Mettis Aerospace hosts world’s first Wi-Fi 6 IoT trial

The use of augmented reality and real-time video monitoring of equipment within the manufacturing industry could be among the applications made possible following the world’s first trial of Wi-Fi 6 Internet of Things (IoT) technology.

Wi-Fi 6
Heavy-scale industrial equipment that will become connected in mixed reality & augmented reality for simplified maintenance (Pic: Rob Lacey)

The UK trial, the first in a series of global trials, is being held at Mettis Aerospace’s 27-acre facility in the West Midlands, in collaboration with the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA).

The Mettis Aerospace site was chosen for the trial as it provides a number of technical challenges to the wireless system, covering a large geographical area and with industrial radio interference that can disrupt signals, according to Tiago Rodrigues, general manager of the WBA.

During the trial, the team will select two or three areas of the manufacturing plant in which to install the Wi-Fi 6 network, consisting of several antennas, said Rodrigues.

“We are going to run a series of tests to address Mettis Aerospace’s requirements, so for example the use of augmented reality,” he said. “We want to verify that Wi-Fi 6 can deliver those type of applications in an industrial environment.”

Other challenges the technology faces is in juggling the competing needs of the different applications. Some applications, such as multi-stream video, will require high bandwidth, others low latency, while mission critical applications will need to be prioritised, said Rodrigues.

“So particularly for Mettis’ maintenance team, it is very important that they can have critical information as soon as possible, so that they can take whatever actions are required,” he said.

The West Midlands was chosen by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to be the UK’s 5G testbed for manufacturing and security.

The Wi-Fi 6 IoT trial is being supported by WBA members including British Telecom, Boingo, Broadcom, BSG Wireless, CableLabs, Cisco, HPE Aruba and Intel.