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WBA conducts Industry 4.0 Trials using Wi-Fi 6


Wi-Fi 6, a.k.a. 802.11ax promises a break from issues that have traditionally plagued Wi-Fi access and QoE. The move from OFDM to OFDMA makes it similar to 4G/5G access technology. Along with beamforming / beam steering and MU-MIMO one can confidently say this is similar to 5G-Light (not to be confused with NR-Light). A short video at the bottom explains Wi-Fi 6 in more details.

The Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA), recently announced the successful completion of its phase one trial of Wi-Fi 6 infrastructure and services at the Mettis Aerospace factory in the UK.  The trial was the first of its kind in the world and an important part of the WBA’s Wi-Fi 6 test and development program. According to their press release:

Tests included applications of 4K video streaming, large scale file transfers, messaging and voice/video communications as well as the first stage of IoT sensor and mixed reality testing. Previous implementation tests with Wi-Fi failed to work in Mettis’ challenging factory environment. During the trial, speeds of 700 Mbps using 80 MHz channels were achieved and low latency applications, like video calling and video streaming, performed well with results below 6ms. These results proved that Wi-Fi 6 infrastructure can operate well in the presence of interference and noise in a complex and challenging factory environment as well as deliver high quality services for monitoring and maximizing machinery performance, minimizing downtime, and improving communications on the factory floor.

“The completion of this initial phase marks a significant milestone for the adoption of Wi-Fi 6,” said WBA CEO, Tiago Rodrigues. “The Mettis facility is an especially challenging environment for wireless communications with furnaces, presses and heat, a lot of moving heavy machinery and the presence of dust and in-air particulates. Nevertheless, the field tests in this highly charged atmosphere have proven that Wi-Fi 6 technology works well and can play a vital role within the industrial enterprise and IoT ecosystem. If Wi-Fi 6 can deliver highly reliable, high quality and high bandwidth communications in this type of factory environment, then it can deliver it almost anywhere,” he added.
A look at Concurrent Engineering’s PTC Vuforia augmented (mixed) reality software, used by the maintenance team to enable ‘walk- by’ machine monitoring.
“The Wi-Fi 6 infrastructure installed as part of the trials has exceeded our expectations in terms of performance, reliable connectivity and consistent coverage across the target area,” said Dave Green, Head of IT, Mettis Aerospace. “We are seeing immediate benefits in terms of the data we’re now able to collect and use. Moving forward, we will be able to vastly increase the data we collect from devices across our business, enhancing our manufacturing processes, reducing variability and increasing productivity.”

The trial took place at the 27-acre Mettis Aerospace facility in the West Midlands in collaboration with WBA member companies including Broadcom, Cisco, iBwave and Intel as well as Concurrent Engineering and Keysight. Mettis Aerospace supplies companies such as Airbus, Boeing and Rolls-Royce.

The Wi-Fi 6 technology had to prove it was able to provide total connectivity across the factory floor and enable improved synchronization of factory floor machinery and equipment with centralized monitoring and control systems.  This required the Wi-Fi network to deliver real-time high bandwidth communications, with very low latency and clear prioritization of data across a large-scale, complex factory environment.

Using devices such as smartphones, tablets, laptops and webcams equipped with the Broadcom (R) BCM4375 and Intel AX200 Wi-Fi 6 chipsets, the following tests were among those included in the Phase 1 trial:
  • 4k streaming from a webcam mounted on machinery within the factory
  • 4k YouTube streaming from a laptop with Intel AX200 chip
  • Uploads of very large video files over Wi-Fi
  • Roaming, Latency and persistent connectivity during Wi-Fi video calling using smartphones equipped with Broadcom’s BCM4375 chip
  • Augmented reality testing of machinery using devices with Wi-Fi 6 chipset
The Mettis factory also lies within the region selected by the UK Government as a 5G test bed for manufacturing. The WBA test results clearly demonstrate the important role Wi-Fi 6 can play within the broader 5G ecosystem.

Phase Two of the trial will focus on further tests of the Mixed reality applications and IoT sensing of key assets.

More details are also available on Mettis Aerospace website here. Some additional details are also available on Land Mobile website here.

Here is a short tutorial video on Wi-Fi 6 if technology interests you.


Further reading:

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