Babel Buster Network Gateways: Big Features. Small Price.
Last week the M2M Expo and Conference and BuilConn events were held in Dallas, Texas. Among the hundreds of attendees and scores of exhibitors were a handful of wireless demonstrations. Each demonstration was a testament to the power and possibilities that wireless technologies offers for control networks. Frank Capuano, president of Strata Resource Inc and editor of The Show Daily, covered several of these demonstrations in articles published in the daily. Included below are three articles originally published in the daily, and a fourth article about the wireless mesh network demonstration conducted (including a ZigBee demonstration) during the final session of the Wireless Mesh Track on Thursday, March 24th.
Monday, March 21, 2005
Wireless, Wireless, Everywhere
The wireless revolution is upon us – or is it? Wireless networks have been the holy grail of control system installation for years, or more accurately, the stuff of fantasy. Every control system installation requires miles of signal cabling and an equal amount of conduit. New construction requires careful coordination of conduit placement, and room is always at a premium. For a retrofit installation, you have to squeeze the conduit in wherever you can, which almost requires an artistic touch to bend each conduit just right to weave its way through all the other “stuff” in the ceiling. Can wireless technologies really reduce the installation process down to applying Velcro to the controller and wall? Is it really going to be red Velcro for temperature sensors, and blue for humidity sensors and yellow for lighting sensors and green for combination sensors? It is difficult to say for certain. Listening to experts provides a level of education and reassurance, but you need to see the real deal to know for certain.
There are numerous experts presenting at the M2M and BuilConn events to inform and educate you on the status, benefits, applications, and feasibility of wireless technologies. Their mere presence indicates a viable industry on the move, however, seeing is believing. Also at M2M and BuilConn, numerous wireless demonstrations – live wireless networks, accumulating, transmitting, and displaying data – have been deployed to show you the real deal about wireless networks.
You will find several wireless mesh sensor networks deployed throughout the conference. Several companies in the Expo are deploying networks in their booths. The WebGen Systems booth is displaying sensor data from a 100-node wireless mesh network deployed in the Millennial Net booth. Sensicast Systems will be displaying environmental data from each of the session rooms using a wireless mesh network and making the data accessible to each session room via a Web browser. Dust Networks and SensorLogic have teamed up to deliver a surprising and memorable application of wireless mesh networks, in the last place you would expect to find one. Each demonstration explores a different application of wireless technologies and establishes the viability wireless mesh networks.
Is the wireless revolution upon us? – Talk to the experts; investigate the demonstrations and then judge for yourself.
Wednesday, March 22, 2005
Wireless in Every Session
Have you ever been in a packed presentation room – standing room only – and felt like someone shut down the air handling system? With each passing second you feel the temperature rising, the air becomes stale, everyone begins perspiring, the humidity becomes unbearable and the irony of the presentation being about optimizing HVAC systems is driving you insane. But there is nothing you can do about it, because the thermostat on the wall doesn’t have a local display or local controls.
We’ve all been there, but steps have been taken to ensure no one will experience this during the M2M and BuilConn presentations. Each session room has been equipped with a wireless temperature and humidity sensor, forming a mesh network that continually monitors the environmental conditions. The sensor data from each room is transmitted to an IP web server at the Sensicast Systems booth in the Expo hall. The temperature and humidity of each session room is displayed at the booth and is also accessible via web browser in each session room.
The wireless mesh network was installed Tuesday evening in a fraction of the time it would have taken to install a wired system. Sensicast was approached two weeks prior to the M2M and BuilConn events to deploy this temporary mesh network as a demonstration of available off-the-shelf wireless technology. No customization of hardware or software was necessary for the deployment of this network. It is not just a demonstration of wireless capabilities; it also illustrates how standard enterprise applications can easily interface with a wireless network to deliver a complete solution.
Monitoring only two environmental points per room may seem trivial, however, uncomfortable environments – during a presentation or in your office – always leads to a decreased attention span and loss of productivity. What may seem like a simple demonstration only underscores the ease and usefulness of wireless mesh networks.
Thursday, March 24, 2005
Wireless Within Reach
Several hundred people were present for yesterday’s keynote addresses, which means there are several hundred opinions on which address struck an accord with the audience and which speaker told the best jokes. Now, thanks to wireless mesh networking technology we do not have to rely on individual accounts, we can collect the data, analysis it and use it to decide which speakers to invite back next year.
Tuesday night, Dust Networks and SensorLogic deployed a wireless mesh network throughout the keynote audience area by placing a dozen nodes on the wall – using Velcro. Each node was equipped with a noise level sensor that measured audience response in real time. The network used off-the-shelf products and did not require any special hardware or software customization.
