I recent spoke with a senior executive from FreeWave a Boulder (CO)-based company that has been designing and building wireless products, using mostly proprietary radio designs, for two decades. The firm specializes in such industrial applications as oil and gas, utilities, defense, SCADA, mining, and a variety of others as well, with a very broad product line of mostly narrowband solutions. But they recently announced their first broadband solution, WavePoint, which is perhaps best thought of as a platform for wireless solutions of many forms, including those requiring higher throughput and duty cycles going forward. The product itself is a box with slots for a variety of radio modules - and platform in this case is the operative and indeed key terms.
When thinking about wireless solutions in industrial applications, most people tend to start with the radio itself - which, by the way, isn't always based on an industry standard. Increasingly, though, one radio just won't do it - a particular radio might be used to talk to a specific piece of equipment at the network's edge, and yet another used for backhaul or interconnect, including via a wireless mesh. These projects can thus have a large systems-integration component, which can get quite complex in many cases. What WavePoint attempts to do, then, is to simplify the overall implementation process by providing a high-configurable platform applicable to a wide variety of solutions. As we've seen with this approach in the commercial (as opposed to industrial) world, capital and most importantly operating expense can decline, and thus TCO is minimized. That's the argument for the approach FreeWave is taking here, and it's a good one.
The product supports multiple antenna configurations, radio standards (including Wi-Fi, and cellular for backhaul), protocols, and topologies, including point-to-point, point-to-multipoint and mesh. I'm intrigued, to say the least - the concept is excellent, and the productivity accruing to both developers and operations staff from being able to use a single platform across multiple projects and the lifecycle of any given installation really is the icing on the cake.