A Proven Solution for Industrial Wireless Sensor Networks

What is your biggest nightmare when planning a new industrial sensor network? That you cannot trust the communication link? That it is not secure and easily hacked? Or simply that you need to pull miles of cable in an industrial site that is already full of equipment? Or maybe replacing batteries every second month?

Why not take benefit of a secure, reliable and low power communication standard that is free of wires and providing long battery lifetime? Wireless M-Bus (EN 13757-4:2013) is a wireless communication standard that was developed for the reading of utility meters. Utility meters that are used to protect and measure some of the highest value and scare resources being traded; electricity, gas and water.

All your worries and nightmares have already been addressed in the development of the Wireless M-Bus standard. Therefore you will find that Wireless M-Bus is also a very good alternative as a communication standard for industrial wireless sensor networks in general.

Your industrial sensors and actuators can take benefit of this technology, to be read or operated at a distance, reliable and secure. And completely without wires, while batteries last for years.

Take the benefit of an established standard that has been developed by teams of leading industry experts. The solutions are well established and proven in the field since its first release in 2005. It is supported by all the leading companies in the metering industry, and is by far the mostly used standard for wireless meter reading in Europe with tens of millions of units in the field. For example, reading of gas meters in France and Italy is done using the Wireless M-Bus standard at 169 MHz. Reading billing information from remote utility meters puts very high requirements to the protocol in terms of security, reliability and battery lifetime. The standard is like a toolbox where we can pick and use the right tool in different situations; that is, operating frequency, power consumption, range, encryption and other security elements. Products based on the standard are now used not only in Europe, but as far as Australia and the US. Compact radio modules from Radiocrafts are the building blocks you need to take advantage of this technology in your next sensor network.

Start a new life free of the previous worries by reading the new Application Note from Radiocrafts which gives you an understanding of how to use a Wireless M-Bus module in an industrial sensor network.

Antenna Selection Guide

Where is the range? How to design and select the antenna for the ISM bands.

One of the most common question we get to our support line is how to get the intended range of the wireless connection. Most of the time, the answer relates to the antenna design. I believe it is a result of the software and digital focus that has been overwhelming in the electronics community, and the RF competence was considered a niche competence for a long time Now, with IoT, Wifi and Bluetooth, many engineers are forced to go back to the books from the University and read up on RF. And, for those who don’t read up, then mother nature will with her lack of compromise show that it is important to understand also the RF part of the wireless communication network.

However, inventing the wheel again is not needed. RF is not new to Radiocrafts and we are happy to share our experience. If you don’t want to go back to the old text books from the University and you don’t want to have mother nature setting on you back when you can’t get the desired radio range, then take a look at the WP009: Antenna Selection Guide.

This whitepaper shows a pragmatic approach, based on our 13 years of supporting customers in their design and to select and design antennas for the ISM bands. It compares the most common antenna types with a view on cost, design effort, size and performance. It is written for non-RF engineers and does not include antenna theory itself, just brings out the experience and conclusions needed to point you in the right direction when selecting/designing an antenna for ISM band equipment.

Antenna Size Matters!

Size matters!

Wireless Sensor Networks (WSN) are key parts of the Internet of Things (IOT), and they are more and more taking advantage of longer range and less interference in the sub-GHz frequency bands compared to 2.45 GHz. A challenge that then shows up is the size of the antenna, as it has to grow with lower frequencies due to the longer wavelength.

We want to keep the antenna as small as possible, but still pay attention to the “link budget”. The link budget is the total signal gain and loss between the transmitter and the receiver. It is determined by the output power of the transmitter, the sensitivity of the receiver, as well as the antenna gain at both sides, and the “Path loss”.

“Path loss” is a measure of how much signal power is lost from the transmitter to the receiver. The “Path loss” is the loss of signal in an ideal link between two isotropic antennas due to the spreading of power from the source into space. It also depends on the radio frequency due to the area of the antenna which scales with the wavelength. Therefore, the Path loss increase with higher frequencies.

