Previously, Wi-Fi failed to work in Mettis’ challenging factory environment

The Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) announced the successful completion of its phase one trial of Wi-Fi 6 infrastructure and services with Mettis Aerospace, a U.K. designer and manufacturer of precision-forged, machined and sub-assembled components. The first Wi-Fi 6 industrial enterprise and IoT trial of its kind, it proved an important part of the WBA’s Wi-Fi 6 test and development program. The trial took place the Mettis Aerospace facility in the West Midlands in collaboration with WBA member companies including Broadcom, Cisco, iBwave and Intel as well as Concurrent Engineering and Keysight.

“The completion of this initial phase marks a significant milestone for the adoption of Wi-Fi 6,” said WBA CEO, Tiago Rodrigues. “The Mettis facility is an especially challenging environment for wireless communication. Nevertheless, the field tests in this highly charged atmosphere have proven that Wi-Fi 6 technology works well and can play a vital role within the industrial enterprise and IoT ecosystem. If Wi-Fi 6 can deliver highly reliable, high quality and high bandwidth communications in this type of factory environment, then it can deliver it almost anywhere,” he added.

Further, Mattis’ 27-acre facility has been deemed by Cisco’s CTO of Wireless, Matt MacPherson as “a great example of a ‘hostile’ Wi-Fi environment.” That is why, he continued, manufacturing and other industrial facilities should be excited by the positive results of the trial.  “Using Cisco wireless technology, Mettis was able to reliably use Wi-Fi for truly game-changing applications. This is a testament to the capabilities of Wi-Fi 6 for industrial use cases, as well as the innovation of the WBA, Cisco and partners, he said.

When RCR Wireless News caught up with WBA’s Rodrigues at MWC Los Angeles, he explained that one “critical achievement” for the aerospace company was the use of augmented reality to conduct machine maintenance.

“All the maintenance that they do is manual. There is someone that goes about three times a day to the machine and writes something on a piece of paper and then writes on the computer and then if something is wrong, someone else needs to be sent back out to the machine,” Rodrigues said.

To address this, the maintenance team used augmented mixed reality software to enable ‘walk- by’ machine monitoring, showing it was possible to position a tablet alongside a piece of machinery and get an instant reading of the real-time pressure and performance of the machine.

In addition, the trial utilized devices equipped with the Broadcom (R) BCM4375 and Intel AX200 Wi-Fi 6 chipsets, to conduct tests that included 4k streaming from a webcam mounted on machinery within the factory, 4k YouTube streaming from a laptop with Intel AX200 chip, uploads of very large video files over Wi-Fi, roaming, latency and persistent connectivity during Wi-Fi video calling using smartphones equipped with Broadcom’s BCM4375 chip and augmented reality testing of machinery using devices with Wi-Fi 6 chipset.

Previously, Wi-Fi failed to work in Mettis’ challenging factory environment. But, during the Wi-Fi 6 trial, speeds of 700 Mbps using 80 MHz channels were achieved and low latency applications, like video calling and video streaming, performed well with results below 6ms.

Cisco provided 11 Catalyst 9100 access points (along with WLC and POE Catalyst switches) configured to ensure persistent and consistent signal reliability throughout the day under regularly changing conditions. To help achieve this, iBwave undertook a site survey of the manufacturing floor recorded noise level measurements (with machinery on and off) and gathered essential details about obstructions and the variability of the environment, which was critical to the project because of the prevalence of metal surfaces that can disrupt radio (RF) connectivity.

“The Wi-Fi 6 infrastructure installed as part of the trials has exceeded our expectations in terms of performance, reliable connectivity and consistent coverage across the target area,” said Dave Green, head of IT, Mettis Aerospace. “We are seeing immediate benefits in terms of the data we’re now able to collect and use. Moving forward, we will be able to vastly increase the data we collect from devices across our business, enhancing our manufacturing processes, reducing variability and increasing productivity.”

Gabriel Desjardins, director of marketing for the Wireless Communications and Connectivity Division at Broadcom Inc., believes that this demonstration of “the superior performance, scalability and reliability of Wi-Fi 6” will pave the way for new, low cost use cases for enterprises around the world.

The WBA has stated that phase two of the trial will focus on further tests of the mixed reality applications and IoT sensing of key assets.


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