Industrial Sensor Networks

With the emergence of the Internet of Things, more and more sensors with embedded computers are becoming networked; they offer novel, innovative applications that go beyond classical telecommunications and Internet. These sensors are the interface between the physical world and virtual world. Equipped with wireless technologies and signal processing, they are more and more used in industrial environments.

Several Lakeside Labs projects have been working on industrial sensor networks. Contributions include distributed algorithms and protocols for energy-efficient and robust communication, synchronization, resource management and privacy in industrial sensor networks. Lakeside Labs owns a wireless laboratory with over hundred sensors using different technologies and operating platforms.

Researcher Nikolaj Marchenko explains: “Typical applications for industrial sensor networks are monitoring and control of production processes. Sensors measure physical or chemical parameters, monitor machines, and report them wirelessly to a control center. Based on the received measurements, the control center can send commands to machinery actuators.”

A key challenge is that industrial sensor networks must be very reliable in many aspects, including hardware, software, and communication protocols. “Mistakes or a failure to deliver a warning can disrupt the production process. Achieving required reliability levels with wireless transmissions is a serious challenge in industrial plants.” To address this challenge, Lakeside Labs invented novel communication techniques based on cooperative relay communications to improve the robustness of communications and made a comprehensive performance analysis in a production plant.

Another research activity develops reliable sensor networks for airplanes. “Modern airplanes are equipped with hundreds of sensors and actuators interconnected to the airplane infrastructure. The use of wireless communications in place of wired connections has the potential of great flexibility and cost savings,” explains Christian Bettstetter. A project with Airbus Group Innovations addresses the network architecture and communication protocols for this purpose. The developed solutions will be tested and evaluated in a real airplane cabin.

Selected Publications

An experimental study of selective cooperative relaying in industrial wireless sensor networks
IEEE Transactions on Industrial Informatics, 2014