Paul Ehrlich, of Building Intelligence Group and Glen Allmendinger, of Harbor Research demonstrated the effectiveness of the network using a needle gage “applause meter” graphical display. The meter clearly displayed the rise in noise level when the audience clapped and the silence in the room during Paul and Glen’s comedy routine. Rest assured Paul and Glen will not be making any career changes any time soon.
Although memorable, this application may seem novel, however, it is an effective demonstration of the viability, versatility, and far-reaching possibilities for wireless mesh networks. It would have been impractical if not impossible to establish a wired network for this demonstration. Yet, with wireless this demonstration was easily and quickly deployed.
Wireless Mesh @ BuilConn
Discussion and Demo of Mesh Networking
During the final session period of the M2M and BuilConn events in the Wireless Mesh track, several demonstrations were conducted and discussed. This track was well attended throughout the day and in this final session no one was leaving until each demo had been discussed. The audience saw three live wireless mesh network demonstrations, each from a different company, and asked several questions of each deployment. This session ended the day not with a sense of the possible, but by providing the audience with a tangible grasp of the practical.
Dust Networks conducted the first demonstration, which was a remote 50-node wireless mesh network. The network was accessed via the Internet and the network topography was displayed on the presentation screen. The software used to investigate the network demonstrated the network’s reliability and put to rest numerous concerns about wireless networks. The software clearly showed that each node maintained a primary and secondary path to route data through the network, summaries on network latency (packet transmission rates) on a user selectable daily, hourly or 15 minute interval, and battery status.
Audience questions initially focused on network reliability, but were soon replaced by a discussion on the future of wireless network deployments. The discussion included comments ranging from current applications to future wireless networks being accessed via cellular “dial-in” instead of the Internet, in an effort not to clash with the in-house IT department.
The second demonstration was conducted by Sensicast Systems, which used their locally deployed network discussed earlier in the Wednesday Show Daily. The intent was to access the web server in the Sensicast booth via the Internet to show their existing network, however, their booth and network web server had been dismantled prior to the start of this session. As a result, Peter Stein of Sensicast Systems demonstrated how to establish an ad-hoc network using his laptop and the deployed wireless nodes. The original set-up took about 2 hours to deploy and the ad-hoc network took about 10 minutes to establish. This clearly illustrated the maturity of the mesh technology and the self-forming nature of mesh networks.
The discussion following the demonstration included graphical user interface applications and commissioning tools. It was discussed that any graphical interface application will be able to access a mesh network, however, an interface that charges by the point would be a deterrent to mesh networks because the mesh philosophy is “the more points the better.” Also discussed was the quality of commissioning tools as part of the solution selection process. It was stated that the commissioning tool for a 200-node mesh network is not a barrier; however, once networks include 1000s of nodes, the commissioning tool would become a solution differentiator.
The final demonstration, by Figure 8 Wireless, was of a ZigBee network that included a musical keyboard. A three-node mesh network was deployed in the session room that routed signals from a keyboard, located in the front of the room, to the PA system, located in the back of the room. Notes were heard over the PA system as they were played on the keyboard. Each note was clearly heard and the subtleties of velocity difference (between keys or repetition of a single note) were easily distinguishable. This illustrated that the recently published ZigBee protocol is a viable player in mesh networking.
This session demonstrated three applications of mesh networks from different vendors and clearly illustrated the practical capabilities and potential of wireless mesh networks.
For More Information
For more information about the companies discussed in these articles, please refer to the web sites listed below.
Dust Networks –
SensorLogic – www.sensorlogic.com
Sensicast Systems Inc – www.sensicast.com
WebGen Systems – www.webgensystems.com
Millennial Net – www.millennialnet.com
Figure 8 Wireless – www.f8w.com
Harbor Research Inc – www.harborresearch.com
Building Intelligence Group - www.building-intelligence-group.com
About Strata Resource Inc.
Strata Resource is a market research company that specializes in research and analysis of building automation technology, companies, trends and products. In addition, Strata Resource supports industry events and leading corporations through event capture and market communications. For more information, visit www.StrataResource.com.
About the M2M Expo and Conference
Learn how real adopters and suppliers are making M2M happen now at the premier event for the entire M2M space. Now in its second year, the M2M Expo and Conference 2005 will feature unique application strategies and lessons learned from real world case studies as well as education on the technologies and business models used to implement machine-to-machine solutions. With more than 30 detailed case study sessions, strategy workshops, and panel discussions spread over two days, the M2M Expo and Conference is the place to discover where M2M is going in 2005. For more information, visit www.M2Mexpo.com.
BuilConn is a four-day forum uniting integrators, manufacturers, distributors, consultants and technologists from the disparate disciplines of the building systems industry to learn and discuss the trends, technologies and their applications for tomorrow’s intelligent buildings. From Access Control and HVAC to Lighting, CCTV and IT, BuilConn is the only network infrastructure and integration event focusing on bridging the gaps between these sectors to deliver true Networked Building Systems. For more information, visit www.BuilConn.com.
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