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FHSS and the industrial internet of things

The new digital landscape shaped by the industrial internet of things is vastly changing the way enterprises conduct business. As a result, most businesses need to meet modern connectivity demands in order to stay competitive in a rapidly evolving and data-driven marketplace. To help meet this new demand, there has been an explosion in the number of smart sensors and connected devices that help businesses gather data and make decisions based on data more quickly than ever before.

In order to move their business forward and stay competitive in their respective verticals, businesses have been forced to rapidly adopt the industrial IoT. One of the unique challenges in adopting this new strategy that revolves around smart devices and sensors that are outputting massive amounts of data is how to get this data from the field back to the central office in order to drive business decisions.

IoT and FHSS

One of the most powerful solutions for wireless IIoT communications is FHSS — or frequency hopping spread spectrum — technologies. FHSS tech has been around for decades and is one of the central technologies used in nearly all supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) networks. Despite the fact that FHSS technology has been around for years, it is one of the most well-suited communication and data transmission technologies for IIoT.

FHSS technology is a perfect match for IIoT for several reasons. FHSS tech has been proven as a viable data transmission standard through use in the oil and gas industry for more than two decades. Through 900 MHz FHSS communication methods, oil and gas decision-makers are able to get real-time data from their stations in the field and use this data to make quick decisions to maximize profitability. New FHSS solutions offer the flexibility of programmable solutions that give businesses the ability to integrate seamlessly with a host of third-party applications to help not only data collection, but also data interpretation and visualizations. FHSS technology’s flexibility is also well suited for remote control and monitoring, making it an ideal solution to collect and transmit data via fog computing (or edge intelligence).

By leveraging fog computing, FHSS tech enables organizations to rely on “right data” rather than “big data,” where the relevant data points can be collected and interpreted, rather than relying on a cumbersome quantity of data to get a statistically accurate sample.

The history of FHSS

FHSS technology has undergone years of testing and improvements and is one of the most robust and reliable solutions on the marketplace. The technology originally came to fruition in 1941 when Hedy Lamarr and George Antheil invented a communication system designed to remotely control torpedoes without detection. The technology was not officially implemented until 1962 and it served as the foundation for what has become modern FHSS technology.

Due to its roots as a highly secretive communication system, FHSS wireless systems are inherently resistant to interference and jamming, making it an extremely reliable communication method that is well-protected by both accidental and deliberate interference attempts. As FHSS technology “hops” from frequency to frequency, it makes it very secure, even reducing the risks of denial-of-service attacks. For the growing IIoT, where security is of the utmost importance, the inherent resiliency of the FHSS communication method is a welcome feature.

FHSS vs. LoRa

Similar to FHSS, LoRa (long-range, low power) communication technology was designed for long-distance and low-power data communication. LoRa technologies rely on using an unlicensed radio spectrum in the ISM bands and were specifically designed in response to the growing communication needs powered by IoT.

When it comes to long distance applications, LoRa is typically rated at around 30 miles in rural areas. 900 MHz FHSS technology, on the other hand, achieves a range of 60-plus miles and can be extended even farther by leveraging signal repeaters. If you are attempting to employ edge computing in the field, FHSS will help you achieve data communications over greater distances.

In a marketplace that is driven not only by the decisions you make based on your data, but how quickly you are able to make those decisions, FHSS technology is a clear winner. LoRa solutions’ data speeds are typically rated between 0.3 kilobits-50 kilobits per second, while FHSS technology solutions currently on the market offer speeds between 154 kilobits per second all the way up to 4 megabits per second — a massive difference in data transfer speed.

One area where LoRa has an advantage is in power consumption. By sacrificing speed and range, LoRa is able to operate at very low power-consumption levels. While FHSS technology can run on battery power, it functions better when it is connected to a reliable power source.

FHSS applications and misconceptions

While FHSS technology made a name for itself in the energy industries, there are many use cases where FHSS technology has been successfully implemented. These include unmanned aerial vehicles, undersea robotics, auto and boat racing, aquarium research, utilities and much more. FHSS technology’s foundation is so fundamentally sound that it has remained relatively unchanged for years, but new programmable solutions and flexible integrations have given the technology new life and applications in the growing world of IoT.

Helping fuel these new applications of FHSS tech is the change in understanding about some common misconceptions. One of the misconceptions often stated about FHSS technology is that it is not secure. In practice, this couldn’t be further from the truth, as the frequency hopping employed by FHSS technology provides users with a level of baked-in security. Combined with 128- or 256-bit AES encryption, FHSS because a very secure and reliable technology. Another common misconception is that FHSS technology can suffer performance issues when frequency spectrums become crowded. However, this issue is mitigated by the fact that FHSS technology never stays on a single spectrum for any significant length of time and the technology allows for the identification of the best available communication channels.

Conclusion

When it comes to making data-driven decisions, IIoT is changing the game by the implementation of smart devices and smart sensors in the field where data is plentiful. FHSS technology is a communication method that is well-suited for IIoT and IoT applications. With reliable and secure data transfer, relatively low power consumption, fast data transfer speeds and a design tailor-made for a fog computing strategy, FHSS technology is an ideal solution to help propel business into a new age of data intelligence.

All IoT Agenda network contributors are responsible for the content and accuracy of their posts. Opinions are of the writers and do not necessarily convey the thoughts of IoT Agenda.

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