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What Are the Benefits of SDRs for Adding Wireless Networks to Manufacturing Plants?

by Emily Newton   |   July, 2022

Software-defined radios (SDRs) could help manufacturers update their technology and optimize wireless networks. High usage flexibility is just one benefit of SDRs. This technology can facilitate improved communication, strengthen cybersecurity, and make it easier to update and work with aging legacy systems.

SDRs are a crucial part of modern telecommunications technology that can go a long way toward improving wireless network performance in manufacturing plants. Here's what companies should know about adding them to their facilities.

SDRs and Manufacturing Wireless Network Needs

The rise of Industry 4.0 and critical staffing shortages in manufacturing have led more companies to turn to automation. It is the industry's future and has many benefits for manufacturers, from waste reduction to higher efficiency.

However, automation requires a resilient and fast wireless network, which can be difficult to establish and maintain in a manufacturing environment. Software-defined radios can be a valuable tool for helping companies strengthen their wireless networks to implement automation technologies like IoT and AI.

This is largely due to a few key characteristics of SDRs that are particularly beneficial in manufacturing. For example, commercial-grade SDRs can help wireless networks handle high bandwidth demands as well as complex signal processing. This could allow plants to work with the large quantities of data needed to operate automation on assembly lines.

Additionally, the nature of SDRs makes them easy to quickly adapt and update. A manufacturer could completely change the function of a particular device using an SDR. All it needs is new software to process different radio protocols. This is in contrast to hardware-defined technology, which requires physical changes to the device to make any updates.

SDRs provide a certain level of future-proofing for manufacturers' technology. They may even help them update or upgrade existing legacy systems and even bring older devices into the fold on modern wireless networks.

Security Benefits of SDRs

SDRs can help manufacturing plants strengthen their cybersecurity. There has rarely been a more important time to prioritize internet safety. Cybercrime has been rising over the past few years, with ransomware attacks surging 105% from 2021 to 2022. Hackers are going after all types of organizations today, so manufacturers must be prepared. SDRs can help them build more secure wireless networks.

Implementing Defense for IoT and Automation Tech

Many manufacturers are turning to IoT and other automation technologies to optimize their operations. Studies have found that SDRs can be crucial for securing IoT devices. Many attacks on IoT machines exploit hardware vulnerabilities, and SDRs are perfect for closing that gap. It can improve cross-functionality and flexibility for these devices, allowing manufacturers to update security protocols swiftly through a software update.

Securing Wireless Networks Against Specific Attacks

Similarly, other studies have found that SDRs are highly effective for defending wireless networks against denial-of-service attacks, jamming attacks and session hijacking. DoS and DDoS attacks tend to be especially popular among "script kiddies," amateur hackers who are either new to hacking or lack the skills to carry out more complex attacks. Nonetheless, these infiltrations are still dangerous for manufacturing plants.

The idea behind DoS-type attacks is usually to cause as much chaos as possible, not necessarily to steal data. A manufacturing plant hit by a DoS or DDoS attack could end up shutting down operations with little to no warning, which could be potentially dangerous. Defending wireless networks against these types of attacks is crucial, and SDRs are ideal for facilitating that.

Quick and Easy Updates and Upgrades

Software-defined radios are great for facilitating quick and easy updates to communications technology in manufacturing plants. Many companies need to integrate various legacy systems with newer technologies as they evolve their operations technology and begin to implement automation.

This can be a challenge for various reasons, but SDRs may be able to simplify the process. They can help manufacturers upgrade their systems to prepare for high-speed, high bandwidth wireless networks.

Providing Seamless Updates

One of the greatest benefits of SDRs for manufacturers is how incredibly easy it is to update and connect them with other devices. Companies can quickly pivot an SDR device to do something completely different just by uploading a software update.

The ease of updating software on SDRs can be extremely convenient for manufacturers. A plant can be a hectic space, with many elements that could damage or interfere with radio and technological equipment. Additionally, EMI shielding is needed to keep radio devices from interfering with one another.

Protective shielding and equipment are necessary, but updating devices that need to be upgraded physically or manually can take time. SDRs can do this over the air without any physical intervention.

Facilitating High-Speed Connections

Fast 5G connections are vital for the success of Industrial IoT (IIoT). Manufacturing plants are large spaces, making it difficult to operate a high-speed network since everything is so spread out.

A high volume of IIoT devices is needed to connect such a large space, which makes things even more complicated. Manufacturers' communications technology needs to be able to process signals coming and going from many different devices at once. SDR can make it much easier to manage all this and help deliver low latency on wireless networks.

SDRs can also help smooth the transition from legacy systems. They are known for being great for cross-functionality, which can be applied to help older networks "talk to" newer ones. This allows manufacturing plants to be more flexible about how and when they upgrade their technology.

Even beyond legacy systems, SDRs are so flexible themselves that manufacturers can easily test different ideas when they are in the process of upgrading or optimizing their operations technology or automation.

Manufacturing and Software-Defined Radios

SDR has many benefits for manufacturers, from improved cybersecurity to easier updates to technology. Software-defined radio technology is vital for securing and operating IoT devices, which play an important role in automation.

SDRs can help manufacturers' wireless networks manage the high bandwidth demands needed to facilitate modern automated manufacturing. Adopting SDR technology allows companies to strengthen their plants' telecommunications technology and wireless network performance.

Emily Newton is the Editor-in-Chief at Revolutionized Magazine. She regularly covers topics on robotics and automation as well as trends in the industrial sector. See More Details.

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