Freewave IIoT

Inside Track: Speaking the Language of IIoT

Scott Allen from FreeWave Technologies shares his thoughts on topics like the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and frequency-hopping spread-spectrum (FHSS) technology.

We recently spoke with Scott Allen, CMO of Freewave Technologies, a B2B company based in Boulder, Colo., where it manufactures and designs industrial, secure machine-to-machine wireless networking, and communications solutions. Here is some of what  he had to say:

 

Scott Allen, CMO, Freewave Technologies

 

First, can you give a brief overview of FreeWave Technologies?

With over 20 years of RF innovation under its belt, we enable military unmanned systems, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), and industrial wireless. Millions of our outdoor, ruggedized radios have seen action in some of the harshest and dangerous places in the world, including places like the Saudi desert, South American volcano ranges, and Antarctica. Our new ZumLink IIoT Programmable Radio (IPR) platform is a real-world example of Fog Computing, machine-to-machine (M2M), and the Intelligent Internet of Things (IIoT)—not just IoT hype.

What are some of the major IIoT applications?

As device ecosystems grow and expand, the types of data transported will diversify. With the emergence of smart sensors, our customers need to transport more than just traditional SCADA data, more than just telemetry.

We are seeing this diversification and expansion in sectors that have traditionally been SCADA only, like oil & gas, water/wastewater, and utilities. Of course, unmanned systems and OEM wireless applications are increasingly relying on edge intelligence and real-time decision making that the IIoT drives.

Can you talk about what an IIoT network looks like today?

A modern IIoT network may have a myriad of machinery, devices, and sensors connected in a geographically dispersed network. Let’s take the modern oilfield as an example. While it contains sensors that typically transmit telemetry, like temperature, pressure, and chemical conditions, we are increasingly seeing more data-intensive applications like video, perimeter security, and smart sensors with edge-intelligence. 

How do you see IIoT networks changing in the future?

As mentioned previously, we are seeing more data-intensive application in IIoT ecosystems that will require edge-intelligence that boost real-time decision making and action. In addition, IIoT ecosystems are sending vast amounts of data to HQ or the cloud. Edge-intelligence will reduce the amounts of data required for business decisions and action, sending only the data organizations need, when they need it. 

CD: Can you explain frequency hopping spread spectrum (FHSS) technology for those who may not know?

In oil & gas and military & government applications, FHSS is frequently used and widely known as a strong wireless communication option. However, the technology seems to be relatively unknown in IT.

FHSS is a proven wireless technology that spreads its signal over rapidly hopping frequencies. It transmits much longer distances than Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, LoRa, or ZigBee. It was invented for the security of the Free World during World War II by actress Hedy Lamar to prevent the Germans from jamming U.S. radio signals. 

As such, IT decision makers must be made aware that it is a robust and inherently cyber secure means of transmitting remote field data.

Here are a handful of unique ways FHSS is currently being used:

  • Oceanic monitoring and mapping
  • Auto and boat racing
  • Oil well pad automation
  • Plant automation
  • GPS/RTK asset tracking
  • Command/control for unmanned systems (drones)
  • Precision agriculture and autonomous farm equipment

What role does FHSS technology have in terms of IIoT applications?

Because FHSS is inherently cyber secure, low-power, and has devices that can be ruggedized for harsh outdoor conditions, FHSS is the perfect choice for many IIoT applications, especially remote and geographically dispersed applications. Moreover, as FHSS transceivers evolve from wireless data link equipment to full-fledged intelligent app-server radios, its role becomes more important to both IT and OT professionals.

 

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