WiFi Solution for Automated Warehouses

Automated Warehouses demanding High Performance WiFi Network

The more popular brands in the marketplace are just not cutting it in terms of performance for automated warehouses. Typically, taking a warehouse using AGVs for shelf moving and order picking as an example, an A8-Ein(ac) base station could fully cover a warehouse of 8,000 m2 (100m x 80m), and an A3-Ei AP could also fully cover a warehouse of 5,000 m2. In contrast, for a solution using common APs, the coverage radius of an AP is typically around 10m, and to fully cover a warehouse of 8,000 m2, more than 20 APs would be required.

With the boom of e-commerce, especially the online-to-offline (O2O) shopping, major players in e-commerce and logistics (e.g., Amazon, Alibaba, JD, etc.) have been investing significantly in building automated warehouses, to improve the efficiency, minimise human errors, and reduce the cost.

In an automated warehouse, robots (e.g., automated guided vehicles or AGVs) move the materials or even the shelves to designated locations under the control of the back-end management system. To keep the system operating smoothly and effectively, a high-performance and stable wireless network which provides the communication channel between the robots and back-end control system is crucial. WiFi, due to its technical maturity, unlicensed spectrum, and abundant terminals/cards available, has become the most common choice of the wireless network for automated warehouses.

On the other hand, automated warehouses typically have complex and changing internal layout, with many robots working simultaneously, which pose some challenging requirements on the WiFi network, among which below are the most important ones.

  1. High-quality signal coverage. A robot should get strong-enough signal from the AP (and vice versa for the uplink) wherever it moves in the warehouse (e.g., the corners, under the shelves), so that it will not lose communication with the back-end control system, thus halt at somewhere potentially blocking the working aisle for other robots;
  2. Redundant coverage. Even if some WiFi AP stops working, the robots in its service area should be able to connect to some other AP nearby to resume the communication with the back-end control system;
  3. Fast roaming support for WiFi terminals. A warehouse is typically deployed with more than one AP. When AGVs move inside the warehouse, they may need to switch from one AP to another. The WiFi network should be able to help them achieve fast roaming among the APs, so that the operation will not be slowed down or even suspended due to delayed/failed roaming;
  4. High capacity. An automated warehouse can easily have tens or hundreds of AGVs. Its WiFi network should be able to provide high-speed and stable communication service to these AGVs simultaneously;
  5. Network security. As the communication platform for a control system, the WiFi network of an automated warehouse should enable authentication and encryption, and only admit designated devices (e.g., AGVs and handheld scanners, but not personal smartphones).

Altai Super WiFi Solution

Altai Technologies is the world-leading large-coverage outdoor WiFi solution provider. Via Powertec, their distributor in Australia and New Zealand, they apply their Super WiFi technology and products to automated warehouses, and provide an exceptional solution to warehouse customers.

Super Coverage

Altai Super WiFi APs have super large coverage. In line-of-sight (LOS) condition, A8-Ein(ac) base station can provide coverage up to 1.7km to normal clients (laptops, smartphones, etc.), and A3-Ei AP can also cover up to 1km. Thanks to such super coverage capability, by installing a single such AP at a high place at one of the corners of the warehouse, blanket WiFi coverage can be provided in the warehouse without any blind spot. See below figure for the illustration.

automated warehousesOne of the major reasons that Altai Super WiFi APs have such great coverage capability is the high-gain wide-beam antenna. The built-in antenna array of A8-Ein(ac) has a gain of 19dBi and 3dB horizontal beam width of 80°. A3-Ei also has an antenna gain up to 13dBi and beam width up to 80°. Moreover, their mounting kits support a maximum down-tilt angle of 30°, which enables them to have flexible down-tilt angle during installation according to the installation height and the size of the warehouse, so as to achieve the best coverage.

