Antennas are a vital component of any industrial wireless system. The past few decades have seen a substantial shift from wired to wireless antennae in industrial applications. Today’s post is dedicated to industrial use antenna education as we discuss the different types available, their uses, and the many benefits of using wireless antennas for industrial purposes, including brand recommendations we trust.
Let’s begin with the basics: what are antennas used for? An antenna is responsible for the transmission and collection of electromagnetic radiation. The electrical signals are first collected from the transmission line and then converted into radio signals. The same process is done on the receiving end in reverse order, i.e., it accepts the radio waves and then transforms them into electrical signals.
It’s not an understatement to say that all the communication that takes place around you probably involves an antenna, and much of the technological world owes its current state to this component’s existence.
Different Types of Antennas & Their Uses
Let’s take a look at the different types of industrial antennas, including their coverage capabilities and uses. Specifically, we want to cover three types of antennas: omnidirectional, directional, and Multiple-Input Multiple-Output (MIMO) antennas.
Omnidirectional antennas, like this 5g PCTEL omnidirectional antenna, provide equal coverage in all horizontal directions (i.e., omni meaning everywhere) in a circular or 360-degree radiation coverage pattern. These antennas are commonly in office enclosures and interior or exterior open areas. Omnidirectional antennas are normally used in applications where the radio path lies entirely within an industrial site or factory, providing coverage in the entire area.
Opposite of omnidirectional are directional antennas, which radiate or receive greater radio wave power in specific directions, so it’s concentrated within a targeted area. Directional antennae come in many different styles and shapes with different opening angles — wide angles for short distances and acute angles for longer distances. These types of antennas are typically used for connecting buildings over point-to-point links in outdoor areas where greater coverage is desired.
MIMO Antenna Systems
A MIMO (Multiple In, Multiple Out) antenna system uses two or more identical antennas, located a small distance apart and housed in one container. MIMO antennas, like this PCTEL antenna, are commonly used to overcome multipath interference, which occurs when an RF signal has more than one path between a receiver and a transmitter.
These antennas actively utilize reflections and delays in signal propagation to combine more than one stream, which enables a higher data rate and a better quality of connectivity in “noisy” environments, like factories, that contain a large amount of metallic or other radio frequency reflective surfaces.
Antenna Frequency Ranges
Not all antennas are created equal, and different types of antennas perform better at different frequencies. All antennas are designed to fit specific frequencies or frequency bands. Therefore, using an antenna designed for a different frequency will radiate only a small portion of the transmitter’s generated RF power, while absorbing only a small portion of the receiver’s RF signal power - resulting in weak connectivity and coverage.
So, when selecting an antenna, the first step is to identify how large the coverage area needs to be. Following are questions to ask to help determine which frequency range best suits your needs:
- Does the signal need to cover a wide area such as a factory floor?
- Do moving devices, such as phones, laptops, tablets, require uninterrupted coverage of the entire area?
- Are small breaks in communication acceptable?
- Is this a low data rate application or a high bandwidth, high-definition application?
Benefits of Industrial Wireless Antennas
Historically, many network engineers avoided wireless solutions in fear of transmission interference, which can result from conditions common in industrial spaces, such as high temperatures, echoes, vibrations, dust/airborne particles, electromagnetic forces, and electrical noise. However, as experience with wireless technology grows, so has the comfort level with deploying industrial wifi antennas.
However, modern wireless technology, like the industrial wifi antenna, can deliver a range of benefits to commercial applications, no matter the operating environment.
Perhaps one of the biggest drivers for deploying industrial wireless antennas over traditional wired solutions is cost savings. For example, a wireless system designed for scalability can accommodate additional devices with the same infrastructure and no additional wiring, resulting in savings of 20 to 30 percent in simple configurations.
Field experience has demonstrated that industrial wireless antennas can achieve the reliability of cable connections in 90% of applications, making concerns over wireless reliability a thing of the past.
The security features inherent to industrial wireless antennas outweighs those of traditional wired versions, including physical security of the device, management of credentials and keys, and network diagnostics.
Wireless antenna applications offer both short and long-term manageability benefits, including redundancy for automatic self healing and being able to easily monitor network diagnostics, anticipate systematic problems, and reconfigure infrastructure.
Wireless antenna systems offer a great deal more flexibility than wired alternatives during all stages of deployment and use, including installation, monitoring, trouble-shooting, and maintenance.
Antennas for industrial use offer mobile network connections to applications, independent of their location within the production site. This connectivity contributes to shorter startup times, lower breakdown rates, and real-time status updates, which can improve performance.
When implemented successfully, wireless technology, like an industrial wifi antenna, can improve productivity and energy efficiency and bring a range of benefits to industrial applications.
At Peerless Electronics, we offer a wide range of wireless commercial antennas for industrial use cases, including reliable, purpose built antenna systems by PCTEL, a leading global provider of wireless technology. Collectively, Peerless and PCTEL have been serving satisfied customers for over 100 years, providing solutions to complex wireless challenges to help organizations stay connected, transform, and grow.