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Wireless Platforms for Smart Manufacturing

Summary:

Reliable and secure real-time performance of wireless platforms are challenging problems faced by manufacturers, who choose wireless platforms to replace wired ones due to their ease of installation, upgrade, and reconfigurability. They are technically hard problems because wireless data communication, reliability, and throughput can be easily affected by the environments the wireless platforms are operated in. These effects need to be investigated and better understood through wireless performance statistical models and evaluation methods, and validation of network modeling and simulation, correlated with real-world measurements. There are some proprietary solutions developed by wireless platform producers, but they lack uniformity in wireless performance measurement metrics and methods. Thus it is not possible for manufacturers to easily assess performance across platforms. The key idea for this project is to develop best-practice guidelines for integrated performance evaluation and wireless technology selection methodology and protocols that will enable, assess, and assure real-time performance of secure wireless platforms in smart manufacturing systems. These guidelines will enable manufacturers, technology providers, and solution providers to design, deploy, and assess robust, secure integrated wireless platforms. Manufacturers using wireless platforms from various providers will benefit from a standardized measurement methodology and security guidelines because they can be assured that the wireless platforms for their applications will achieve desired performance requirements and efficiency. This work requires multidisciplinary technical capabilities and facilities. NIST is uniquely qualified to do this work because of its experience and expertise in wireless sensor networks, smart manufacturing, radio frequency measurements, wireless performance characterization, and wireless network modeling and simulation.

Description:

Objective:

Deliver an integrated methodology and protocols to enable, assess, and assure the real-time performance of secure wireless platforms in smart manufacturing systems by FY 2018.

What is the new technical idea?

The new technical idea is to develop best-practice guidelines for integrated performance evaluation and wireless technology selection methodology and protocols that will enable, assess, and assure real-time performance of secure wireless platforms in smart manufacturing systems. This will involve the development of performance metrics, measurement science-based methodology, and guidelines that will facilitate the deployment of wireless technologies in the smart manufacturing environment. A smart manufacturing environment will require a variety of wireless technologies to provide seamless connectivity from low-power sensor nodes to high data rate video links. Standards-based wireless protocols will likely be used for cost reduction purposes. Even though this project focuses on standards-based wireless protocols used in industrial environments, the metrics, methodology, and guidelines developed could be applied to proprietary wireless protocols as well.

What is the research plan?


This project begins by establishing requirements and performance metrics for secure wireless platforms in smart manufacturing systems. This will involve performing a gap analysis to identify shortcomings or misalignments between available wireless technology and the smart manufacturing needs. This includes analysis of technology, literature research, meeting with industry representatives, and organizing a workshop. The gap analysis will include a matrix of relevant wireless technologies and parameters, such as cost, protocol, range, power level, frequency, bandwidth, and data rates. The collected data will provide input to system and analysis modeling efforts. Preparation for targeted in-field measurements to capture channel characteristics and the current state of wireless activity in key manufacturing facilities will also be undertaken. The findings on the smart manufacturing RF environment and requirements will determine the key research items in the subsequent years. Additionally, user requirements for wireless networking as well as deployment scenarios will be determined. Appropriate performance metrics for use of wireless technology in such environments will also be developed. Furthermore, techniques, methods, and testing framework and tools for measuring wireless sensor networks performance parameters, such as latency, jitter, packet loss, and bandwidth will be researched and developed. Measurement data will be analyzed on the usage of wireless technology in industrial environments. The result of all this work will be published in a report that will enable manufacturers, technology providers, and solution providers to develop a common understanding of the challenges and opportunities for use of wireless technologies to enhance efficiency of smart manufacturing systems.

Then the project will develop performance measurement methods, testing framework, and network modeling and simulation tools for assessing the real-time performance of wireless platforms in smart manufacturing systems. Radio frequency channel propagation models for frequency bands of interest will be developed through RF measurements, fitting appropriate stochastic models to the measurement data, and validating the models through additional measurements. The channel models obtained will be used in modeling the physical layer of the wireless technologies of interest for point-to-point communications. Physical layer simulations will be carried out to derive tables of bit error rate (BER) and packet error rate (PER) as a function of signal-to-interference-and-noise ratio (SINR). This work will help gain a better understanding of the radio frequency (RF) used in the manufacturing environments, as it currently exists and emerges in the future. This will require a review of published work on RF propagation and wireless activity levels in manufacturing settings. Since many wireless technologies, such as WiFi, WirelessHART, ISA100, ZigBee, Bluetooth, IPnet, and IEEE 1451 standards could be used in manufacturing environments, network models will be developed for key technologies. This involves modeling all seven layers of the respective protocol stacks including deployment scenarios and data traffic models identified earlier in the project. Even though this work relies on physical layer modeling and simulation work of earlier parts, the network modeling and simulation work can start from the early stages of the project. The results of the physical layer modeling of simulations can be incorporated in the network model when they become available. The result of this work will enable manufacturers, technology providers, and solution providers to establish and improve the performance of wireless platforms for smart manufacturing systems.

Another major aspect of the project is the development of a small prototype wireless network testbed that is likely to be found in smart manufacturing environments. This testbed will be integrated into the overall testbed of the Smart Manufacturing programs. Once such a prototype testbed is built, its performance will be measured in a number of networking scenarios and the results of such tests will be compared to the corresponding results generated by the network modeling and simulation work. The purpose of the prototype network or testbed is to validate the results of the network modeling and simulation work as well as test the security protocols to be used in smart manufacturing environment. Once the latter is validated, one can use the network modeling and simulation tool developed in this project to simulate the performance of larger networks that would be expensive to build. The tool can also be used to configure wireless networks in manufacturing environments. For example, it will help decide how many wireless access points of certain wireless technology are needed to give sufficient wireless coverage and where those access points should be placed.

The next step of the project is to develop wireless performance statistical models and evaluation methods, and validation of network modeling and simulation with a testbed, an implementation of real-world wireless platforms. That is, the RF channel propagation and network models developed previously will be verified with performance measurements of wireless networks in a factory environment. Since there are many different types of manufacturing settings, such as automobile manufacturing, airplane assembly, and discrete parts manufacturing, a manufacturing setting classification scheme will be investigated and developed to classify these manufacturing environments so that reference data sets can be developed for manufacturers to use in determine the performance of their wireless networks in their manufacturing environments. This will enable manufacturers, technology providers, and solution providers to assure that wireless platforms meet the specified performance requirements for smart manufacturing systems.

Security is an important aspect of the overall performance of wireless networks and it is an important requirement for using wireless in manufacturing environments. However, security protocols implemented on wireless networks will affect, to some degree, the performance of wireless networks. Security solutions and performance metrics will be developed in the Cyber Security project of the Smart Manufacturing Operations, Planning, and Control program. The findings of the Cyber Security project will be applied in this project. In addition, methods of performance enhancement and optimization of secure wireless platform will be investigated and developed. Models for security solutions will be developed from a communications and networking point of view* (see STRS Funding). The goal of the Wireless Platforms project is to assess the performance of the wireless network once the security solutions have been incorporated. Thus a tightly coordinated effort with the Cyber Security project is important to ensure real-time secure wireless network performance. The results of this joint work will enable manufacturers, technology providers, and solution providers to select and implement appropriate protocols for the security of wireless platforms.

Finally, the project will develop best-practice guidelines for an integrated methodology and protocols that will enable, assess, and assure the real-time performance of secure wireless platforms in smart manufacturing systems. These guidelines will enable manufacturers, technology providers, and solution providers to design, select, deploy, configure, and assess robust, secure integrated wireless platforms, with consideration of any co-existence and interference avoidance issues.