Typically, taking a warehouse using AGVs for shelf moving and order picking as an example, an A8-Ein(ac) base station could fully cover a warehouse of 8,000 m2 (100m x 80m), and an A3-Ei AP could also fully cover a warehouse of 5,000 m2. In contrast, for a solution using common APs, the coverage radius of an AP is typically around 10m, and to fully cover a warehouse of 8,000 m2, more than 20 APs would be required.

Coverage Redundancy

Automated Warehouses have heavy workload, which poses high requirement on the stability of the system. As the communication platform for AGVs and the backend control system, the WiFi network must be able to provide quality service persistently. Therefore, coverage (or AP) redundancy has become one of the important requirements for the WiFi network of an automated warehouse. Since Altai Super WiFi APs have super large coverage, the redundancy solution is direct and simple. As illustrated in the below figure, we just need to install another AP at the diagonal location of the initial AP. Both APs could provide full coverage of the warehouse individually. When one of them fails, all the AGVs could be served by the other one.

automated warehouses

 Fast Roaming Support

When a warehouse is covered by multiple APs, AGVs may have to roam among APs, which can potentially cause AGV pauses and service interruptions if the handover is not done properly and timely. Thanks to the super large coverage of the APs, Altai Super WiFi solution minimises the number of APs required and hence the chances for AGV roaming, and its adverse impact on the services.

On the other hand, Altai Super WiFi APs have mechanisms in the firmware to support clients to achieve fast roaming. Except the 802.11k/v/r standards related to fast roaming, Altai Super WiFi APs have also implemented some special mechanisms that can help with fast roaming, for example, setting a minimum SNR a client needs to have to keep associated with an AP.

AGVs typically use mPCIe or USB WiFi cards, of which the driver may not implement a fast-roaming mechanism. Therefore, the roaming performance may still be suboptimal even with AP’s support for fast roaming. Altai provides industrial-grade CPEs (C1ni/C1ani) which support tuning a variety of roaming parameters (e.g., scanning interval, RSSI threshold, etc.) according to the actual environment to achieve the best roaming performance. When working with Altai Super WiFi APs, C1ni/C1ani can achieve a roaming latency < 100ms even under WPA2-PSK authentication. Therefore, if an AGV can be equipped with an Altai industrial CPE, its roaming performance will be significantly improved. Altai C1ni/C1ani industrial CPEs have a dimension of 197mm x 96mm x 29mm, and use Ethernet as the wired network interface. Medium to large-size AGVs have a good chance to be able to install them.

Dual Band Coverage and Channel Planning

Currently a great portion of the AGVs in use only support 2.4GHz WiFi. But because of the limited number of available channels and high interference in the 2.4GHz band, more and more AGVs start to support 5GHz WiFi. A future- proof WiFi network for an automated warehouse should support both 2.4GHz and 5GHz simultaneously. Altai Super WiFi APs support dual-band dual- concurrent (DBDC) operation.

There are 13 channels in the 2.4GHz band (without considering the channel 14 which is only available in Japan). The channel spacing is 5MHz while the channel width is 20MHz (or more accurately 22MHz). Therefore, there are only 3 non-overlapping channels at the same time, e.g., channel 1/6/11 which are commonly used in WiFi network channel planning (other combinations like 2/7/12 are seldom used in planning because they overlap/interfere with the most commonly used 1/6/11).

802.11n supports two channel modes: HT20 uses only one channel, while HT40 implements channel bonding so that two adjacent channels (e.g. channel 1 and 5) can be used together to have a 40MHz channel width and doubled throughput. Due to the limited number of available channels, it is recommended to use HT20 mode only in the 2.4GHz band, so that we still have channel 1/6/11 for channel assignment of the whole network.

Obviously, in 2.4GHz band fewer APs would mean easier channel assignment and less inter-AP interference. Altai Super WiFi solution has an advantage in this regard.

