ABB Tropos Wireless Communication Systems

Monday, May 23, 2016

Utilities: Leaving Leased Lines for Private Wireless Networks

Due to increases in leased line fees and reports that public telcos are discontinuing leased line services, utilities are questioning if leased lines will continue to be a viable communication option. While this is a problem, it is also the catalyst utilities need to take control of their field area data communication systems.

By relying on public telcos, utilities have placed too much dependency on arms-length service providers. This dependency has resulted in no control over the technology lifecycle and no influence over pricing, as both are driven by the telcos’ core consumer and enterprise customer base. Utilities can take control by using private broadband communication networks to replace leased lines and capitalize on the ability to:

  • Control the technology lifecycle: The utility can undertake a one-time project to deploy a modern communication system with a 10-to-15-year lifespan.
  • Reduce O&M costs: The main area of O&M cost savings is the major reduction, if not outright elimination, of the monthly fees paid to a telco for leased line services, fees that are escalating rapidly.
  • Enhance reliability: If the utility needs four or five 9s of system availability, a network capable of delivering that level of availability can be designed and deployed.

Additionally, private wireless networks offer a foundation for capacity and physical growth as new applications are added and service territories are adjusted. Through ownership, the utility can now determine size of coverage areas, bandwidth, availability, security and quality of service (QoS) mechanisms, as well as define which tradeoffs to make between cost and network availability and when to phase out older technologies in favor of new ones.

It is this kind of control that will allow utilities to not only survive through today’s changes, but thrive well into the future as the grid gets smarter and instantaneous data is not only recommended, but mandatory. Are you ready for a modern wireless communications infrastructure?

Monday, May 16, 2016

ABB Named to List of Smart Grid Companies to Watch in 2016

ABB is honored to be chosen by the editors of Smart Grid News, the insider's guide to the digitization of the electric grid, as one of the "Smart Grid Companies to Watch in 2016."  This honor offers further validation that ABB is a proven and trusted solution provider, delivering the bigger picture to utilities needing to deploy successful automated operations that meet the five major electricity requirements of the global society: capacity, reliability, efficiency, security and sustainability. 

Per Smart Grid News, "This year's selections are an interesting mix of security, energy storage, data analytics, the Internet of Things, and even a utility. Regardless of their differences, all share commonality from a strong spirit of innovation to an unwavering commitment to positively impacting the energy industry of the future."

Through our synergies with ABB Enterprise Software, as well as the ABB Smart Grid Center of Excellence, ABB deploys the foundation of the smart grid ­– two-way communications and IT/OT convergence – at the highest levels of performance. By developing interconnected solutions, ABB provides cohesion across the energy planning and operational lifecycle, helping utilities make smarter energy investment decisions, plan operations properly, and efficiently control the grid in real-time.

For our part, within the last year, we enriched our portfolio with several utility-specific product launches: ArcheOS, TropOS 6420, and SuprOS 8.3. ArcheOS is significant technology because it allows utilities to create long-distance, non-line-of-sight communication links to remote substations and other isolated assets – a relevant and necessary offering as more telcos raise leased line prices and discontinue leased line services, forcing utilities to find alternatives. Our launch of the TropOS 6420, an outdoor broadband mesh router designed to enhance physical security applications in electric utility T&D substations, was a timely endeavor given recent high-profile vandalism and sabotage events. In February, we launched SuprOS 8.3, a powerful and innovative communication network management system that manages all of ABB’s wired and wireless technologies from one pane of glass.

To reiterate the sentiment of ABB Vice President of Smart Grids, North America, Gary Rackliffe, this recognition means a great deal to ABB – a strong infrastructure will ensure future success! We couldn’t agree more. We’re pleased to share this exciting news with all of you.

For additional information, visit the ABB Smart Grid portal at:

Friday, May 2, 2014

Helping Make Things and the Stuff Used to Make Things

Making things yields more grit than glamor. Take a step back to providing inputs to the manufacturing process – the stuff used to make things – and you find even more grit and less glamor. But, manufacturing and the industries that feed manufacturing, including oil and gas production, mining and electricity distribution, create the things we use to survive and thrive.

The two most recent products announced by ABB Tropos Wireless Communication Systems, Tropos Mesh OS 8 with reliable broadcast capability and the Tropos 1410-DIN wireless bridge and mesh router for automation applications, share something in common – they help our customers make things and the stuff used to make things. And while these products may lack sizzle, they provide plenty of steak.

