Wireless Applications

Arch Rock Unveils First Enterprise-Class WSN

March 31, 2008

'PhyNet' platform offers Internet-like scalability, resiliency using new router designed for IP-based wireless sensor networks (WSNs).


SAN FRANCISCO, CA -- Arch Rock Corp. has introduced the first wireless sensor network (WSN) to address large-scale enterprise applications by forming large, resilient IP-based WSNs and letting users centrally manage collections of those WSNs as an integral part of the enterprise IP infrastructure.

Arch Rock's new PhyNet IP-based platform implements a tiered WSN architecture that eliminates the need to co-locate individual sensor networks with the server-based functions that control them by placing a scalable internetworking tier—the first "WSN router"—between them. Sensor applications can now reside half a world away, across a corporate campus or in the next room, communicating with any number of WSNs across local- or wide-area IP networks. Because PhyNet extends standard Internet Protocol (IP) technology from the enterprise infrastructure to the sensor network mesh and out to individual sensor nodes, those nodes can communicate directly with any other IP devices on the enterprise network regardless of their connection medium (IEEE 802.15.4 radio, 802.11 Wi-Fi, Ethernet, etc.). The PhyNet platform also applies to the IP-based WSN the vast body of standard and well tested IP tools for interoperability, management and security, eliminating the need to deploy dedicated and unproven schemes.

The PhyNet platform's tiered architecture includes:

  • the PhyNet Server, which manages collections of WSNs and displays sensor data on a Web-based user console that lets users do WSN setup, diagnostics, management and Web services-based applications. The Management Server connects via LAN or WAN IP networks to:

     

  • the PhyNet Router, centerpiece of the new architecture. PhyNet Routers form an internetworking backbone between an IETF 6LoWPAN (IPv6 Low-Power Wireless Personal-Area Network)-based WSN and its server-hosted applications; the use of multiple PhyNet Routers within a single WSN eliminates the performance bottlenecks and the single point of failure characteristic of other solutions. PhyNet Routers connect via IEEE 802.15.4 low-power radio links to:

     

  • Arch Rock Nodes, including the new IPserial Node, which extends Arch Rock sensor support beyond analog sensors to digital sensors, data loggers and devices with legacy serial connectors.

PhyNet is well suited for a broad range of large-scale applications, including energy management, compliance and safety enforcement, environmental monitoring, and emerging energy-generation technologies.

Enterprise WSN: Deployments Dictated By Business Needs, Not Network Incompatibilities
Roland Acra, Arch Rock CEO, said, "'Enterprise-ready means being able to deploy both individual sensor nodes and whole WSNs in a manner dictated not by the constraints of incompatible network technologies, but by real business needs. Up to now wireless sensor networks have generally been targeted at pilot networks or small-scale scenarios. Arch Rock's original product brought quick out-of-the-box deployment and standards-based IP into the picture last year with our Primer Pack/IP. Our customers are now entering a phase where they want to connect and centrally manage multiple sensor-equipped buildings, often for the purpose of offering remote monitoring services to their own customers."

"To accomplish this, the PhyNet platform allows management services and applications to reside in a protected and highly available corporate data center, while sensor nodes and networking functions can be located throughout a building, machine room or harsh outdoor environment any distance (or number of links) away. No matter how the PhyNet elements are distributed across the enterprise, the applications can run end-to-end to the IP-based sensors through standard enterprise-integrated IP routing."

David Mohler, chief technology officer at Arch Rock customer Duke Energy, based in Charlotte, N.C., said, "IP networks represent the best choice in network protocol, providing utilities access to thousands of compatible devices for enhancing utility operations and the delivery of energy efficiency products to our end-user customers. IP networks are the primary choice for Duke Energy as we build out our infrastructure to improve our services and leverage technology in crafting a better customer experience."

