The Argument for Hazardous Access Point Enclosures in the Rapidly Changing World of Wireless Technology

Many companies in the chemical, mining, petrochemical, pulp & paper, power generation, primary metals and pharmaceutical industries now require high-performance Wi-Fi access in potentially explosive environments. These critical applications, whether for device telemetry, network access, site-to-site connectivity, or unified communications, require the highest available Wi-Fi performance inside some of the harshest environments.

There are two ways to design Wi-Fi access points for application deployment inside explosive environments:
  1. Design and build the access point itself to operate directly inside the hazardous environment, without an external enclosure rated for the area.
  2. Use an access point designed for non-hazardous locations, and install it inside an access point enclosure specifically designed for that hazardous classification. 
The first approach is cost effective when underlying technology is slow-to-change, stable, and the pressure to change is years off.

The second approach, using an external access point enclosure, is the best path to take in situations where the underlying technology is changing rapidly.

It only took 10 years for Wi-Fi to move from 802.11n, to 802.11ac Wave 1, to 802.11ac Wave 2. No one wants to buy and install old technology. The thought of implementing a 2007 technology (802.11n for instance) for an application today is silly. Instead, today you would use 802.11ac Wave 1, especially in industrial environments, because of its outstanding multipath performance in the presence of metal. What will you use tomorrow? Who knows. But you should plan accordingly.

Based on typical amortization rates, a customer who wants to stay on top of the latest Wi-Fi technology would update their equipment roughly once every 4 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, and 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.

If you are working with rapidly changing standards, and technologies such as Wi-Fi whose equipment is constantly upgraded, purchasing and installing a hazardous area enclosure, and swapping out access points as technology changes, is clearly the more economical solution in the long run.

Analynk Wireless, LLC
(614) 755-5091