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Wireless Networking

Wireless networking, allows devices to communicate over the airwaves and without wires by using standard networking protocols. There are currently a variety of competing standards available for achieving the benefits of a wireless network. Here is a brief description of each:

Bluetooth

is a standard that provides short-range wireless connections between computers, Pocket PCs, and other equipment.

ZigBee

is a proprietary set of communication protocols designed to use small, low power digital radios based on the IEEE 802.15.4 standard for wireless personal area networking.

802.11

is an IEEE specification for a wireless LAN airlink.

802.11b (or Wi-Fi)

is an industry standard for wireless LANs and supports more users and operates over longer distances than other standards. However, it requires more power and storage. 802.11b offers wireless transmission over short distances at up to 11 megabits per second. When used in handheld devices, 802.11b provides similar networking capabilities to devices enabled with Bluetooth.

802.11g

is the most recently approved standard and offers wireless transmission over short distances at up to 54 megabits per second. Both 802.11b and 802.11g operate in the 2.4 GHz range and are therefore compatible.

For more in-depth information, please consult the Lantronix wireless whitepaper which is available online.

Wireless technology is especially ideal in instances when it would be impractical or cost-prohibitive for cabling; or in instances where a high level of mobility is required.

802.11n

IEEE 802.11n-2009, commonly shortened to 802.11n, is a wireless networking standard that uses multiple antennas to increase data rates. Its purpose is to improve network throughput over the two previous standards—802.11a and 802.11g—with a significant increase in the maximum net data rate from 54 Mbit/s to 600 Mbit/s (slightly higher gross bit rate including for example error-correction codes, and slightly lower maximum throughput) with the use of four spatial streams at a channel width of 40 MHz. 802.11n standardized support for multiple-input multiple-output, frame aggregation, and security improvements, among other features. It can be used in the 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz frequency bands.

 

MCS
index

Spatial
streams

Modulation
type

Coding
rate

Data rate (Mbit/s)

20 MHz channel

40 MHz channel

800 ns GI

400 ns GI

800 ns GI

400 ns GI

0

1

BPSK

1/2

6.5

7.2

13.5

15

1

1

QPSK

1/2

13

14.4

27

30

2

1

QPSK

3/4

19.5

21.7

40.5

45

3

1

16-QAM

1/2

26

28.9

54

60

4

1

16-QAM

3/4

39

43.3

81

90

5

1

64-QAM

2/3

52

57.8

108

120

6

1

64-QAM

3/4

58.5

65

121.5

135

7

1

64-QAM

5/6

65

72.2

135

150

8

2

BPSK

1/2

13

14.4

27

30

9

2

QPSK

1/2

26

28.9

54

60

10

2

QPSK

3/4

39

43.3

81

90

11

2

16-QAM

1/2

52

57.8

108

120

...

...

...

...

...

...

...

...

32

1

BPSK

1/2

N/A

N/A

6.0

6.7

 

802.11ac

IEEE 802.11ac is a wireless networking standard in the 802.11 family (which is marketed under the brand name Wi-Fi), developed in the IEEE Standards Association process, providing high-throughput wireless local area networks (WLANs) on the 5 GHz band.The standard was developed from 2011 through 2013 and approved in January 2014.

This specification has expected multi-station WLAN throughput of at least 1 gigabit per second and a single link throughput of at least 500 megabits per second (500 Mbit/s). This is accomplished by extending the air interface concepts embraced by 802.11n: wider RF bandwidth (up to 160 MHz), more MIMO spatial streams (up to eight), downlink multi-user MIMO (up to four clients), and high-density modulation (up to 256-QAM).

Wireless topology diagram

Wireless device networking has benefits for all types of organizations. For example, in the medical field, where reduced staffing, facility closures and cost containment pressures are just a few of the daily concerns, device networking can assist with process automation and data security. Routine activities such as collection and dissemination of data, remote patient monitoring, asset tracking and reducing service costs can be managed quickly and safely with the use of wireless networked devices. In this environment, Lantronix device servers can network and manage patient monitoring devices, mobile EKG units, glucose analyzers, blood analyzers, infusion pumps, ventilators and virtually any other diagnostic tool with serial capability over the Internet.

Forklift accidents in large warehouses cause millions of dollars in damaged product, health claims, lost work and equipment repairs each year. To minimize the lost revenue and increase their profit margin and administrative overhead, “a company” has utilized wireless networking technology to solve the problem. Using Lantronix serial-to-802.11 wireless device server “the company” wirelessly network-enables a card reader which is tied to the ignition system of all the forklifts in the warehouse. Each warehouse employee has an identification card. The forklift operator swipes his ID card before trying to start the forklift. The information from his card is sent back via wireless network to computer database and it checks to see if he has proper operator’s license, and that the license is current. If so, forklift can start. If not – the starter is disabled.

