Watch out for the gargoyles!

As Spooky Season is upon us, it’s the perfect time to face your fears. Go to a haunted house, watch a horror movie, or–scariest of all–try out a wireless sensor system! There are plenty of urban legends surrounding wireless sensors that have turned them into a scary myth. Let’s bust those myths, because wireless sensors are a lot less “trick” and way more “treat” than you may think.

Myth 1: Wireless Sensor Batteries Are Power Gluttons

You may have heard that wireless sensors are like Slimer, gobbling up power so that batteries need replacement or recharging every few months. However, advancements in low-power circuits and intelligent wireless protocols have made it possible for a battery that transmits data every 10 minutes, which is pretty typical, to last about five years. In situations with longer transmission interval times, the batteries can even last up to ten years.

There’s also the myth that wireless sensors need to “sleep” to extend battery life, and that because of this, they are not good at detecting a sudden change. While it is true that a transceiver node needs to be in sleep mode most of the time, there are two solutions to this issue: 1) A “wake-up” signal can be sent to a sensor in case of a sudden event; for example when an accelerometer detects an impact. 2) A sensor can constantly collect data in low-power mode and will only transmit the stored data when a “send stored data” signal is received. These solutions allow wireless sensor transceiver nodes to maximize battery life while also remaining highly accurate.

Myth 2: Data Transmission Is Tricky. Don’t Cross the Streams!

There are many myths about the data transmission process of wireless sensors: they have unreliable connectivity, can’t transmit very far (especially in factories or other “radio-noisy” environments), and can lose data in the air. The reality is, new wireless technology makes it possible for a sensor to “listen” before it “talks” to ensure that airwaves are clear. Wireless sensors also use Direct Sequence Spread Spectrum (DSSS). By allowing the radio signals to travel at or below the radio noise floor, DSSS creates a reliable connection and extends the transmission range by a few thousand feet. Also, fast data rates limit the time the high-power radio transmitter needs. 

Some wireless sensor transmission processes operate in “fire and forget” mode where the data is transmitted, but there is no acknowledgment from the software that the data was received. This creates the perception that wireless sensors can have unreliable connectivity. However, it is now possible for a sensor to send data, then wait for an confirmation from the software. If there is no confirmation, the sensor transceiver node will store the data with a timestamp and send it in the next transmission.  This capability combined with software acknowledgement gives you confidence in the reliability of your sensor data, even if you do “cross the streams.”

Myth 3: Sensor Software Is Too Much Trouble

Myths abound when it comes to software for wireless sensors: they aren’t viable because they require separate software & data storage; it’s nearly impossible to get an IT department to approve a new software installation; software updates are needed every time a specialized sensor is added. These have all been busted. Just like Zuul, the evil spirit who possesses Sigourney Weaver’s Dana, you can choose your host – where you host the data. Multiple options for hosting the software are possible whether it’s on a single-board computer inside the gateway, on the Cloud, or even your company’s own server. As for any security concerns, wireless sensor systems can use the same AES128 encryption that protects bank transactions. 

Advanced sensor design has made it easy to install and update a wireless sensor system. Sensor transceiver nodes can come preconfigured so that they communicate and auto-update the system software as soon as they are powered up, so that there’s no need for a complicated setup process.

Myth 4: Wireless Sensors Just Aren’t Made for Industrial Demands

Lots of people believe wireless sensors are either too fragile or too large to work on a manufacturing floor. New sensor transceiver nodes have been designed with a rugged IP67 rated enclosure. In addition, smaller batteries and an enclosed antenna keep things compact and protected, making wireless sensors about as hard to destroy as the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.

New,  modular sensor designs also mean that it’s easy to adapt a sensor to your specific needs without the time and expense of a custom design, and transceiver nodes can combine multiple, different sensors. These are both factors that make wireless sensors versatile enough for all industrial applications. 

Myth 5: There’s Just Too Much Data to Deal With

Like most users, you probably don’t want, or need, the thousands of data points that a wireless sensor can collect. With sophisticated edge processing, the data collected by a wireless sensor can be edge processed at the sensor level to “crunch down” 50,000 data points to become 10 data points that are easily transmitted over the air.  It’s like your own ghostly library lady,  ready to collect and organize all of your data, but without the scary monster part. You can then easily analyze the information to look for opportunities for efficiency gains, set alerts for when critical levels on certain readings are breached, or configure any settings for the sensors. If you do need the complete data for more complex off-line analysis (such as FFT vibration), there are ways to make over-the-air bulk data download efficient and an effective tool for your process.

Who you gonna call to get a wireless sensor system that busts these myths? Check out our Leap Sensors system. It’s the only system designed from the ground up to meet the demanding needs of industrial users.

Still have myths you need busted? Start by talking to one of our wireless sensor experts today.