The 5GHz band has more than 600MHz spectrum width, and much more channels than 2.4GHz band (the actual number of available channels depends on the local regulations). Hence the channel planning is relatively easier. On the other hand, the 802.11ac standard operating in 5GHz band not only supports HT20 and HT40 channel modes, but also supports HT80. When the number of AGVs is not high, HT20 can typically fulfill the bandwidth/capacity requirements; when the number of AGVs is high, HT40 can be considered; HT80 is in general unnecessary.

AGV Capacity Planning

Not only do Altai Super WiFi APs have super large coverage, but they also have high capacity (concurrent clients). For warehouse AGV type of applications, the recommended max number of AGVs connected to a single Super WiFi AP is shown in the below table, i.e., 80 AGVs per radio (2.4GHz and 5GHz), and when in DBDC mode, 160 AGVs per AP.

2.4GHz 5GHz Total
Recommended Max # ofAGVs per Super WiFi AP 80 80 160

Network Security

For information security, the SSID for AGV access should enable authentication and encryption. In general, it is recommended to use WPA2-PSK authentication + AES encryption.

To further enhance the security by preventing non-working WiFi terminals (e.g., personal smartphones of the workers in the warehouse) from connecting to the SSID, MAC access control list (ACL) function can be enabled with black and white lists properly set.

Reference Case

Case 1: Warehouse of a famous e-commerce company
• Area of 10,000 m2;
• Shelves of 3 layers, with height around 2m;
• 1xA8-Ein(ac) for full coverage;
• 45 AGVs working simultaneously

Altai Super WiFi Solution to Automated Warehouses v1

Altai Super WiFi Solution to Automated Warehouses v2 Altai Super WiFi Solution to Automated Warehouses v3

Altai Technologies – For Hostile Indoor Warehouse WiFi

Business Profile

Telegram Co. is a niche lifestyle business owned by the Dymocks booksellers chain in Australia. They specialise in high end stationary including pens, inks, specialist letter writing papers, and accessories across a range of over 10,000 products. They are different from other distributors as they promote partners and sell partner brands to gift, lifestyle and homeware stores.

Telegram Co. and 30 of their 45 staff recently moved into a brand new warehouse space based in West Footscray, Melbourne. At the same time the administrative team of 15 (including 5 dogs) moved into a new Office site in Collingwood.

Both new premises was wired ready to set up state of the art point of sale, scanners, stock management, and dispatch software for the company, but they needed an expert to plan their wireless solution to enable smart automation plus connect the two office environments for efficient operations.

Business Needs

With the move to a new 10,000 square meter, 3 storey high warehouse, the business required an expert to review the site for the best Wi-Fi options. The company wanted 3 separate networks with differing data uses within each network. Telegram Co. contacted 3 competing Wi-Fi brands one of which one was Simon Moore, Principal of Fine Tune Communications who works with the Altai SuperWifi brand.

As part of the tender process Simon reviewed the warehouse and admin office floor plans off site to come up with an initial indication of product requirement. He then visited the sites to confirm with the client the coverage they required, check the construct of the buildings, and measure the RF signals in the area.

Warehouses are typically hostile environments in RF terms and they need careful review and planning to ensure even and full Wi-Fi signal coverage. There often have high ceilings as was the case with this site, reflective metal racking, and the RF signal is constantly changing with racks filling and emptying, forklifts moving within the area, and large paper pallets in stock blocking signal.

20170906_140955 20170906_141052

The Solution

Fine Tune Communications won the Telegram Co. warehouse Wi-Fi in20170906_141445(0)stall job for a number of reasons:

  • Fine Tune provided a 30 day money back guarantee to the client
  • Their ability to provide a solution supported locally by experts with back-up from the Australian distributor Powertec Telecommunications.
  • The final quote was the most cost effective for the client at around 50% less than quoted by other suppliers.
  • The ongoing cost of managing the access points was substantially less than the competitors.
  • Altai WiFi networks have unprecedented performance, reliability, scalability and manageability.

Product/s Use

1) 16 x A3c 3×3 Indoor Ceiling Access Points configured to AltaiCare, 2.4/5GHz were mounted at strategic positions on the 3 story high ceiling of the warehouse.

