One of the key challenges with connectivity at a port, harbour or offshore environment is the constant movement of large objects such as ships coming in or containers being on- and offloaded.
Connectivity solutions provider Ruckus addresses this changing-environment challenge with proper planning and WiFi system design. The design uses the company’s patented antenna technology that enables them to address challenging conditions, such as weather, with flexibility and adaptability.
“The environment is not a static one in which the WiFi needs to function; therefore, we need to make sure signal is readily available regardless of the position of the device trying to connect to the network,” Ruckus sub-Saharan Africa sales director Riaan Graham tells Engineering News.
The company plans and designs according to the area the WiFi needs to cover, considering the complexities and variables of moving objects to ensure continuous coverage through multiple access points.
The spacing of these access points needs to be planned around the predictable times when there is movement in the environment.
Graham points out that, typically, ports or offshore environments require more access points in the area, which results in increased risk of frequency interference.
“It comes down to planning – making sure you have got enough signal, but not too much as to cause interference in the network, which causes delays in information being transmitted between access points and devices.”
Delays or interruptions in the network can have security implications if, for example, the client is using WiFi to operate surveillance cameras. However, it is a more viable option to use WiFi than cabled infrastructure for connectivity, owing to all the movement in the area.
Another application for WiFi at ports or offshore is the support of scanning systems that scan and manage cargo containers that are on- or offloaded from ships. WiFi assists the software in transmitting information from the scanning device to the central information management system of the port. When this process is interrupted, owing to signal problems, it can negatively impact on the schedule for containers to be loaded or offloaded.
It has become a necessity for ports to use connectivity and smart systems to make port operations more efficient.
“A port is like any other business, it generates more revenue from offloading containers quickly, and on time. “With the number of ships coming in, there’s a tight schedule to run on,” notes Graham.
He adds that smart systems help to optimise and improve all these processes and service delivery.
Graham expects that smart technology, such as integrated container scanner systems and surveillance, can assist ports in increasing the number of containers being offloaded and, because information is readily at hand, port managers can plan spaces more efficient.
Equipment connected on a unified network can simplify the process of identifying and handling bottlenecks and address them proactively.
“All these smart technology developments need to align with regulation processes, such as documentation for signing off cargo loads and ship authorisation, because it can help speed up clearances and checks,” he avers.
Additionally, with the introduction of newer technologies and integrated systems, the reliance on manual labour decreases, owing to equipment becoming automated or partly automated. This means ports could be less vulnerable during labour unrest, adds Graham.
Graham describes Ruckus’s services as “the plumbing”, with the networks or software that runs through it being the water that flows through the pipes.
WiFi networks are often vulnerable to cybercrime attacks, owing to information being shared and transmitted in the public domain. However, Ruckus counters this problem using Advanced Encryption Standard-265 encryption on its systems – a specification for the encryption of electronic data established in the US – thereby ensuring that all data travelling through the network is secure.
The company’s systems also have unique service set identifiers and authentication methodology, which further secures the network by limiting access to approved users.