Electronic Design

Wireless In The Works

If you blink, you’ll probably miss the latest announcement of a wireless standard under development. Short-range wireless standards in the works include the latest version of Wi-Fi, an ISA standard called ISA 100a, and a smart-grid version of 802.11.4.

The 802.11 working group, known as Very High Throughput (VHT), is looking at ways to extend the data rate to 1 Gbit/s and beyond using the popular Wi-Fi standard and protocol. It’s examining the 60-GHz band as an option, plus other options like operation in the 5-GHz band with high levels of multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO). It will be a while before we see a standard here, though.

In the meantime, the International Society of Automation is crafting a new standard for ruggedized wireless industrial monitoring and control. Called ISA 100a, the standard is based on IEEE 802.15.4, operating in the 2.4-GHz band with a data rate of 250 kbits/s. This variant of ZigBee supports star/tree, mesh, and alternative routing networking. It also supports other industrial network technologies like Foundation FieldBus, ProfiBus, HART, and Ethernet. The formal standard was recently ratified.

Another effort resides within the IEEE 802.15.4 group itself. The Task Group 4g (TG4g) is working on a version of the standard called Smart Utility Networks (SUN), also known as Neighborhood Area Networks (NAN). The group’s goal is to create a standard to address very large-scale process control applications, such as the utility smart-grid networks. It aims to support large geographically diverse networks with minimal infrastructure and potentially millions of fixed nodes. With utility monitoring and control a key part of future energy savings efforts, this is a critical step in implementing such large-scale efforts.

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