June 2015

Innovations in Comfort, Efficiency, and Safety Solutions.

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Wireless I/O Saves Time and Money

Wireless I/O systems read digital and analog signals from remote equipment, and reproduce those signals back at the controller location.
Keith Blodorn
Keith Blodorn
a Director of Program Management
ProSoft Technology

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Today’s building and factory automation systems give users an incredible amount of control over complex systems, optimize efficiency, and improve system performance.  Users can access all kinds of information in these systems, often over the Internet.  Connecting equipment to automation systems adds value and makes life easier.  Still, several roadblocks prevent connecting all of the equipment we want.  Wireless I/O systems can reduce the cost and hassle of connecting equipment, unlocking the value that comes with more system control and visibility.

The Challenge of Connecting Equipment

One of the biggest roadblocks to connecting equipment to the automation system is the cost of running wires.  Running conduit between two points can be an expensive endeavor, especially in older facilities.  Reaching equipment installed outside away from the building, like water pumps, backup generators, or chillers, requires digging a trench and burying cables underground.  Many places require permits to lay new wires, adding to the time and cost.  It’s enough to cause many users to simply abandon the idea of gathering information from hard-to-reach equipment.

Before giving up on the idea, it’s worthwhile to consider new wireless I/O products designed specifically to eliminate the costs and time associated with running control cables.  Wireless I/O systems read digital and analog signals from remote equipment, and reproduce those signals back at the controller location.  The system can be used for monitoring of equipment health as well as for simple control functions.  Removing the cost of cabling makes it much more economical to bring this data back in to the automation system.

An Application Example of a Wireless I/O System

Let’s consider an installation with a storm water retention system including pumps and valves, several hundred meters from the building with the automation controller.  The building maintenance team wants to gather information about the storm water system, such as basin water level, pump status, and outflow rate.  Digging a trench from the building to the basin control panel can easily cost $10,000, even more if the path requires trenching through parking lots or roadways.  Add the cost of cabling and conduit, and the project cost quickly exceeds the benefit of bringing the data into the system.

With Wireless I/O from ProSoft Technology, this project becomes much easier – and much less expensive!  Using pre-paired radios, the building maintenance team can install input and output cards right in the cabinet with basin control equipment.  Wireless I/O simply sends these input and output signals to the unit on the other end and replicates the signals there.  Because of this, there is no need for the basin control equipment to support network communications, and no need for the installer to program a data communications network to make it work. 

How Wireless I/O Works

Wireless I/O is a simplified form of wireless communication designed to make reliable, secure connections between two locations.  Unlike data radios, the wireless I/O system requires no software to program or network protocol to configure.  The wireless I/O radios are sold in pairs, already programmed to connect to one another.  The I/O signal sent between the radios is encrypted with 128-bit AES encryption to make sure only the paired radio on the other end can read the information.  The individual I/O modules read the physical signals from the machine – 24VDC digital signals, 0-10V or 4-20mA analog signals – and send that information to a corresponding I/O module at the other end.  The corresponding module simply reproduces the signal on its output terminals.  The digital I/O module has four digital inputs and four digital outputs, while the analog modules each have two inputs and two outputs.  The system is bi-directional, so each radio can send inputs to and receive outputs from the other.  Each radio pair can support 16 I/O modules, for 64 digital inputs and outputs or 32 analog inputs and outputs.

How Wireless I/O Works

Because the system only needs to handle a small amount of data, the wireless I/O radios use a technique called “frequency hopping spread spectrum” modulation.  This method is ideal for reducing potential interference from other radio signals in the area and provides very reliable transmission of the I/O signals.  The system is available in either 2.4GHz or (in North America) 900MHz versions.  Most wi-fi systems operate in the 2.4GHz frequency, so using a 900MHz system will not interfere with the building’s wi-fi.  By default, the system transmits the status of its I/O once per second.  A “Turbo Mode” option boosts the update rate to as fast as 10 times per second. 

contemporary Conclusion

Wireless I/O from ProSoft Technology makes it easy to collect data from equipment.  The system eliminates the expense of trenching or running conduit to hard-to-reach places.  It requires no software programming or protocol configuration.  The encrypted bi-directional radio transmission uses a highly reliable method of radio communication to make sure the I/O signals are secure and uptime is maximized.  And the system won’t interfere with other radio signals like wi-fi.  Wireless I/O is a valuable option to consider when connecting equipment to an automation system.

For more information about ProSoft Technology’s Wireless I/O system, visit http://psft.com/A6R.

About the Author

Keith Blodorn is the Director of Program Management at ProSoft Technology. He has worked in the Industrial Automation industry for more than 20 years.


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