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Industrial IoT Solutions: What to look for in an LTE Cellular Gateway

Connecting mission critical infrastructure is no easy task. Industrial applications such as oil and gas, electricity and smart city systems require reliable, robust and high performing communications infrastructure that maintain optimal performance in severe conditions and in remote locations. Decision makers must find viable, future-proof industrial IoT solutions that meet their current needs and protect their investment.

Below we’ve listed some of the critical features you should consider when evaluating LTE cellular gateways or mission-critical applications.

• Rugged Design

Industrial applications—such as an oil pipeline running through mountains, or a water-pumping station in the desert—typically require equipment that can operate in remote locations exposed to harsh conditions. The equipment used in these environments needs to withstand extreme temperatures, humidity, shock, vibration and be able to operate without interruption for years at a time. For this reason, any viable industrial LTE gateway must have industrial-strength casing, and remain fully operational across an entire temperature range, whether it’s arctic cold or desert heat—such as-30 to +70 °C—since some equipment delivers limited or reduced performance when temperatures extend beyond typical ratings. Industrial LTE gateways must also be capable of surviving brownouts and voltage spikes, for example from -600 VDC to 200 VDC, as machines with internal combustion engines commonly power industrial infrastructure, and can subject it to large voltage variations.

• 4G LTE Operability

In North America, many 2G networks will be decommissioned in the coming years as spectrum gets reallocated to provide more advanced 4G LTE services—for example AT&T has confirmed that it will decommission its 2G network at the end of 2016. As a result, customers must look to alternative cellular technologies to ensure that their 2G infrastructure remains operational when these networks are shut off. LTE solutions—such as cellular gateways —are the logical migration path for industrial applications using 2G, providing equipment longevity and significantly reducing cost of ownership, while broadband networks continue to evolve. The capacity inherent in LTE gateways allows for added functionality, such as video surveillance, in addition to reducing latency for existing applications like SCADA, distribution management and metering.

• Ultra-Low Power Consumption

Because industrial infrastructure is commonly located in places that have no connectivity to either fixed line communications or power sources, industrial LTE gateways that can operate via low-powered solar panels provide an optimal wireless alternative.

In the oil & gas industry, from drill bit to burner tip, there are many locations that rely on solar power, such as SCADA systems, pipeline and well monitoring, and metering in gas distribution. Intelligent traffic systems also rely on solar panels to power digital signs on roadside trailers.

For existing infrastructure where solar panels are already in use, a low power consuming LTE gateway that can work within the capacity of the existing panels is ideal, avoiding the need to upgrade at costs that can run into thousands of dollars. This is particularly relevant where customers are upgrading from 2G to 4G, and a 4G upgrade path that can operate within the capacity of the existing panels that were sized for 2G equipment is essential.

For new installations, the low power consumption means smaller, more cost-effective solar panels. Industrial LTE gateways range in idle power consumption from under 1W to nearly 5W, which has a significant impact when sizing solar panels and batteries.

• Remote Manageability

Industrial applications can involve hundreds or thousands of devices operating over a very large geographical area. It’s important to be able to manage all these devices from a single service that supports a full range of capabilities. Customers will want to perform remote device monitoring, remote firmware upgrades, and make bulk changes to configurations, even years after the initial deployment. Look for an industrial LTE gateway with remote management and monitoring capabilities to improve efficiency, operating costs and maintenance schedules.

To sum up…

These are just a few of the many factors to consider when choosing a best-in-class industrial LTE cellular gateway to connect your critical infrastructure.  To learn more we recommend you read the Top 10 Things to look for in an LTE Industrial Gateway whitepaper.
For more information on industrial LTE solutions from Sierra Wireless, check out our recently launched AirLink Raven RV50 —the industry’s lowest power industrial LTE gateway.