Managing a busy multi-point wireless network

Wireless telemetry systems are a crucial tool for effective data monitoring in industries such as aerospace, agriculture, construction, engineering, marine, mining, petrochemical and utilities. While classic master-slave systems, typically used when sending data from a single point to a top end system like SCADA, are relatively straightforward to install, multi-point wireless networks can be much more complex. Here Matthew Youngs, marketing manager at wireless telemetry specialist Mantracourt, shares some advice on how to manage traffic on a busy wireless network.

Wireless telemetry systems are commonplace in various applications, from expected uses like stress and weighing to monitoring systems in food production and mining. Generally, any application where engineers benefit from collecting data over time for trend analysis or to visualise operations in real time could use wireless telemetry systems.


Multi-point wireless installation advice

Installing a wireless telemetry system is not always as simple as buying instrumentation online, plugging it in and expecting to run smoothly first time. There are often challenges around interference, signal strength, data collision, data packets, power consumption and security. For example, if the system uses a high number of unnecessary packets, this will use more power than needed and drain the life of battery-powered units faster than required.

Another common example, specific to multi-point wireless networks is data clashes. Multi-point wireless networks are typical in applications that involve multiple devices communicating over a large area, such as in agricultural or mining environments.  In these systems, multiple nodes could try to communicate with each other simultaneously and cause a data clash that results in neither signal reaching its destination.

To combat this, most high-quality wireless devices, such as Mantracourt’s T24 products, have an in-built error checking function to ensure that data is transmitted correctly. Additionally, they usually have back-off and retry mechanisms in place.

If the network is overloaded, the chances of data clashes occurring increases. This slows system performance and makes it more likely that engineers miss crucial system data. Therefore, it is crucial engineers consult a wireless telemetry specialist who can recommend the ideal number of nodes per wireless network and, crucially, where these should be placed on site to optimise performance.

In terms of security on a multi-point network, it is best practice to isolate each group of instruments to a fixed channel and, for any group with a security concern, lock it with a key. This ensures that devices operating on other channels cannot access sensitive data on secure channels. This is a relatively straightforward process using Mantracourt’s T24 products.


Viewing your wireless system data

Collecting data from a multi-point network manually is an extremely inefficient process. First, there is the time spent going from node to node to log the data that could be better spent on other, more important tasks. Next, there is the problem that relying on manual data collection on a schedule, usually once every one or two hours, means you are missing data in real time and could be late identifying a costly system fault.

As well as having local wireless monitoring, cloud-based remote monitoring platforms, such as SensorSpace®, can connect with wireless nodes, like our T24 range, to collect and analyse data in real time. This allows off-site engineers to quickly identify trends, spot performance issues in real time and take action to avoid costly unplanned downtime. This is crucial as unplanned downtime has been shown to cost global manufacturing businesses about $50bn annually.

SensorSpace® allows operators and engineers to receive real time updates on parameters including, but not limited to, humidity, pressure, temperature, tension and vibration. Furthermore, the platform can be configured to send direct push notifications via SMS and email based on user-set performance parameters as any drastic changes are usually indicative of a problem and the alerts allow action to be taken before significant damage occurs.

Ultimately, monitoring data in this way allows asset managers to adopt an effective preventative maintenance programme. This is where operators and engineers monitor system performance in real time and proactively conduct maintenance when parts begin to show signs of failing. While machine breakdowns can be unavoidable, this helps reduce the chances of being caught off guard by them and drastically minimises downtime as a result.

For more advice on telemetry system selection and how to get the best out of your system, download Mantracourt’s latest guide: A guide to effective telemetry installation.


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