Obstacles and reflections will also impact the signal loss. Lower frequencies tend to creep around corners and are therefore less affected by buildings or hills. Also note that 2.45 GHz is attenuated in humidity, such as raindrops on leaves or humidity in concrete walls. That is the reason the microwave oven use 2.45 GHz to heat up the water molecules in the food, and the frequency was deemed unusable for satellite communication.

The RF module characteristics that are important for the link budget are sensitivity and TX power. A larger negative number for sensitity is better, and a larger positive number for the TX is better.

The last item that impacts the link budget” is the antenna, which also has a large impact on the industrial design of the final product. Often a compromise must be done between an appealing design and the antenna performance.  The lower the frequency, the larger the antenna should be to achieve the same gain. So, for a given link budget, the better the RF performance of the RF module, the smaller the antenna can be. A 1-2dB extra sensitivity and TX power, can reduce the antenna size by 50% which is several centimeters in the sub-GHz domain. Those centimeters will, in many cases, play a key role in allowing for a customer appealing industrial design.

Radiocrafts has released a White Paper. It will guide you to the best antenna for you system. You will also find several high performing RF modules on the site.

3 Ways To Boost Your Wireless Performance

Increasing Range, Reliability & Security for Wireless RF Modules

Achieving reliable, secure, and long-range wireless data communication is possible if you know what to look for in a RF module. Radiocrafts has off-the-shelf solutions to meet these operational demands on your wireless system.

Increasing Range via Higher Power

A transmitter’s signal strength (its travel range) is directly related to its output power. A 6 dB increase in output power (i.e. four times the power measured in mW) will double the transmitter’s range, given that all other parameters stay the same.

In a typical radio link, the TX power is determined by two factors: 1) The output power of the transmitter’s power amplifier and 2) The gain of the antenna, which directs the power to its desired direction.

Careful consideration should be taken when deciding upon the transmit power: To ensure that all radios have equal access to the frequency band (that is, that no radios block or interfere with other radios), local regulations limit the maximum transmit power.

Radiocrafts can help you stay within those maximum power limitations while still delivering long-range communications via our High Power RF modules. These modules, identified by the “HP” in their part number, maximize the transmitter’s output power to provide you longest signal range.

Ensuring Radio Reliability with Ultra Narrow Band

Ultra Narrow Band is a technology for high radio reliability. Narrowband RF is typically defined by an RF signal with a bandwidth of 25 kHz or less, which is referred to as “True” Narrowband, or Ultra Narrowband (UNB). This is very useful for applications that require high reliability, such as industrial remote controls, and other industrial applications where a robust radio link is required. A good Ultra Narrowband radio will easily get range performance measured in kilometers with very good noise suppression performance.

An Ultra Narrow Band radio receiver unit meets requirements that enable it to operate in an environment that has strong “unwanted” signals. Critical parameters include: Blocking, Adjacent Channel Selectivity, Receiver saturation, Spurious response rejection, and High wanted signal. The end result is a very reliable radio receiver that can work through radio frequency noise and other disturbing signals, making the communication link highly reliable.

The Radiocrafts RC12XX and RC17XX radio receiver support Ultra Narrow band.

Increasing Wireless Security with AES-128

Worldwide, computer hackers are becoming more creative as they plot ways to disturb, block, and/or steal your communications data, which is increasingly traveling by radio frequencies. Providing privacy — and ensuring data integrity as well as authenticity — has become a key consideration in the design of wireless systems.

Fortunately, data encryption can keep intercepted communications from being of value to hackers. Data encryption is not new: it has been around since 50 BC. But today the radio industry has an encryption standard: the AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) as defined by the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology.

The U.S. Secretary of Commerce approved the AES standard in 2002, and it is the only standard approved by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) to be used for top-secret information. The AES is now the industry standard for encrypting data for secure communication, and it is used widely in many different applications by numerous wireless companies.

To provide secure data communication, specify AES-128 wireless encryption: it’s available on most Radiocrafts RF modules. For additional information, see our RF module data sheets.

