Wired and Wireless Networks for the Energy Industry

September 14, 2017 at 8:00 AM

 

The energy industry is getting a lot of attention these days with more people talking about how we can better harness and use energy. Here, we’ll look at the energy industry and how all sectors, including oil, gas and renewable sources, are using wired and wireless networks to connect their operations.

 

Oil and Gas

 

Offshore oil platforms are exposed to water, salt, vibration and extreme temperatures. Although in many cases the communications equipment used on these rigs are housed in protective enclosures some equipment must be located in exposed areas where they are subject to environmental extremes. This includes IP cameras used for surveillance of the platform, plus the cabling and converters that link back to the central control room on the rig. Wireless sensors and controllers are also located throughout the platform and are linked by outdoor antennas, amplifiers and access points used to operate the rig.

 

In petroleum refineries, wired and wireless sensors are used to monitor and control process applications and provide real-time data that can warn of system issues. Many valves and controllers are linked to a serial or IP network, as well as security and surveillance equipment that are critical to operations.

 

Natural gas pipelines depend on communications networks to monitor the safety and efficiency of the pipeline, which can span hundreds of miles over harsh terrain and in remote areas. These networks allow for real-time data to be sent to the control room that can detect leaks and issues with pressure and temperature. IP based surveillance systems along the pipeline also require network connectivity to provide added protection.

 

Renewable Energy

 

Solar energy networks use wired and wireless connectivity for long distance control and monitoring of solar panel arrays. For example, serial data cables connect to the power meters on the panel, theses power meters are then connected to the Ethernet network via a device server and antennas wirelessly connect the power meters back to the control center for monitoring and control.

 

Hydroelectric power has modernized operations by implementing automated systems in hydroelectric plants. Many of these systems use Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs) to control valves, motor starters, sensors and flood gate control systems that are critical to operations. Other systems use wireless networks to monitor and control the plant. Surveillance and security systems are also important in these plants to not only monitor for intruders, but also to visually analyze the dam and plant and watch for structural breakdown.

 

Monitoring wind turbines also requires wired and wireless networks. An industrial Ethernet switch allows signals to be sent to the turbine that change its speed and angle. Fiber optic cables connect the control center to multiple turbines over long distances for complete control of the wind farm and antennas are used to connect the local control center to a main control network.  

 

For more details on how wired and wireless technology is powering the energy industry, and how L-com’s products are being used, download our energy industry overview.

 

How Wired & Wireless Technology Is Helping Healthcare

June 29, 2017 at 8:00 AM

 

Healthcare is a hot topic right now. It is something that touches everyone’s lives at some point, though we might not think about the technology that goes into building healthcare devices and keeping hospitals running smoothly. Here, we’ll look at the healthcare industry and how technology is used in devices and to build communications networks to keep medical centers connected.

 

OEM Medical Devices

 

A medical device may only be as good as the parts that it’s made ofand if you’re ever in need of a defibrillator, you’re surely going to want it to have been constructed with quality parts. Medical manufacturers use all types of connectivity products to build medical devices, these include USB cables and adapters, HDMI, VGA and D-subminiature cables and adapters. For all of these parts, there are strict design requirements that must be met to comply with federal safety regulations.  We work with medical device OEMs around the world to provide solutions to fit their requirements to build medical devices that will perform when they’re needed most.

 

In-Building Wireless Networks

 

Many of today’s hospitals and medical facilities have replaced old-school patient charts with portable, wireless tablets to keep track of patient information and records. Thus, they depend on reliable cellular and Wi-Fi coverage to keep devices used by doctors and nurses connected, plus those used by patients and visitors. Distributed antenna systems (DAS), access points, RF amplifiers and low-loss coaxial cables are used to ensure that medical staff and patients can stay connected with seamless cellular and Wi-Fi coverage.

 

Medical Campus Networks

 

When a medical facility spans across several separate buildings, a high-speed communications network is needed to share vital information such as patient records and test results. Wireless point-to multipoint networks use directional and Omni-directional antennas to send wireless signals throughout the campus. If a wireless network can’t be used because Line of Sight conditions are less that optimal, a wired fiber backbone can be implemented to connect the buildings. In this case, an intricate network of fiber cabling, media converters, routers and Ethernet switches are employed to provide comprehensive campus-wide coverage.

 

Wired Infrastructure/Data Center

 

Within hospitals and medical centers there can be numerous floors that all need to be connected to a main data center. A wide variety of cabling and connectivity products are used to build this wired communications infrastructure from the ground up, running from the IDFs to the data center.  Category 5e/6/6a cables, OFNP and LSZH cables, server racks, patch panels, switches, routers and more are all used to build a high-speed, fault-tolerant medical communications network to keep every floor, device and user connected.

 

For more information on how wired and wireless technology is helping healthcare, and how L-com’s products are being used, read our full healthcare industry overview.

 

Advantages of Fiber Cabling You May Not Have Considered

September 11, 2014 at 10:00 AM

 

 

First things first, we aren’t claiming that fiber is outright better than copper cabling.