Tropos Mesh OS 8 supports for reliable Layer 2 broadcasts. Reliable broadcasts enhance support for automation protocols and applications including GOOSE, RNRP and mine management systems. With Tropos Mesh OS 8, the benefits of wireless mesh networking – large outdoor coverage areas, mobility, faster process reconfiguration, lower cost retrofits of existing facilities – are now available to a wider variety of industrial operations.

The Tropos 1410-DIN wireless mesh router and wireless bridge is designed to be installed, using standard DIN rail mounting, in the types of enclosures often employed in process control, energy and industrial automation systems. It extends the functionality of wireless mesh networks to devices where installation of standalone Tropos routers is impractical. The Tropos 1410-DIN enables automation devices to communicate with other devices and with central computing applications such as SCADA systems. It also allows workers with Wi-Fi equipped laptops or tablets to communicate with automation devices wirelessly, rather than having to be close enough to the device to plug into it with a cable.

“As demand for Tropos wireless mesh networks in industrial applications grows, we’ve responded to the market by offering the Tropos 1410 in a form factor used by standard enclosures for process control systems,” said Mike Bailey, senior vice president of engineering and operations for ABB Tropos Wireless Communication Systems. “The Tropos 1410-DIN will enable more industrial facilities and applications to reap the benefits of broadband wireless mesh networks.”

Exciting? No. But we’re happy to allow the latest hot social media startup to bask in the spotlight. We’ll keep doing what ABB has always done best – helping our customers make things and the stuff used to make things.

Bert Williams

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Minding the mines

Nothing says happy customer quite like repeat purchases. Recently, ABB Tropos Wireless Communication Systems installed a wireless mesh network at PotashCorp – White Springs’ 100,000-acre phosphate mine in White Springs, FL. A previously deployed Tropos network is being used to improve safety and productivity at PotashCorp – Aurora. Repeat purchase, happy customer.

Wireless communication networks are not usually the first things that come to mind when people think about open pit mines. They generally envision large pieces of equipment unearthing and moving huge quantities of ore, rock, phosphates and other minerals. However, there’s a largely unseen but critical component of mine operations – digital technology, including communication networks, that helps keep mine operations efficient and safe.

Tropos wireless mesh router mounted on a PotashCorp shovel
A large piece of mining equipment...and a Tropos mesh router!
Photo courtesy of PotashCorp

What does this digital technology do? Here are some examples of applications enabled by robust, high throughput, low latency networks:
  • Video monitoring: Real-time, remote video allows for analysis of the amount of material being mined and aids operations in deploying trucks for transporting material from the pit to the processing plant. Also, the ability to monitor real-time video remotely enables managers to ensure that safety protocols are being followed.
  • Remote performance monitoring: The communication network quickly transports telemetry data from mining and process equipment, such as draglines and other in-pit equipment, to the facility’s operations center in real time. This allows mine operators to gather critical operational data in order to recommend scheduled equipment maintenance - vastly increasing efficiency, equipment uptime and worker safety.
  • Mineral analysis data: Fast access to mineral (phosphate, in the case of PotashCorp – White Springs and PotashCorp – Aurora) analysis data provides visibility into trends related to production issues enabling proactively problem resolution.
In the case of PotashCorp – White Springs and PotashCorp – Aurora, plant managers wanted to achieve near real-time access to data and video from the mining pit, in the pit trailer and the processing plants, in order to improve operational efficiency and safety. Their Tropos wireless mesh networks enabled them to achieve their goals.

Bert Williams

Friday, August 30, 2013

Phoenix’s Tropos wireless mesh network: Easy to install, easy to operate and easy on the wallet too!

At ABB Tropos, it’s a point of pride that our wireless mesh routers are easy to install. Our customers agree.
“The Tropos routers are very easy to install – I can send someone out with a screwdriver and a node.  Once installed and powered, nodes just immediately associate with the network and are hands-off.” 
George Frangos
IT Systems Specialist
Street Transportation Department
City of Phoenix
But there’s more to ease of installation than just hanging the radios. There’s also a software component.

Like many customers deploying broadband outdoor wireless networks, the City of Phoenix’s Street Transportation Department built out their Tropos wireless mesh network over a number of years.

During that period, technology advanced. The initial rollout of the Tropos wireless mesh network in Phoenix in 2010 included 420 Tropos 5320 and 5310 radios and covered 250 square miles. As the network expanded to its current 500 square miles and 902 Tropos routers, the City mixed in newer model Tropos 7320 and 6320 outdoor wireless mesh routers. Because all Tropos routers use Tropos Mesh OS as their network operating system, routers originally deployed continue to operate and mesh seamlessly with the newer Tropos mesh routers.

