Protecting Wireless Infrastructure in Potentially Explosive Environments

Wireless access point enclosure"Built to Blast: Industrial Internet of Things Infrastructure for Hazardous Environments" 

Many chemical, defense, flight line, food processing, fueling, mining, petrochemical, and pharmaceutical applications require high-performance Wi-Fi access in potentially explosive environments. Whether for device telemetry, network access, site-to-site connectivity, or unified communications, these applications require the highest available Wi-Fi performance in the harshest of environments.

Wi-Fi access points can be designed to operate directly in explosive environments without an additional protective enclosure, or they can be designed for use in non-explosive environments and operated inside of an enclosure rated for the application. The former approach is cost-effective when the underlying technology driving the equipment is established, stable, and unlikely to need an upgrade for years; IoT speed, position, pressure, and temperature sensors fall into that category.

The latter approach – using an external enclosure – is the most practical if the underlying wireless technology is changing rapidly. That’s because the cost of purchasing and installing an explosion-proof enclosure can represent from 4 to 20 times the cost of the access point the enclosure is designed to protect. It’s substantially less expensive to swap out the access point, leaving the protective enclosure untouched, than to install a completely new enclosure with every technology upgrade.

In less than ten years the Wi-Fi industry has moved from 802.11n to 802.11ac Wave 1 to 802.11ac Wave 2. Just as no customer would buy a new truck based on a 10 year old design, neither would they consider deploying 802.11n access points based on technology from 2007. At a minimum they would use 802.11ac Wave 1, especially in industrial environments, because of 802.11ac’s outstanding multipath performance in the presence of metal.

Using typical amortization rates a customer that wants to stay abreast of the latest Wi-Fi technology would update equipment roughly once every four years. If we assume that an access point designed for uncontrolled outdoor environments with wide temperature range operation has a List price of $1,500, the associated Class 1 Division 2 enclosure Lists for $3,500, and the installation of just the enclosure (excluding access point set-up and commissioning) costs $2,500, then customers will save $4,500 with every turn of access point technology if the enclosure is retained.

For more information about hazardous area wireless access point enclosures, contact Analynk by calling (614) 755-5091 or visit their website at