise pieces of equipment that need constant communication to function properly and provide a high level of safety for workers near the equipment.
“The connection requirements can vary based on the application and the piece of equipment used, but a general autonomous solution will require a network connection of about 4-5 Mbps, no less than 25ms of latency and no less than four packets dropped in a row,” says Teresa Huysamen, Wireless Business Unit Executive at Duxbury Networking, local distributors of Rajant technology.
There are multiple key issues that network providers need to address when providing warehouses with network coverage.
The first is the issue of racks of shelving and equipment, as well as hallways creating corridors that block wireless connectivity.
Frequently, warehouse shelving racks are constructed with metal and filled up with products made or partially made with metal.
When planning a network, network designers assume the worst case scenario so that portions of the network will not experience outages.
The second issue is mobility, as every warehouse has multiple pieces of mobile equipment.
Providing coverage to workers on mobile equipment, or the mobile equipment itself, requires the ability to roam in and out of cell sizes very quickly.
The metal shelving blockages can make this extremely difficult. This quick change in connectivity is constantly happening as the mobile equipment is always moving in and out of various corridors.
The need for overlapping and cells and the ability to stay connected at all times is a constantly growing need, as devices and tools used in warehouses are getting smarter and more precise.
“Rajant wireless mesh networks are not traditional networks. These networks are called Kinetic Mesh networks, and they are uniquely designed for environments and applications where client devices and even the network itself are in a state of constant change and motion,” says Huysamen.
Rajant utilises a multi-frequency, multi-peer mesh connection to give every node in the network the ability to talk to each other using multiple radios simultaneously.
Each node, or BreadCrumb acts as a smart wireless device, maintaining connections to every other BreadCrumb that can be connected wirelessly or wired.
This web of connections gives Rajant unparalleled reliability, ensuring that packets will always have a path home even in the toughest environments.
Factors that give Rajant BreadCrumbs an advantage on radiation cell sizes when compared to traditional Wi-Fi include:
- The effective isotropic radiated power (EIRP), which utilises a more powerful EIRP than traditional Wi-Fi. Each radio card has more power out, giving each radio greater range. With Rajant radios having a max transmit power of 28dBm, compared to a Wi-Fi product with a max transmit power level of 22dBm, there is a clear difference in the power levels.
- The standard antennas utilised by Rajant are 5dBi for 2.4 and 6dBi for 5.8, compared to a traditional integrated antenna in standard Wi-Fi access points of 3-4dBi.
The effects of a higher EIRP and antenna differences seen in Figures 1 and 2 are calculations performed using an industry-standard Wi-Fi predictive coverage application.
The radio model for Rajant is ME4/FE1/ES1 as all units utilise the same radio card specs, power levels and capabilities.
The model for traditional Wi-Fi is a standard Wi-Fi AP using values from spec sheets found from vendors’ websites. The calculation area is a building size of 150m x 250m.
“Already there are propagation differences seen as the two figures show -68dBm and -74dBm respectively.
The difference of 6dBm is approximately four times larger or smaller. In this case, the traditional Wi-Fi power level is approximately 25% of the power level available compared to a Rajant BreadCrumb.
This difference in power will affect the speed at which devices can communicate at further ranges, as well as how long clients will remain connected before roaming or simply disconnect and drop off,” says Huysamen.
As mentioned previously, warehouses are full of metal racks and shelves, boxes, crates and equipment, all of which cause blockages for potential RF signal.
This quickly turns a 10 Wi-Fi node warehouse into a 40 or 50 node warehouse, as corridors need coverage for devices like hand scanners or mobile equipment fleet management systems.
The traditional Wi-Fi solutions is to add more APs. Each of these APs will be hardwired with Ethernet or fibre optic cable, making the deployment of each new node more expensive and time consuming to deploy.
“In a Rajant Kinetic Mesh, only a few nodes need to be wired into the local area network, by using Rajant’s proprietary protocol, Automatic Protocol Tunnelling (APT).”
“APT wired protocol allows for multiple nodes to be connected into the same subnet while providing loop prevention and thus allowing for multiple LAN ingress points for information flowing from the warehouse flow to the wired network in the building,” says Huysamen.
With Rajant, the network provided is flexible and reliable in multiple ways.
First, Rajant can equip forklifts or mobile vehicles with Rajant BreadCrumbs.
By doing so, Rajant can provide a mobile infrastructure in the warehouse that is much more powerful than any client device trying to roam.
These mobile infrastructure nodes act as mobile APs and communication bridges/repeaters in areas where communications may be weak or incomplete in coverage.
Rajant also utilises machine-to-machine communications where each forklift or infrastructure node can communicate locally.
With InstaMesh’s dynamic routing protocol, packets are not required to flow in and out of a wired network or go through a route bridge or ‘smart node’, while also improving coverage with mobile infrastructure.
Using traditional Wi-Fi, autonomous solutions must roam between many nodes in the warehouse and are always looking to make new connections.
Mobile roaming requires breaking a connection with one AP and establishing a new connection (handoff).
The low-power client devices are in charge of roaming and if those devices struggle to connect or take a little longer than normal, packets begin to drop. Four packets lost can happen in less than a second and operations grind to a halt.
Using a Rajant Kinetic Mesh solution, autonomous vehicles are fitted with a BreadCrumb, thus becoming a piece of mobile infrastructure.
Instead of a low-powered client device like a table handling roaming, the high-power Rajant BreadCrumb maintains multiple connections to every other piece of mobile infrastructure piece in range, eliminating the need to roam, and by extension, the chance for packets be dropped or lost.
The advantage of turning a high-demand autonomous piece of equipment (a networking nightmare) into a mobile piece of infrastructure, is a key reason that the Rajant solution is the preferred worldwide when using smart and autonomous solutions.
“When using Rajant in a warehouse with shelves, using both mobile assets and infrastructure, the total difference is approximately half of the number of nodes versus traditional Wi-Fi.
Rajant is a reliability-based mesh networking system, using the patented InstaMesh protocol, built around providing wireless service in the toughest areas on the planet.
By using the mobile assets, increased range, rapid deployment and the ability to function as a backhaul and access point simultaneously, Rajant is able to achieve a multifunctioning, robust, rapidly deployable, self-healing, Kinetic Mesh network,” says Huysamen.