Tropos Mesh OS is also key to the network’s ease of operation. As George Frangos pointed out in his quote above, newly installed Tropos wireless mesh routers automatically associate with the network and are hands-off from that point on. Further, because Tropos Mesh OS leverages multiple paths, RF channels and frequency bands, it automatically routes interference and other network faults, it’s enabled the Phoenix network to achieve 99.999% availability since its installation in 2010. And it’s done so without taxing the City’s IT staff.

As the wireless mesh network was rolled out, the City gradually retired the leased T-1 lines that connected traffic signals to the city’s centralized traffic management system. With first phase replacement of leased lines resulted in saving of more than $220,000 annually. As the network expanded, that savings grew to the current $400,000 annually. And that’s easy on the City’s (and taxpayers’) wallets.

To learn more about the applications and benefits of the Tropos wireless mesh network used by the City of Phoenix’s Street Transportation Department, check out our new Phoenix case study.

Bert Williams

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Tropos: from rugged to extremely rugged

Tropos mesh routers have always been rugged. For example, the only Tropos router in the New Orleans video surveillance network that was lost during Hurricane Katrina was one mounted to a pole felled by the storm. When power was restored, the network became operational. By itself. And, as one observer put it:
The [Tropos] mesh network allowed the city to conduct 110,000 home inspections in just 6 weeks, and to issue 500 building permits per day (a 500% increase). It also enabled free public Internet access that supported the businesses and employees returning to their homes and office. And of course, the system continued to serve its original purpose as a NOPD network and "security canopy."

Now, with the introduction of the Tropos XA product family for extreme applications, Tropos mesh routers have gone from rugged to extremely rugged. The new Tropos 7320-XA outdoor mesh router can survive even higher winds and temperatures while offering even better resistance to salt fog corrosion than the Tropos 7320. For applications on the go, the new Tropos 4310-XA can survive even more extreme vibration than the Tropos 4310 while providing a weather-proof enclosure that is suitable for external as well as in-vehicle mounting.

Tropos 4310-XA Mobile Mesh Router for Extreme Applications
Tropos 4310-XA Mobile Mesh Router for Extreme Applications

Does this have value to our customers? You bet it does. As John J. Cruz, Jr., Strategic Planning and Operations Research Division Manager (SPORD) at Guam Power Authority (GPA), told us:
“A tropical climate and typhoons are facts of life on Guam. When a storm disrupts power, we need our communication network to keep operating so we can get the lights back on as soon as possible. ABB Tropos developed the unique features of the Tropos 7320-XA at GPA’s request to ensure that our wireless network functions reliably even in the face of the extreme conditions we occasionally face on our island. The survivability of Tropos networks through Katrina and other natural disasters is proof that GPA made the right choice.”

When developing the Tropos XA product family, we remembered our friends in the public safety and critical infrastructure markets. The Tropos 7329-XA and Tropos 4319-XA provide the features and benefits of the Tropos 7320-XA and Tropos 4310-XA, respectively, while offering connectivity in the 4.9 GHz band. The 4.9 GHz products are available only in the United States, where the 4.9 GHz spectrum is allocated for licensed use by public safety agencies and certain critical infrastructure operators.

For more information about the Tropos XA product family, check out our product announcements regarding the unlicensed band Tropos XA products and the 4.9 GHz band Tropos XA products.

Bert Williams

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Reboot: new web site = time to relaunch the Tropos blog

As you may have noticed on your way to this post, we did some pretty radical remodeling – both look and content – to Spurred by the one-year anniversary of our acquisition by ABB, we made a number of changes including:
  • Converting the website, as well as our literature and YouTube channel, to use the look and feel of ABB documents and web properties
  • Making it easier to get in touch with us by providing more places where you can fill out contact forms
  • Simplifying the process for gaining access to content requiring user registration  (e.g., white papers and case studies) by asking only for an email address on our registration forms and providing a register-once, download-many registration system.
There’s lots of new and improved content on the Tropos web site, including the new Silicon Valley Power and Rock Hill case studies as well as the new Venice (yes, the one in Italy) success story. We invite you to peruse the site and give us your feedback on how we can improve your website visit experience. As we mentioned, finding a contact form is easier than ever.
Refreshing the web site also spurred us to reboot the Tropos blog (obviously). Check back often as we’ll be posting new content often. We promise. Also please follow @TroposNetworks on Twitter.

Bert Williams