Wireless Options and Standards

How to Select the Right Wireless for Your Application

By Jim Montague, Executive Editor

So you want to go wireless? Well, you'd better select the right one for your application — and make sure not to install any of your antennas under a conveyor. Here are some of the main options:

Bluetooth is a standard for exchanging data over short distances by using short-wavelength radio transmissions in the 2,400- to 2,480-MHz ISM band to create personal area networks (PANs). It's based on the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers 802.15.1 standard that is no longer maintained, but is managed by the Bluetooth Special Interest Group.

SEE ALSO: Don't Be Fooled During Wireless Network Selection

Wi-Fi is defined by the Wi-Fi Alliance as any WLAN product based on the IEEE 802.11 standards that allows an electronic device to exchange data or connect to the Internet wirelessly using radio waves with a typical operating range of about 65 feet.

• ZigBee is a specification for protocols used to create PANs built from small, low-power, digital radios and is based on the IEEE 802.15 standard, which is also the foundation for WirelessHART and ISA100 devices. Though low-powered, ZigBee devices often transmit data over longer distances from 10 to 100 meters by creating a mesh network that passes data through intermediate devices. It's supported by the ZigBee Alliance.

• 6LoWPAN stands for IPv6 over low-power, wireless PANs, and it is supported by a working group at the Internet Engineering Task Force, which has defined encapsulation and header compression mechanisms that allow IPv6 packets to be sent and received via IEEE 802.15.4 networks.

• Traditional 2.4- and 5.8-GHz radios, 3G and 4G cellular, and satellite networking methods include wide ranges of long-distance, RF and subscriber-based communications.

This article is a part of the Industrial Networking Quarter 4 cover story, "Wireless Makes It Simple."