FreeWave has released its new WaveContact wireless input/output (I/O) product family, which is designed to help industrial customers broaden the use of sensors in some of the harshest, most remote environments.

Two new products—the WaveContact 10i EndPoint and the WaveContact 50i Data Concentrator—bring the Internet of Things (IoT) concept to an industrial setting and expand the potential for more data points out in the field, says Glenn Longley, Freewave’s senior product manager for I/O and software.

“We have customers—particularly in the oil-and-gas industry, but in other markets, as well—who would like to see our I/O solutions and FreeWave wireless solutions in more environments and more solution spaces across their well pads, their pipelines, compressor stations and in water and wastewater, and basically, more places,” Longley said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications.

“So part of that is being able to go into these environments that our current generation products can’t go into.”

The 10i EndPoint solution is a Class 1, Division 1 (C1D1) device in a explosion-proof enclosure that can handle up to six analog voltage inputs and has an RS485 interface. Powered by a rechargeable battery and a solar panel, the device includes a 1-watt 900 MHz or 500 mW 2.4 GHz wireless machine-to-maching (M2M) communication module.

“By having an all-in-one package that can go into that Class 1, Div. 1 environment, it allows them to simplify the installation. There’s less electrical wiring, [and] there’s less cost typically,” Longley said. “So, even though you’re going to spend a little bit more on the radio solution or the I/O solution, you’re going to spend a lot less for the total installation by not having the additional labor to run conduit, to run extra cables and have to get that out of that hazardous location.”

Longley declined to discuss specific pricing, but he said potential cost reductions resulting from a switch to the 10i EndPoint will vary from customer to customer.

“You have some customers who could spend $4,000 or $5,000 just wiring a $1,000 sensor, where this could basically reduce their costs by 50% to 60%, if not more,” he said. “And you have other customers where basically the cost would be very similar to if they wired it, but they won’t have the problems that come with wiring long connections and the labor in the field by putting people in a hazardous environment.”

Even though the solution was made with the oil-and-gas industry in mind, Longley said he sees applications for other markets, such as water and wastewater and precision agriculture. Uses could include valve controls and pressure-level sensors, or in farming, measuring the PH and moisture of soil.

The 50i Data Concentrator aggregates data from multiple sensors and other wireless M2M devices, which gives the customer more flexibility on how to interface with the sensors and how to design sensor networks, Longley said. A new key feature is the addition of a hardwired Ethernet port, he said.

“Even though it’s still a serial radio network that’s bringing data back from the field, now you can plug this into either your backhaul Ethernet or directly into an Ethernet switch that’s connected to your RTU, PLC or SCADA system—or both—and now this product can basically answer questions or Modbus requests from both the SCADA system, the RTU or multiple devices at the same time,” Longley said.

“By going to Ethernet for that hardwired connection, we really give the ability to address a new market or a new type of application with an I/O product versus an early generation, where you had a serial product and only one thing that you could talk to at a time.”