While wireless sensor networks provide a variety of advantages to hardwired devices, not all platforms are right for all applications. To help ensure that communications are reliability captured, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is working toward developing best practice guidelines for evaluating wireless-sensor-network performance and selecting the option that best meets a company’s requirements.
NIST’s Wireless Platforms for Smart Manufacturing project will include benchmarking tests and metrics for comparing how well different technologies meet specific sets of requirements. The platforms must reliably capture and communicate measurement data in harsh industrial environments with a variety of interference sources. Such interference can lead to interrupted, delayed, or incomplete critical data hand-offs; in addition to causing production errors, this can potentially endanger workers.
Project members also are in the early stages of commissioning a wireless network test bed that will replicate a smart manufacturing environment. The test bed will recreate conditions representative of a variety of industrial settings to support the development of network-performance measurements and tests. To ensure the test bed accurately represents the complicated, often-messy manufacturing process, the team is asking companies to open their plant doors, enabling researchers to view and characterize the conditions that could impact network performance.