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Real-time radio for

Real-time radio for Industry 4.0 applications AUTOMATION Real-time wireless transmission has been the talk of the town for quite some time now, even before the hype surrounding the fifth generation of mobile communications really picked up steam. However, the uninitiated are still unaware that the 5G URLLC 1 mode, which is designed to allow highly reliable real-time 5G data transmission, will still be under development for a few years. All the more reason to welcome solutions that already make highly reliable real-time communication available today, e.g., to enable over-the-air safety solutions. R3 Communications is a Berlin-based deep-tech company, founded in 2015 ago. Today, their wireless technology EchoRing, designed for time-critical and robust applications, has positioned itself successfully in the field of industrial communication solutions. As with every development, there’s still room for improvement. That’s why, from this year onward, the R3 team will be presenting various modules of its EchoRing software for use in a wide range of applications in the field of industrial automation. These revolve around a central component, a WIFI chip by Texas Instruments (WiLink 8), to which R3 Communications holds an exclusive right of use with its proprietary EchoRing firmware. It is the most important component of the platforms offered in cooperation with their partners Arrow and Liebherr. These three platforms were introduced to the broad public together for the first time at the Echo Ring stand during the Embedded World fair in Nuremberg at the beginning of this year. The challenges of wireless communication The question remains: why do we need special wireless systems in industrial communication in the first place and why don’t the standard everyday solutions such as WLAN and Bluetooth offer sufficiently reliable communication for machines? It all boils down to the selectivity of the radio channel; the reception quality varies unforeseeably in both a spatial and temporal sense as well as in its frequency. This property poses a major challenge to deterministic applications. And that’s exactly what automation systems are. Moreover, the available spectrum is limited in both the unlicensed as well as the licensed communications range, which also limits the available capacity in terms of cycle time, data throughput, reliability, and the number of network participants. 2 The EchoRing concept The unpredictable quality of the wireless signal can be counteracted well with redundancy approaches. Conservative approaches usually use redundancy in time (retransmissions) and frequency (multiple copies of the same data are sent via various frequencies at the same time). EchoRing uses the principle of “massive cooperation” (image 01) to use the spatial diversity to guarantee data transmission. Contrary to the previously mentioned approaches, the signal is secured by using alternative transmission paths diverted over neighboring wireless partners. This gives a decisive advantage when it comes to the achievable gains in diversity. For example, if Real-time WiFi-based wireless modules already now meet the demands of tomorrow mobility within the factory environment makes direct paths unavailable. At the same time, this approach uses very simple and affordable hardware with a highly efficient use of the available spectrum. A decisive advantage in the EchoRing system lies in its transparent architecture that supports various protocols at high er layers. This functionality is already validated with existing ethernet-based industry protocols such as Profinet/Profisafe and Ethernet/IP. Integrating wireless modules through standard interfaces The EchoRing software technology (or more precisely, communication protocol) is independent from the underlying wireless technology. Thus, EchoRing can be used in the context of wireless local area networks (WLAN) as well as cellular technologies such as 4G/5G. Nevertheless, the only technology developed to market maturity as of yet is the EchoRing WLAN technology, which has been implemented in particular together with Texas Instruments (TI), as described above. Up to now, users had to integrate a TI Wi­ 14 WORLD OF INDUSTRIES 6/2019

01 The principle of massive cooperation: a relay (buddy/partner node) repeats the transmission if the recipient could not receive the data Link 8 into their own designs and purchase the EchoRing software from R3 Communications to utilize EchoRing; however, some companies are unable to, or unwilling to, design their own wireless boards. For these potential users, R3 Communications offers wireless modules for a wird range of applications. These can be integrated into the company’s own components through standard interfaces, significantly reducing the additional efforts for hardware or software integration. In the simplest case, this is a M.2 module, which feeds the Echo­ Ring software onto the WiLink chip through an SDIO bus, addressed over the M.2 interface. Retrofitting with EchoRing is particularly uncomplicated with devices that already have M.2 interfaces, depending on the interface connection. The EchoRing Control Board on the other hand features a processor that allows for easy integration in a networking card fashion without direct link to the host processor. 02 Available EchoRing modules on the basis of TI WiLink 8: a) M.2 Module b) EchoRing Control Board c) Mobile Telematics Gateway (MTG) by Liebherr Examples of critical real-time applications The Telematics Units Mobile Telematics Gateway (MTG) and Mobile Communications Gateway (MCG) by Liebherr have particularly proven their worth with applications for mobile machinery in agriculture and at building sites. They have a robust housing to optimally prepare them for outdoor use. In addition to the WiLink 8, the units comprise a 4G/LTE module, CAN and Ethernet connectors to allow for various outdoor use cases. With the EchoRing firmware, the units can now be updated to also support critical realtime applications. This includes a so-called “electronic tow bar”, the option to, for example, have one combine harvester control another combine harvester or to synchronously lift heavy loads with two cranes. Further areas of application include wireless communication between and cooperation of industrial robots. Outlook The described modules are either already available or will become available over the course of 2019. Users can integrate the modules themselves or achieve integration together with R3 Communications The EchoRing software product is a wireless solution that fully supports real-time applications. It integrates completely into the medium access control (MAC) layer of existing communication systems with transparency for industrial protocols such as Profinet, Profisafe, SafetyNet p, and Ether- CAT. This makes it possible to also operate these wirelessly. It allows for more flexible factory layouts and simplifies collaboration between human and machine. Fields of application include robotics, automated guided vehicles (AGV), as well as the human-machine interface (HMI), among others. and/or Liebherr. Additional carrier boards are available for the EchoRing Control Board that offer external connections such as RJ45 for a network connection and power supplies to further simplify the integration of the modules. Photographs: 01 Jesper Lindström, 02 Jasper Büsch; R3 Communications 1 URLLC: Ultra-Reliable Real-Time Communications 2 Interested parties can find out more about the wireless channel here: WORLD OF OF INDUSTRIES 6/2019 15


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