Reliable Industrial Communication Over the Air
Fraunhofer IIS, Erlangen, Germany
The motivation for the ReICOvAir project is the vision to enable the widespread usage of wireless communication systems in industrial environments. This was achieved by creating an innovative verification method as well as initial testing systems relying on this method in order to qualify the reliability of various wireless communication systems.
ReICOvAir concentrated on the fact that there is no common way of measuring the quality of wireless communication systems in industrial scenarios. The purpose of ReICOvAir was to provide the required methods and testbeds to carry out a quality assessment of wireless communication systems in industrial environments.
The prerequisites to recreate RF signal propagation characteristics from industrial environments in the lab are two-fold. Firstly, a valid parameter database for the propagation channel conditions in industrial environments has to be established. Secondly, a channel model supporting the relevant use cases in the factory also needs to be in place. Therefore, great care was taken planning the QuaDRiGa channel model update and the required propagation measurements in industrial environments.
Based on the updated QuaDRiGa channel model, software simulation and hardware emulation environments were designed and implemented. They allow non-expert users to apply the sophisticated channel model to simulations, as well as RF-transmissions, and real devices via a hardware channel emulator and a data traffic emulator (see Figure 1).
The project’s main achievement is providing the key enabling factors in order to prove the reliability of wireless transmission systems in industrial environments.
In a first step, the propagation parameters of industrial environments were characterised via extensive measurement campaigns at 2.4 and 5.3 GHz in live production sites in Finland and Germany (see Figure 2). The measurement results highlight the differences compared to the formerly used channel model for office indoor environments. This is the initial step for a realistic recreation of an industrial propagation environment in the lab.
In a second step, the necessary tools for practical use were developed. The core of these tools is the enhancement of the QuaDRiGa channel model that now supports simultaneous movement of transmitter and receiver. Additionally, it provides the expected correlation in reception conditions of two collocated devices. With regard to the predecessor model, by incorporating the sum-of-sinusoids method into the model, a reduction of the required processing effort was achieved making the system much more manageable for high numbers of users and large areas.
The channel model supports detailed software simulations as well as hardware emulations. These two approaches provide proof-of-concept solutions for testing services, allowing the qualification of an ideal software model, assuming no implementation losses, as well as the testing of real devices. This achieves the vision of “bringing the factory into the lab”.
To make the results valuable for the industry, the QuaDRIGa channel model was released as open source, thus building trust by allowing independent in-depth analysis of the model.
The project has so far generated various publications and contributed to national (VDI, DKE) and international standardization bodies (5G-ACIA, IEC, 3GPP).
Conclusion and outlook
The state-of-the-art QuaDRiGa channel model was enhanced to enable the realistic simulation of radio wave propagation within industrial environments. The major enhancements are: obtaining a set of propagation parameters for industrial environments, the support of a fully mobile system, where transmitter and receiver can move at the same time, as well as the establishment of a simulation and emulation lab testbed. Based on these results, it is now possible to simulate the wireless communication behaviour of an entire factory and apply this behaviour to real devices. Great care was taken to disseminate the results and provide the findings to standardization bodies such as 3GPP.
The project results advanced the required testing of wireless communication, as realistic assessment of the behaviour of wireless transmission systems such as 5G, both in standardization and in the industrial sector for specific use cases, now becomes possible. Ultimately, the results of the project will enhance the industrial sector’s confidence in relying more on wireless transmission systems and will lead to a change in the design of future factories.
› Further information
› ReICOvAir project page – www.celticnext.eu/project-reicovair