How Far Is Too Far with Wireless Process Signals?

antenna used for industrial wireless communications
Wireless communication technology, adapted for industrial use, has brought a host of benefits to companies bold enough to include it in their process control infrastructure. The use of wireless communications to deliver operating data from sensor to control station is no longer avant garde. The innovators, those first to deploy new technology, have long ago pushed the industrial process control world sufficiently up the learning curve to a point where applying wireless is a fairly straight forward matter.
Are there limits, practical or theoretical, to the length of a wireless connection?
Consider the bandwidth options for wireless transmission of a process signal. The 2.4GHz and 900MHz frequency bands each have their advantages for shorter distances in the range of a few feet to several miles. The ability to connect over any distance is impacted by a number of factors, not the least of which are allowable transmission power level and obstacles to the clear line of sight. One way to extend the range of a device is to install a repeater at some point along the transmission path. Repeaters will receive a fading process signal and transmit the signal at the full available strength, increasing the distance over which the information can be transmitted. Repeaters can also be useful for bypassing obstacles in the transmission path.

What if connection is needed over a longer distance?

earth orbiting satellite used for process data communications
There are other options for bandwidth that can extend beyond a few miles. If service is available at transmission and receiving sites, cellular networks may be a workable option. Satellite data transmission is also a viable option that can provide global connectivity.

Distance is not really a great hurdle to overcome when it comes to establishing an industrial wireless connection. Share your industrial wireless challenges with application experts. Combining your process knowledge with their wireless expertise will produce effective solutions.