 

Boost Your Wireless Communication System — Starting Today

What’s your wireless performance challenge? Chances are, our radio engineers have already solved it. Our engineers can help you navigate the radio regulations in your area to pick the right High Power RF module. Have a “noisy radio” environment, like a factory? We’ll walk you through the necessary configurations for our Cat1 radio receiver (RC1701HP-MBUS4) to overcome noisy frequencies. And with computer hackers becoming more threatening every day, we’ll be happy to help you implement an encryption protocol that meets the AES-128 standard — protecting your system and your customers.

Make Your LPWAN Simple and Cost Efficient

A not very well protected secret is that LPWANs are already deployed and in use by many of the utility companies in Europe to read the meters automatically. The technology behind in Europe is often Wireless M-Bus on 169 MHz, particularly for gas and water meters.

One of the reasons to select this technology is the range advantage that 169 MHz carrier waves provides due to antenna physics a range advantage. European radio regulations also allow high output power (500 mW), and combined with narrowband radio technology this increase the communication range substantially. This is important for particularly water-meters that are often located in basements of the buildings, or down in pit holes. A key advantage for Wireless M-Bus is the low power characteristic that is needed for battery operation of water and gas-meters.

Wireless Sensor Networks (WSN) in the Internet of Things (IOT) share the range and the low power requirements with the water and gas meters and will consequently also benefit from 169 MHz and Wireless M-Bus, that by now is well proven in the metering market.

Radiocrafts has in its latest Application Note showed in a realistic range test in downtown Oslo that 40 square km can be covered by a single base-station build on one RC1701HP-MBUS4 module. This coverage is similar to what other LPWAN technologies achieve with a much more complex base-station.

Wireless M-Bus was developed with low power in mind and support more than 15 years battery lifetime for water and gas meters. For lower complexity sensors, even longer battery life can be achieved.

So, when deciding on your LPWAN network, make sure that you consider also the 169 MHz and Wireless M-Bus alternative. Sometimes simple is better!

Radiocrafts Presents 3G/4G LTE Gateway Solution

radiocrafts 3G/4G LTE Gateway Solution

Radiocrafts AS, a leading provider of RF modules, today presents a cloud connection solution for Internet of Things (IoT) applications, connecting low power radio sensor networks to cloud services.

The FX30 expansion boards from Radiocrafts makes up a complete gateway together with the 3G/4G LTE modem from Sierra Wireless. By using the Radiocrafts expansion board for the FX30 and implementing network nodes based on the Radiocrafts RF modules, a complete IoT sensor network with cloud connection is easily made.

Radiocrafts develops and manufactures RF modules for many RF protocols, such as Wireless M-Bus, KNX-RF and ZigBee, as well as the proprietary protocols TinyMesh and RC232. The new gateway makes it now easy to connect these networks to a cloud service.

The FX30 is the industry’s smallest, most rugged and programmable 3G/4G LTE cellular modem available in the market. Expanding it with short range wireless technology from Radiocrafts makes it a versatile gateway solution, covering a wide range of applications and standards.

The FX30 Gateway has an internal slot for expansion cards, where the Radiocrafts expansion card is plugged in. The interface between the main Gateway CPU and the expansion cards are via UART or SPI. The solution supports most of the low power wireless protocols provided by Radiocrafts. The rugged housing makes it ready and easy to install in the field.

The new FX30 makes it easy to connect any wireless IoT sensor network to any cloud service. The device can be managed, controlled and monitored through the Sierra Wireless’ AirVantage® Cloud Services. But the gateway is not locked to any specific cloud service supplier. So the data can be forwarded to any cloud solution preferred by the user.

The FX30 integrates the Legato® Open Source Linux Platform that simplifies application-level development with a secure application framework, maintained Linux distribution, and feature-rich development environment. Legato® enables efficient C-level programming, making FX30 the core component for distributed IoT systems.

The New Application Note on Range Calculations and Test is Here

Radiocrafts AS, a leading provider of RF modules today presented a long range LPWAN solution for IoT applications based on an ultra-narrowband radio at 169 MHz.

