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NIST Evaluates RF Signal Performance in Factory Settings

A research team at the National Institute of Standards and Technology has examined the propagation of radio frequency signals in three different factory settings.

The study was part of NIST’s Wireless Systems for Industrial Environments project that engages private sector partners in efforts to boost the security and reliability of industrial wireless communication platforms, the agency said Monday.

“Understanding how RF platforms work or don’t work in these harsh environments is the first step toward designing and deploying reliable wireless networks,” said Rick Candell, lead researcher of the NIST study.

“With the data from this research and future tests, we can define factors that can hinder RF propagation—including heat, vibration, reflection, interference and shielding—and then develop measures to address them.”

Candell and his colleagues assessed RF propagation characteristics in an automobile transmission assembly facility, a steam generation plant and a machine shop.

He said harsh environments present obstacles such as reflective or absorbent surfaces and competing RF signal traffic that must be addressed to deploy secure, integrated and dependable wireless platforms.

NIST researchers currently incorporate data from the factory experiments into a test bed to replicate a manufacturing environment.

The test bed is designed to help researchers study signal propagation in a controlled laboratory environment.

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