 

We understand that as data and network design requirements vary, some applications may need copper cabling. In these cases, copper is likely the best choice and perfectly suited for that network or application.

 

What we ARE saying is that in other instances there may be advantages to using fiber in your application. 

 

When you consider the many elements that are involved in designing your network- such as cost, dependability, durability, resources, space, etc.- it will be helpful to know more about how using fiber can positively impact your network.

 

As with any technology related implementation, one might also want to consider the environmental impact that the network will have. Fiber has some environmental advantages that we will go over. 

 

So here they are, the facts about why fiber could be beneficial to your application!

1.       It generally requires less power

 

Overall, fiber uses less power to transmit at a longer distance.

 

Look at redundancy, for example. Copper backbones and Intermediate Distribution Frames (IDFs) could be converted to fiber optic direct from a centralized data center all the way to the desktop. When you eliminate the need for IDFs, you eliminate the need for all the extra space, cooling, cabling and power backup they require. This will generally mean less power consumption, especially at longer distances.

 

Copper also has limited run distances, so getting data from point A to point B can be an issue if the connection exceeds 100 meters, whereas fiber provides much further distance support.  

 

If you absolutely need copper, consider that higher quality copper cables result in less re-transmission of data and therefore less power consumption. Also, inexpensive and portable Wireless CPE units can be used remotely to provide a secondary communications link when fiber cannot be installed due to cost or physical barriers.

 

Note that fiber optic media converters can help transition your copper network to fiber optics if you choose a hybrid network design.

 

 

2.       Saves on Resources

 

Why? Fiber is lighter by nature of its composition. Therefore supporting structures can be less robust.

 

Also, since fiber runs all the way to the destination without a repeater for most networks, there is less need for intermediary network closets which saves on floor space and power consumption.  This also saves on HVAC needs too (which provides energy savings).

3.       Efficiency

 

Fiber cabling is as good as it gets for efficiency and security in network applications.  This is because it is free from threat of corrosion and is resistant to atmospheric conditions such as lightning or other electrical interference. Fiber is also resistant to environments where vibration and EMI/RFI interference might be present. And, fiber-optic cables don’t interfere with other devices.

 

Fiber proves its efficiency especially when you look at the use of materials over time for upgrading. Upgrades can be rather difficult with copper wire, though not with fiber because the real capacity of fiber is only partially utilized at today's network speeds. Cable and telephone providers often use fiber because it gives them greater reliability with the opportunity to offer new services, such as digital phone service and internet connections. 

 

With fiber cabling the signal also has a constrained loss rate, which means that very little signal is lost over rather long distances. Lastly, fiber is very hard to tap and steal data from since it transfers data with light.

 

 

4.       Saves on Waste

 

To put it into perspective, one fiber cable can do the work of TEN copper cables. That’s less material being used for manufacturing, thus less material ending up at the landfill.

 

As mentioned above, the reduced need for upgrading fiber networks also saves on waste as you are disposing of fewer cables over time.

  

All points considered, choosing the best connectivity media for your application is a balancing act. Armed with the facts you need about the implications of fiber technology, now you can consider what is most important to you and what best suits the requirements of your network.

 

It’s an IP world with the Internet of Things (IoT)

August 21, 2014 at 10:00 AM

 

 

In today’s age of such accelerated technology advancements, we practically have the world at our fingertips.

 

Emergency services respond at the push of a button, robots work for us in factories, apps on our phones connect us with others across the world…

 

And it’s about to get even easier.

 

As 2014 marches on, the buzz around the term “Internet of things” or “IoT” is ever increasing due to the fact that its impact on our society has the potential to be dramatic within a relatively short span of time.

 

By now most of you may have already heard of this phenomenon, but just what does this term really mean? And what are the implications to our wired and wireless engineering world?

 

 

An Ecosystem of Sorts

 

IoT is the idea that just about every imaginable device that can provide either a control or monitoring function will someday have an IP address for access to the Internet. CISCO Systems, Inc. calls it the “Internet of Everything,” or the networked connection of people, processes, data, and things.

 

Imagine objects in your home, car, at work, and all around you having an IP address to connect to the cloud—providing immediate access via just about any device (Smart Phone, tablet, laptop, desktop computer, etc.).

 

And IoT is not just limited to devices; it’s encroaching upon use with people and animals too! Livestock monitoring and tracking, medical devices for monitoring, and preventative medicine on humans are just some examples. The concept is to have multiple vertical sectors operating in one connected ecosystem.

 

A few other examples of startup “things” that are popping up around the IoT world include: an all-in-one touch screen WiFi router and smart home hub, WiFi enabled smart outlets and plugs that allow you to adjust settings via smart phone, sensor enhanced trash bins, and a bracelet that measures sun exposure.

 

According to Business Insider Intelligence, the IoT will account for 9 billion connections by 2018. In addition, BI Intelligence estimates that the IoT alone will surpass the PC, Tablet, and phone market combined by 2017.

 

So what are the ramifications?