Radiocrafts offer a solution that covers 40 km2 in a real urban range test with a 169 MHz RF module (RC1701HP-MBUS4), showing the benefits of an ultra-narrowband 169 MHz star network for LPWAN applications.

Many range tests in the wireless industry takes advantage of high rise mountains, warm air balloons and similar, achieving very impressive range numbers. This is a way to show relative performance between different technologies, but has little in common with the actual range that can be achieved in a real life use case.

Radiocrafts has issued an Application Note, AN021, to provide real data that can be used for real use cases at 868 and 169 MHz. Three cases are shown, an indoor building, a mountain peak to peak (rural) and a real city (urban environment). As expected, the mountain peak to peak (Line of Sight) shows very good range data and the indoor building shows that the indoor performance has little in common with the line of sight measurement.

A very interesting measurement is the 169 MHz case with standard antennas and a commercially available RF module from Radiocrafts that shows that 3.5 km distance is achieved in a downtown Oslo measurement. This means that a 169 MHz star network with low cost components can be used to cover a 40 km2 circular area in a downtown environment with a very basic star network.

The range advantage of 169 MHz and the fact that it is license free in Europe makes it an ideal alternative to other LPWAN solutions for IoT applications. The low complexity of a 169 MHz network based on Radiocrafts RF modules makes it very easy to set-up with a very competitive cost.

The Top 5 Questions on Wireless Technologies for AMR

Given your AMR application, which wireless technologies/protocols/standards make the most sense? There are a number of considerations to factor into your decision: Is the meter located below grade, or in another radio-hostile location? Is the meter battery-powered? Do you want to communicate to an in-house display, a walk- or drive-by reader, or to a fixed network? What protocols are other local utilities using…and why?

1. What wireless technologies are used for AMR?

There are several different wireless technologies used for AMR (automatic meter reading) systems in the world today, based on the specific needs, availability of power (battery driven or not), local radio regulations, density of meters, how often meters need to be read, the infrastructure, etc. Some radio networks are based on proprietary communication protocols, and others are based on industry standards. Among the standardized protocols we find Wireless M-Bus, and 6LoWPAN-based solutions such as Wi-SUN.

Wireless M-Bus is developed for battery-operated meters, such as water, gas and heat (heat cost allocators). It has always had a big emphasis on low-power operation. Later the Wireless M-Bus standard was extended to include communication on 169 MHz. This frequency has improved the range and reliability for reading water meters that are located in basements or pits, or gas meters in steel cabinets; in other words, not so radio-friendly environments. Narrowband operation at 169 MHz is a robust solution for almost any harsh environments.

6LoWPAN is a newer technology that enables IPv6 communication all the way to the end node. Due to a relatively high power consumption, it is used for electricity meters but not for water and gas. ZigBee IP and Wi-SUN are examples of protocols that? use 6LoWPAN as part of their protocol stack.

Radiocrafts offers solutions within all these technologies, and more information can be found on our product pages. Wireless M-Bus is supported by the MBUS3, MBUS4 and MPC1 products. The ZigBee protocol is supported by the ZNM products. And 6LoWPAN protocols can be run on the IEEE 802.15.4 platforms.

2. What is the most commonly used wireless technology used in Europe for AMR?

The most commonly used wireless technology in Europe for meter reading is Wireless M-Bus. The installation base is tens of millions. The first solutions used mode S and T on 868 MHz. These have later been complemented with mode C, also at 868 MHz, optimizing current consumption and thereby enabling drive-by reading which require? more frequent transmissions. Mode N using ultra-narrowband technology at 169 MHz is growing in popularity due to its long range and robust operation even in radio-challenging environments typically seen by water and gas meters. Radiocrafts has a leading role in the standardization of narrowband technology at 169 MHz in CEN, which publishes the EN 13757-4 norm.

3. What is Wireless M-Bus?

Wireless M-Bus is a European Norm for utility meter communication. It is standardized in EN13757-4. This radio protocol is widely used for electricity, gas, water, heat meters and heat cost allocators. Wireless M-Bus also supports other types of environmental sensors. Together with the rest of the EN 13757 standard series, Wireless M-Bus makes up a complete protocol stack with security mechanisms and definition of data formatting for the application layer.

