Wednesday 2 May 2012

WiFi access point for industrial M2M applications

Airborne embedded WiFi connectivity technology acquired from Quatech enables self-sufficient communications hubs for rugged M2M networks

B&B Electronics has launched its first 802.11 b/g* WiFi access point to provide M2M equipment with wireless networking capabilities.

This industrial-grade wireless access point is the first fruit of B&B’s October 2011 acquisition of Quatech, whose Airborne™ wireless networking devices feature WiFi connectivity technology to network-enable industrial M2M devices. B&B Electronics’ Airborne 802.11 b/g access point appears in two forms. An embeddable module (APMG-Q551) allows original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to WiFi-enable their own products so they can either serve as M2M wireless communications hubs or tie into existing wireless networks. An external Ethernet access point (APXG-Q5420) provides the same functionality in a stand-alone box, and adds serial device server capability as well.

B&B's Airborne Access Point technology allows the access-point-equipped device, whether it’s the external APXG or an OEM’s device fitted with the APMG, to become the center of its own self-sufficient Wi-Fi network. It can thus communicate with other Wi-Fi enabled devices, including laptops, tablets and handhelds using Android, iOS, or Windows.

As an example, an embedded APMG can turn an isolated piece of equipment in a service vehicle into a wireless gateway. The newly-created local WiFi network around the service vehicle enables multiple handhelds and tablets to talk to each other, can provide access to other equipment with embedded WiFi capability in the vehicle and can provide access to the Internet via cellular modem.

The external APXG access point is equipped with a typical Ethernet port, plus two serial ports that are not generally found on wireless access points. With Ethernet, WiFi and two serial ports all in one box, the APXG provides more port configuration and connectivity tools than other access points on the market. It can be configured as a router or network bridge. Its serial interfaces support RS232/422/485 legacy devices, and both ports can be used simultaneously. With the ability to connect and route between any of its ports, the APXG can serve as an access point (handling up to eight simultaneous client connections) or as a bridge (tying WiFi devices into Ethernet networks), while simultaneously serving as a serial device server (bridging serial devices into either wired or wireless LANs.)

Both the APMG and APXG units can switch easily from access point to client mode through either web or command line interfaces. In client mode the devices provide WPA2-Enterprise Class Extensible Authentication Protocols (EAP) with support for authentication Certificates. Advanced security including WEP, WPA (TKIP), WPA2 (AES – FIPS 197), WPA2 Enterprise, 802.11i and 802.1x (EAP) are standard. The units include support for EAP-TLS, EAP-TTLS, PEAP, EAP-FAST and LEAP with AES-CCMP supported in the hardware, and a fully-functional DHCP server to provide unique addresses for each authenticated client.

Built for industrial conditions, both Airborne access points are rated for an extended operating temperature range (-20°C to +85°C). The external APXG supports wide-range input power (5 to 36 VDC) and features a rugged metal enclosure, panel and DIN rail mounting tabs, and a terminal block and a barrel jack power connection.

* b/g stands for a type of signal protocol standard governing bandwidth and data speed. It operates in the 2.4GHz ISM band on a 20MHz with variable data rate per stream. It uses DSSS and OFDM modulation. Approximate indoor range = 35-38 meters, and 140 meters outdoors

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