 

IoT has the power to influence energy savings, cost savings, remote control and monitoring for business and home applications, and more. By using smarter and more efficient tracking, analysis, and monitoring some businesses will have an opportunity for cost savings (such as an insurance company saving money with collision avoidance navigation systems).

 

 

What about Our Business?

 

Lucky for us engineering minded folks, IoT applications will require both wired and wireless networking infrastructures to operate.

 

Every device- such as a pressure sensor, temperature sensor, or flow control valve- will have an IP address that is connected to the internet or to an Ethernet network. Thus, any necessary equipment for Ethernet IP networks will be required.

 

According to the Silicon Valley Business Journal, the most lucrative benefactors of this new movement will be the companies making chips that power these devices and those who are building the systems that will connect the chips (rather than the companies making the actual appliances).

 

Our products such as Ethernet switches and converters, WiFi antennas and RF amplifiers are some examples of the products needed to support IoT applications.  As a designer and manufacturer of wired and wireless networking products we are excited to see where this IoT evolution will take us!

 

Which NEMA Enclosure is best for your application?

May 29, 2014 at 10:00 AM


Let’s help you decide. We can figure this out together, I’m sure of it.

 

First we will talk about why you might want an enclosure, or for those of you who don’t know yet- what they are used for.

 

When deploying a wired or wireless network, it’s common to use expensive components like switches, routers, access points, and PLC's. These devices are critical to the operation of the network and can cost thousands of dollars.

 

When these devices are located outside or in an industrial setting such as a factory or processing plant, they become susceptible to damage from the elements, chemicals and physical contact.

 

The best way to protect your valuable communications equipment from this contact is with an enclosure. An enclosure is like Iron Man’s suit; the outer shielding protects the valuable inner-goods.

 

Who would Iron Man be without his suit anyways?

 

A common term that you’ll see used with enclosures is “industrial.” This is because most enclosures are built to be weatherproof, rugged, and often sport features such as heaters, cooling fans and more. They are designed for indoor and outdoor use, hot and cold temperature environments, as well as where equipment and critical systems need power, environmental protection, and security for the network to function.

 

NEMA (National Electrical Manufacturers Association) and the IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission) are two standard groups, and each has their own ratings based on resistance to dust, moisture, water immersion, and ice. Equipment enclosures typically use one of these rating systems to define how much abuse a particular enclosure can take.

 

You can find enclosures at use in places like:

 

Industrial data and control systems in factories and manufacturing plants, Municipal/State/Federal wired and remote sensor applications, secure WLAN network installations and more.

 

Some enclosures can even be used in extremely harsh environments such as mines, hydraulic or pneumatic control installations, and petrochemical refineries. They are made to endure all manner of abuse and keep the sensitive electronics inside safe.

 

As you will see, there are many varieties of enclosures with endless features. For the purpose of this tutorial we are going to walk through three categories: Non-powered, Powered, and Heated & Cooled.

 

 

Non-Powered

 

These enclosures are perfect for housing both wired and wireless communications equipment that do not require power. L-com’s non-powered weatherproof enclosures feature either a fully-removable gasketed lid with a stainless steel continuous hinge or a continuous gasketed lid secured by four non-metallic molded screws that ensure optimal integrity.

 

Our non-powered enclosures are also available in a variety of materials including Molded Fiberglass Reinforced Polyester (FRP) and VALOX 357U thermoplastic material.

 

 

Powered

 

Depending on the type of devices you are protecting in an enclosure, you may require a power source. Some of our enclosures have built in power outlets for a variety of interfaces, including 12V DC120V AC, 240V AC, and POE.

 

In addition to sharing some of the many features the non powered enclosures have, some of our powered interfaces include built in lightning protection. This helps add an extra level of security for the equipment installed in the enclosure.

 

 

Heating & Cooling

 

Weather your application requires power or not, there’s another piece of the puzzle to keep in mind. Will your equipment be exposed to cold temperatures, extreme heat, or moisture?

 

If your equipment will be experiencing any of these conditions, there are options for cooled, vented, and heated enclosures.

 

For example, L-com carries a sub-zero 48 VDC PoE-powered weatherproof enclosure, which is perfect for heating critical equipment in sub-zero temperatures. This sub-zero model has a thermostat-controlled heating system that is powered by a single Cat5 cable plugged into the remote-mounted power supply. This thermostat is designed for use in sub-zero environments up to -30°F (-34°C), maintaining a nominal internal ambient temperature of +40°F (4°C). The insulation properties of fiberglass, as well as foam insulation, aid in heat retention. 

 

Here's a helpful diagram that describes where all of these features would be located:


 

 

 

If you still haven’t yet figured out what you need, ask us about customization!

 

You might be able to design exactly what your application needs. At L-com we can customize mounting plates, cut outs and more to enable any mounting configuration. As mentioned previously, we also offer variations with heating, cooling, and venting. 

 

© L-com, Inc. All Rights Reserved. L-com, Inc., 50 High Street, West Mill, Third Floor, Suite 30, MA 01845