The Wireless M-Bus standard is optimized for battery operation, targeting battery lifetimes of 15 – 20 years, and thereby reducing the operational cost of the meter reading system. The low-power consumption is due to the “bubble up” strategy for meter data: the meter listens for commands in a short time window after the transmission. This means the transceiver can be in sleep mode most of the time, saving power. This is further supported by very small overhead in the frame format and efficient data coding.

The standard has taken advantage of the new frequency band at 169 MHz to make a narrow-band solution using 12.5 kHz channels. The relatively low frequency (VHF band) and the narrow bandwidth give very long communication range and robustness in difficult radio environments. This is particularly important for reaching water and gas meters.


4. What solution should I use for battery-operated meters, such as for water, gas and heat?

The preferred solution for battery-operated meters is Wireless M-Bus. For in-house communication between meter and a local concentrator, mode T and C at 868 MHz are most commonly used. For longer range communication with a central concentrator, mode N at 169 MHz is preferred. Radiocrafts supports these standards with the MBUS3 and MBUS4 protocols. The MPC1 (M-Bus Pulse Counter) is a complete implementation of an autonomous pulse counter that can directly interface any mechanical meter with pulse output.

5. What solution should I use for electricity meter reading?

Electricity meters with constant access to power (and back-up battery during black-outs) may use mesh protocols to extend the network coverage. Radiocrafts offers Tinymesh, ZigBee and 6LoWPAN solutions .
Battery-operated meters can be used together with a mesh, but these nodes will not take part in the forwarding of messages in the mesh. Tinymesh is a low-cost mesh solution that can operate on any frequency band set by local regulations. It will carry different application protocols transparently, interfacing with the meter through a UART interface. Multiple gateways can be added as the network grows.
ZigBee networks are mostly used for in-house communication. The ZNM (ZigBee Network Module) and ZNM-SE (Smart Energy profile) are easy-to-use solutions offering the complete ZigBee stack in a module with API interface. 6LoWPAN is a standard for how to compress IPv6 packets to fit into a IEEE 802.15.4 radio packet. ZigBee IP and Wi-SUN use this technique, and can run on our IEEE 802.15.4 platforms.

 

As you can see, there are many factors to take into consideration before settling on one wireless AMR protocol over another. Radiocrafts is eager to help you design a robust wireless AMR system that serves all of your network needs — and minimising the long-term cost of the system. With tens of millions of field-proven module installations, our application engineers are uniquely qualified to take you through the entire AMR design process. Start the conversation today!

Radiocrafts announces new Sales and Marketing Director

Radiocrafts AS, a leading provider of RF modules today announces the appointment of Anders Oldebäck as our new Sales & Marketing Director. Anders has an extensive background in component sales and marketing, having spent 25 years within various sales and marketing functions at international and local hi-tech companies. He most recently comes from Atmel (Microchip), and before that Texas Instruments. Peder Martin Evjen, Managing Director commented, “We are delighted to welcome Anders to Radiocrafts as we are growing and becoming a faster and more commercially aware organization. Anders’ strong commercial expertise and technical understanding will complement our current skill set, especially as we expand our success in the AMR markets into new ventures.
For further information please contact Radiocrafts AS:
Tel: +47 4000 5195, email: sales@radiocrafts.com

Radiocrafts and Tiny Mesh increase presence in India

Radiocrafts AS and Tiny Mesh AS, a leading provider of wireless mesh network protocol and cloud services, announced today they have established a joint venture sales company in India.

After joint success in the Indian market with compact RF modules for Smart Meter applications based on Tinymesh network technology, the companies are increasing their local presence in India by setting up a local sales office.

The new company, Tinymesh Radiocrafts India LLP, is headed by Mr. Jasmeet Singh. Mr. Singh has long experience from sales and business development in the semiconductor industry, and received an MBA degree from Indian School of Business in 2014, and has a Bachelor degree in Electronics from 2007.

The local office is based in Delhi, and will cover all regions.

See the press release for more information.

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