2) 4 x A3c Indoor Access Points configured to AltaiCare were also installed into their administration office situated in Collingwood Administration office. The Collingwood offices have over 25 devices connecting to the Altai network which includes all their BYO devices.

The A3c Access Point install enables staff to move between the warehouse and the admin office seamlessly using the one sign-on. Both these sites communicate with the cloud based warehousing and administration software. From the Admin office they run their CRM system for order entry with the packing slips printed out at the warehouse.

The Altai A3c Access Point is designed to provide the highest speed 2.4 and 5 GHz dual-band dual-concurrent access coverage for indoor areas.

The A3c has both a 2.4 GHz (3×3:3 802.11b/g/n) radio and a high capacity 5 GHz (3×3:3 802.11a/n/ac) radio which can be operated at the same time for 2.4 and 5 GHz dual-band dual-concurrent access coverage. The dual-band operation not only provides the highest capacity up to 1.75 Gbps but also performs better in the less interfered 5 GHz frequency band. The ceiling-mounted design of A3c can be installed exactly on the ceiling where the capacity is required.

Highlights:
• High capacity 1.3 Gbps in 5 GHz and 450 Mbps in 2.4 GHz
• Built-in 2.4 and 5 GHz 3×3 MIMO spatial polarized antennas
• Ceiling-mounted omni coverage
• 3×3 MIMO in 3 streams for both 2.4GHz (802.11b/g/n) and 5GHz (802.11a/n/ac) radios
• Carrier grade 802.11a/b/g/n/ac AP for indoor applications
• AltaiCare cloud-based zero configuration and secured AP management
• Multi-operating modes allowed: AP, bridge, repeater mode or CPE
• 802.3at and 802.2af compliant PoE

Hostile Indoor Warehouse WiFi

3) AltaiCare Cloud-based network management system, designed for simplicity and ease of managing client WiFi networks.

In addition to network management, AltaiCare supports an innovative, controller-less, cloud-based architecture for the access management of APs, providing secure admission and service control across a WiFi network. It supports full-suite of 802.1x based authentications and captive portal for secure web authentication.

AltaiCare highlights:
• Zero configuration allows a non-technical person to simply unpack and plug APs to WiFi network; the APs will automatically get configuration and firmware from AltaiCare
• Owing to AltaiCare’s local breakout architecture and CAPWAP protocol, management data that goes to the cloud is securely encrypted in SSL, while data and control traffic stays local
• Allows IT managers of enterprises to quickly set up secure access for their internal network, as well as provide hotspots to accommodate guest access
• Pay-as-you-grow subscription model of AltaiCare results in lower OPEX
• AltaiCare’s location-aware advertising services enables additional revenue from advertising

Business Benefits

The end result was highly successful warehouse-wide wireless communications, with RF signal unimpeded in any area of the business.

Simon from Fine Tune Solutions handed the AltaiCare solution to the customer – along with documentation and support available. The client wanted to monitor their own wireless network which is possible with the online cloud network system.

Fine Tune still remain as support with alerts emailed to them should a problem occur.

Testimonial/Commentary

“When you don’t hear anything from the customer, it means they are happy.” said Simon Moore, Principal of Fine Tune Communications P/L. “Configuration and set-up was very easy with Altai Access Points. I wanted to be on site for the client as they’d had problems previously with other Wi-Fi branded products, but in reality I could have configured the products online and just handed them over to my install team without even going on site.”

Contact Us Today about your own Hostile Indoor Warehouse WiFi Options

For more information on mobile and wi-fi solutions throughout the Victoria area, please contact Simon Moore at Fine Tune Communications Pty Ltd on 0418 335593 or email on [email protected].