Additional Network Security

Of course, with the ability to network devices comes the risk of outsiders obtaining access to important and confidential information. Security can be realized through various encryption methods. 

There are two main types of encryption: asymmetric encryption (also known as public-key encryption) and symmetric encryption. There are many algorithms for encrypting data based on these types.

AES

AES (Advanced Encryption Standards) is a popular and powerful encryption standard that has not been broken. Select Lantronix device servers feature a NIST-certified implementation of AES as specified by the Federal Information Processing Specification (FIPS-197). This standard specifies Rijndael as a FIPS-approved symmetric encryption algorithm that may be used to protect sensitive information.  A common consideration for device networking devices is that they support AES and are validated against the standard to demonstrate that they properly implement the algorithm. It is important that a validation certificate is issued to the product’s vendor which states that the implementation has been tested. Lantronix offers several AES certified devices including the AES Certified SecureBox SDS1100 and the AES Certified SecureBox SDS2100.

Secure Shell Encryption

Secure Shell (SSH) is a program that provides strong authentication and secure communications over unsecured channels. It is used as a replacement for Telnet, rlogin, rsh, and rcp, to log into another computer over a network, to execute commands in a remote machine, and to move files from one machine to another. AES is one of the many encryption algorithms supported by SSH. Once a session key is established SSH uses AES to protect data in transit.
Both SSH and AES are extremely important to overall network security by maintaining strict authentication for protection against intruders as well as symmetric encryption to protect transmission of dangerous packets. AES certification is reliable and can be trusted to handle the highest network security issues.

WEP

Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) is a security protocol for wireless local area networks (WLANs) which are defined in the 802.11b standard. WEP is designed to provide the same level of security as that of a wired LAN, however LANs provide more security by their inherent physical structure that can be protected from unauthorized access. WLANs, which are over radio waves, do not have the same physical structure and therefore are more vulnerable to tampering. WEP provides security by encrypting data over radio waves so that it is protected as it is transmitted from one end point to another.  However, it has been found that WEP is not as secure as once believed. WEP is used at the data link and physical layers of the OSI model and does not offer end-to-end security.

WPA

Supported by many newer devices, Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) is a Wi-Fi standard that was designed to improve upon the security features of WEP. WPA technology works with existing Wi-Fi products that have been enabled with WEP, but WPA includes two improvements over WEP. The first is improved data encryption via the temporal key integrity protocol (TKIP), which scrambles keys using a hashing algorithm and adds an integrity-checking feature to ensure that keys haven’t been tampered with. The second is user authentication through the extensible authentication protocol (EAP). EAP is built on a secure public-key encryption system, ensuring that only authorized network users have access. EAP is generally missing from WEP, which regulates access to a wireless network based on the computer’s hardware-specific MAC Address. Since this information can be easily stolen, there is an inherent security risk in relying on WEP encryption alone. 

 

M2M and Wireless Communications

Two extremely important and useful technologies for communication that depend heavily on device servers are M2M and wireless networking.

Made possible by device networking technology, M2M enables serial-based devices throughout a facility to communicate with each other and humans over a Local Area Network/Wide Area Network (LAN/WAN) or via the Internet. The prominent advantages to business include:

  • Serial Tunneling diagramMaximized efficiency
  • More streamlined operations
  • Improved service

Lantronix Device Servers enable M2M communications either between the computer and serial device, or from one serial device to another over the Internet or Ethernet network using “serial tunneling.” Using this serial to Ethernet method, the “tunnel” can extend across a facility or to other facilities all over the globe.

M2M technology opens a new world of business intelligence and opportunity for organizations in virtually every market sector. Made possible through device servers, M2M offers solutions for equipment manufacturers, for example, who need to control service costs. Network enabled equipment can be monitored at all times for predictive maintenance. Often when something is wrong, a simple setting or switch adjustment is all that is required. When an irregularity is noted, the system can essentially diagnose the problem and send the corrective instructions. This negates a time-consuming and potentially expensive service call for a trivial issue. If servicing is required, the technician leaves knowing exactly what is wrong and with the proper equipment and parts to correct the problem. Profitability is maximized through better operating efficiencies, minimized cost overruns and fewer wasted resources.

Traditional Service Model diagram

Remote Mgmt. Service Model diagram

M2M technology also greatly benefits any organization that cannot afford downtime, such as energy management facilities where power failures can be catastrophic, or hospitals who can’t afford interruptions with lives at stake. By proactively monitoring networked-enabled equipment to ensure it is functioning properly at all times, business can ensure uptime on critical systems, improve customer service and increase profitability.