PhyNet Routers Eliminate Performance Bottlenecks, Increase Resiliency
PhyNet gives an enterprise broad deployment flexibility in terms of both the number and size of WSNs. Within a given WSN, as the number of sensors and the collected data increase, users can deploy several PhyNet Routers—the equivalent of having multiple edge routers aggregating a set of wired local networks. This prevents performance bottlenecks at the WSN edge by essentially adding a 250 Kbps ingress and egress link with each added PhyNet Router, and ensures resiliency by providing the sensor data with multiple egress points from the WSN. With dynamic routing and full redundancy across all PhyNet Routers deployed at the WSN edge, a node will dynamically find the best path to its destination and automatically circumvent any breaks in connectivity due to changes in the radio environment or in neighboring nodes. The availability of multiple PhyNet Routers acting as ingress/egress points also reduces average hop count within the WSN mesh, improving effective throughput, latency and node battery life.

Broader Deployment Flexibility Than Other Architectures
Because all Arch Rock sensor nodes do both sensing and mesh routing, a PhyNet sensor node can be placed anywhere within 802.15.4 radio range of any other node in a peer-to-peer relation. By contrast, in other architectures, battery-powered nodes sense and AC-powered nodes route, requiring carefully planned node placement—a major undertaking and a major deployment constraint in an enterprise-scale deployment. In addition, PhyNet uses the stateless, dynamic IP protocol, which routes around failures and rebuilds paths dynamically across multiple sensor nodes and/or access routers, while the stateful and complex protocol translation required in non-IP and proprietary architectures is difficult to replicate in a large-scale, distributed manner across edge devices. Finally, because IP is media-independent, PhyNet nodes can talk directly to all other IP devices, while nodes in non-IP networks can talk only to each other unless special translation software is written to bridge the communication gap.

Elements of the PhyNet Architecture The PhyNet Server translates embedded sensor applications into Web services and provides a suite of Web-based applications for the setup, diagnostics and management of multiple WSNs. Users can view sensor data and events from all WSNs; generate a deployment map; discover, register, move and configure nodes; enable/disable sensors or show their battery status; graphically display performance statistics; and set reporting intervals, thresholds and alerts.

The PhyNet Router, an embedded networking device connecting 6LoWPAN mesh networks via Wi-Fi and Ethernet interfaces to diverse WAN links, allows the physical separation of sensor node deployments and their server-hosted applications. The router establishes an internetworking backbone by forming and adaptively configuring the routing table to reach all nodes in a WSN mesh. Supporting native IPv6 to the sensor nodes, it handles IPv4-to-IPv6 protocol translation, provides packet encryption/decryption and authentication, and supports over-the-air (OTA) programming and provisioning of nodes.

Arch Rock's new IPserial Node allows WSN users to connect to smart digital sensors such as digital meters and thermometers, weather stations, biometric equipment; to a broad set of instruments and data loggers with RS232 and RS485 interfaces; and to sensing and control systems that use legacy wired buses (e.g., ModBus) equipped with serial interfaces. This node lets users take advantage of a broad array of highly precise, small-footprint digital sensors, which can be mixed and matched with existing analog sensor nodes using expansion ports to form a highly diverse WSN.

Pricing and Availability
Arch Rock PhyNet-based WSN products are available immediately. An entry-level system priced at $7,995 includes one PhyNet Server, two PhyNet Routers, 10 IPsensor Nodes (analog) and two IPserial Nodes. The system can be scaled through the addition of individual components.

Arch Rock Primer Pack/IP, an out-of-the-box solution for creating pilot WSNs, will continue to be available for $4,995.

About Arch Rock
Arch Rock is a pioneer in open-standards-based wireless sensor network technology. The company's products, which gather data from the physical world and integrate it into the enterprise IT infrastructure using IP networking and Web services, are used in environmental monitoring, tracking and logistics, industrial automation and control. Arch Rock's founders, while at the University of California-Berkeley and Intel Research, did seminal research and development work on WSNs, creating three generations of wireless sensor nodes, mesh networking protocols, and the leading operating system for sensor networks.


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