Powertec have access to a number of installers across Australia who specialise in planning and installation in hostile environments like warehouses. For a referral to a local expert on mobile and Wi-Fi solutions in your area, please contact us at Powertec on 07 5577 0500 or [email protected]


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Wireless Farm Management System

Automation of the World’s Biggest Egg Producer

Application: Wireless Farm Management System

Products used: Altai A8n and A2

The Challenge: Large area coverage including indoor and open areas; Challenging indoor environments with moving trucks, forklifts and metallic racks which can affect Wi-Fi signals and network coverage; Reliable and always available connectivity is critical.

wireless farm management system

Result: The Altai Super WiFi Solution was deployed to replace the existing Ruckus/Meraki network. The new wireless network covers both indoor and outdoor areas including poultry houses, layer hatchery facility, packing station and the open areas. All the facilities are now managed through the new wireless network without any network downtime or interruption.

Overview – Wireless Farm Management System

With 30 million laying hens and the largest layer hatchery facility in Mexico, the company is one of the biggest egg producers in the world. In order to maintain high efficiency egg production, the plant is fully automated with a modern inline egg grading and packing facility. Owing to the size of the production plant, wireless networking is used to connect the poultry houses, production lines and warehouses.

Large amounts of real-time data are transmitted through the wireless network and many of the systems are managed seamlessly through the network, however, the existing wireless broadband network does not live up to expectations. Poor connections, high latency and limited signal coverage have decreased the overall efficiency.

In order to improve the situation, the company appointed a leading distributor in Latin America to resolve the issues. Partnering with a local system integrator, Altai’s Super WiFi Solution was proposed to replace the existing Ruckus/ Meraki wireless network.

The Altai Super WiFi Solution was chosen by the company due to its super long range, low latency and superior performance. The new network has provided very stable and high performance wireless connectivity resulting in greatly enhanced production efficiency.wireless farm management system

The Solution

In order to provide full coverage in the open areas, Altai A8n base stations were installed on the rooftops of buildings to provide Wi-Fi coverage over long distances.  The multiple antennas of the A8n can be configured to provide coverage that is optimised for a given area in both pattern and elevation. Its multi-beam antennas can provide up to 3 times the range and 10 times the per site coverage as standard access points.

For relatively smaller coverage such as the indoor areas of the poultry houses, warehouses and packing stations, the Altai A2 access point provides a cost-effective solution for creating simple and efficient 1 to 3 master-slave cluster systems.

The Result

The Altai Super WiFi network provides a stable and high performance wireless network for the wireless farm management system.  Applications like a wireless sensor network, truck weighing, goods tracking, wireless surveillance system can now be fully operated without worrying about the stability of wireless network.

Mining Wi-Fi Applications

Altai SuperWiFi Enables Digital Mining – Quick Wireless Solution for Coalfield Applications

Overview

In order to increase the productivity, safety and security of mining, staying abreast with the latest communication technology is the key to achieving these objectives.  The extreme environment of coalfields makes wireless connection an ideal solution for various applications since wireless can be deployed virtually anywhere.

Operated by Sainik Mining and Allied Services Limited (“Sainik’), the open-pit mines in Jharkhand of India urgently required a high capacity wireless broadband network to provide internet connection for its site offices, RFID tracking application as well as wireless video surveillance system.

Reliable and always available connectivity is crucial in the coalfield because when a data network shuts down or becomes unavailable, the entire operation will be suspended. Compared to wired solutions, wireless devices are easier to be replaced in the event of failure.

Owing to the rugged, dusty and ever changing landscape of the coalfield, Altai’s C1n series was selected to provide point-to-point wireless connection. With a total area of over 6 sq. km, the entire coalfield is fully covered by Altai SuperWiFi.

The Challenge

  • Dusty, rugged and ever changing landscape with limited sites for installation
  • Lack of Ethernet & Internet backbone
  • Network redundancy is required
  • The network must be expandable and easy to deploy
  • Extending live CCTV feeds from Control Rooms to ‘Coalfields WAN’ over Internet in phases

The Solution

In order to provide full outdoor WiFi coverage, C1n and C1an are Mining wifi 2mounted on towers to provide internet connection for RFID vehicle tracking application and central control room.

Operating on 5GHz channels, the C1xan’s are installed on different towers and rooftops of onsite offices to provide up to 6km point-to-point wireless connection for the video surveillance system. All the wireless CCTV cameras are connected to the central control room and the cameras are installed in strategic locations to avoid blind spots. Since the wireless network must be always available, another pair of C1xan are connected to provide network redundancy.

The Result

With high gain smart antennas and advanced signal processing algorithms, the Altai C1n series is able to provide long range coverage with high throughput. Owing to the ever changing landscape of open-pit mines, the compact and portable design of the C1n series enables the network operator to expand its WiFi network easily

The Altai Super Wi-Fi network is able to withstand the harsh environment of a coalfield to provide full network coverage for internet access, RFID vehicle tracking application and wireless video surveillance system.

Testimonial:

We found Altai point-point & point-multipoint radios a stable solution for Wireless CCTV backhaul, providing stable and sufficient bandwidth for IP CCTV Surveillance for real-time viewing. These Altai radios provide very high throughput in point-point, point-multipoint or daisy-chain topologies without impairing real-time viewing experience of high grade megapixel CCTV cameras.

PowertecWifi have trained operatives throughout Australia that can plan and assist you to set up a similar quick wireless solution for your mining application.

For more information, please don’t hesitate to contact us.


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Warehouse Wi-Fi Image

Altai SuperWiFi Makes Warehouse Wi-Fi Operations Easier!

Case Study – Super WiFi Technologies Overcome Warehouse Dynamic Environment Challenges

Overview

Altai SuperWifi Altai A8nGlobalisation has had a dramatic impact on the logistics sector. From receiving, to inventory, to outbound distribution, warehouses increasingly rely on wireless technologies to streamline the operations and enhance overall productivity by fulfilling orders more accurately and quickly than before.

A leading conglomerate decided to adopt the latest warehouse Wi-Fi technologies to convert its grain depot to a smart warehouse operation. The outdoor wireless network was designed and built by a leading wireless system integrator using Altai Super WiFi solution.

Installed on the rooftop of the core building, the Altai A8n Base Station provided large area warehouse Wi-Fi coverage while some C1n’s were installed outside the walls of warehouses to fill the gaps in wireless coverage, especially the rows between different warehouse blocks. From truck weighing, goods loading to custom clearance, all processes are now connected with the wireless network to enhance the overall efficiency.

The Challenge

  • The area is dense with narrow corridors among the building blocks
  • Lack of Ethernet and tall buildings for installation
  • Moving trucks, forklifts and metallic goods can affect Wi-Fi signal and network coverage
  • Owing to the size of the warehouse, having too many access points or maxing out the transmit power to provide large area coverage can generate interference between AP’s on the same channel.

The Solution

Co-located with existing 2G/3G cell sites, one Altai A8n was installed on the rooftop of the core building to provide full wireless coverage. With patented 4 x dual slant smart antenna technologies, the A8n provides flexible and large horizontal beamwidth (70 to 360-degree) coverage. The Altai AirFi algorithm also helps to optimize the throughput to ensure network stability and performance.

A few Altai C1n’s were mounted on the side-wall of warehouses, and they were configured as AP/CPE pairs for extending Wi-Fi coverage from the A8n. Connected with the C1n, the A8n provides Wi-Fi coverage up to 2.7km (LOS).

The ResultAltai SuperWi-Fi C1n

Even though the warehouse environment is very dynamic, the Altai Super WiFi solution is able to increase the average signal-to-noise ratio to improve the signal coverage and data throughput performance. The co-location of the base station with an existing 2G/3G cell site has significantly reduced the wiring and installation cost.

Application: Private network for interconnecting all the warehouse applications

Products used: Altai A8n Base Station and C1n

Result: The wireless network covers the outdoor areas with all the applications connected to the network