A CalAmp White Paper
The Marriage of Public and Private Networks
For too long, industrial network providers have faced a choice: go public or go private. Each type of network offers strengths and weaknesses: speed vs. reliability; security vs. broad-based access; coverage vs. cost. Industrial networks have often opted for private solutions, which have traditionally provided greater security, resiliency, and range than their public counterparts—factors that are paramount in mission-critical industrial communications infrastructure. The tradeoff, however, has been in speed. Private narrowband networks are constrained to far lower data rates than their public wideband counterparts, and no amount of clever engineering can overcome the inherent constraints of the physics of the electromagnetic spectrum. Yet speed is becoming increasingly important as technological capabilities increase and network intelligence is extended to edge devices. Intelligent networks are speed-dependent and information dense; more data from more devices in ever larger networks must be transmitted more quickly in order to facilitate responsive, intelligent decision-making.
The key, then, is interoperability.
CalAmp’s Fusion is the first industrial radio to eliminate the either-or proposition. Now, the radio itself is no longer a barrier to the inherent strengths that public and private networks can each offer. Fusion can accommodate all modern networks, both public and private, simultaneously. Decisions can be made in real time, rather than beforehand, about what network will best service the needs at hand. Programmatic decisions can be made to accommodate lower overall network operations costs, including least-cost routing and store-and-forward functionality. High-speed unlicensed bandwidth can be exploited when it’s available and unencumbered; slower, more reliable private networks can be used when it isn’t. Fusion revitalizes the public/private partnership, allowing long-range, lower speed networks to service remote rural areas, while providing higher speed access to more densely populated regions—without the need for alternate hardware.
The Flexible Solution
CalAmp first began addressing the interoperability problem years ago with software-definable radio (SDR) technology, which could modify of the operational parameters of a radio platform through simple software modifications. This allowed individual radios on specific networks to be tailored to the environment in which they were to operate without the need for hardware modifications. Features could be enabled and disabled, and performance parameters fine-tuned to the specific radio in question. This simplified the operation, maintenance and hardware base for within-network communications; over-the-air programming eased and centralized the administration of large radio networks, and helped CalAmp clients to reduce their operational costs.
Fusing Hardware and Software Independence
CalAmp’s Fusion extends the powerful SDR concept into the hardware domain as well. Fusion is an all-new, groundbreaking industrial wireless radio platform that is more than just flexible, more than just software-defined, and more than just feature-extensible. Fusion is network-independent. It enables access to a wide variety of both traditional and modern public and private wireless networks, and it does so automatically, to each of them, with the ability to switch from one networking technology to another—on the fly, in real time, according to software-defined parameters such as network availability, or transmission throughput, or quality of service (QOS), or any other operational metric that might be useful.
Flexible Network Access
Fusion accomplishes this unprecedented technological feat by employing a highly-sophisticated generic backplane that accepts specific network adapter cards for each network to be accessed. A single, common radio platform, therefore, can be configured to accommodate a wide variety of wireless operational environments, including LTE Band 13, 802.11b/g WiFi, (Phase I) LTE Bands 14, and 17, 802.11n (phase II), and support for Gobi cellular modems for 3G CDMA or GSM access (Phase III). Transparent access to CalAmp’s proprietary Gemini private high-speed network is always available as well. In general, virtually any type of wireless network can be accommodated by the the CalAmp Fusion platform—both those in operation today, and those of tomorrow. Fusion, therefore, has product extensibility designed right into the hardware, giving its rugged industrial packaging new practical functional life as the technology curve continues to accelerate.
Flexibility of this type is not limited simply to network access, and Fusion offers a wide array of corollary technologies as well. In the WiFi domain, for example, Fusion can act both as an Access Point (AP) or as a client radio, and can do both concurrently. This means that a Fusion-equipped vehicle, for example, can operate as a mobile hotspot tethered to the vehicle, enabling remote on-site video or photographic data communications, or high-speed access to rich media from smartphone-enabled first responders or field technicians.
Fusion can be configured to operate as a Wide Area Network (WAN) router, supporting multiple networks simultaneously, and offering port-based routing addressable by applications to any WAN. This kind of capability can support least-cost routing functions, for example, or store and forward capabilities for rich media data streams.
Fusion also supports the Geographic Positioning System (GPS), with time and position reporting, including both local and remote delivery. This provides options for mapping- and proximity-related applications in mobile environments.
Fusion offers standard modern networking capabilities, such as Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP), which facilitates programming and communications access to the radio itself. Subsequent phases of the Fusion feature release cycle will include Quality of Service (QoS) capabilities over multiple WANs, integration with CalAmp Cloud Services for features such as over-the-air firmware upgrades, Bluetooth support for near-field communications in the vicinity of the radio itself, and terminal server capability via USB access. In total, It’s the most comprehensive industrial wireless feature set available, supporting virtually every type of popular networking technology in existence—all housed in one incredibly powerful, flexible radio platform, hardened for the industrial marketplace, and supported by the most responsive and capable engineering staff in the industry.
World-class security is a common feature of all CalAmp radios, and Fusion is no exception. Fusion supports a number of security protocols, including Internet Protocol Security (IPsec), is a protocol suite for securing IP communications by authenticating and encrypting each IP packet of a communication session. IPsec also includes protocols for establishing mutual authentication between agents at the beginning of the session and negotiation of cryptographic keys to be used during the session. Fusion supports the 140 series of Federal Information Processing Standards (FIPS), a set of U.S. government computer security standards that specify requirements for cryptography modules. WiFi security standards are also supported, including Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) 128-bit encryption.
Cost of Ownership
This implications for network service providers are substantial. Fusion is the first radio platform that allows a single wireless hardware base to be deployed to support any networking technologies that may be in operation. This vastly simplifies the tasks of installing and maintaining the radio fleet; technicians need only learn the specifics and maintenance procedures for a single radio platform. The cost of deploying multiple radios for multiple networks is largely eliminated, and the complexity of a multi-radio environment is vastly reduced, both for the technicians who maintain the hardware, and for the operators who use them in the field.
As the fleet scales up to thousands of units, the complexity and costs associated with sparing are also substantially reduced; network adapter cards can be spared, rather than entire radios, reducing not only costs, but physical storage requirements, and the use of a common radio platform eases the administrative complexity of managing and tracking larger numbers of physical configurations involving multiple networks, technologies, and vendors. Field personnel can be confident that a small number of spare units carried in the vehicle, for example, will accommodate any hardware failures that might arise—even in situations where the specific failure has yet to be diagnosed. This means lower operational costs for the network, and lower overall costs of ownership for the industrial network provider.
The Open Developer Platform
To support the impressive capabilities of the Fusion platform, CalAmp is developing the Open Developer Platform (ODP), scheduled for release in Phase III. ODP will provide extensive Applications Programming Interface (API) access to the capabilities of the radio, thus allowing individual clients to develop specific operational features for their network of fixed and mobile Fusion radios.
CalAmp also maintains close corporate working relationships with a number of world-class applications providers to provide turnkey solutions for industry-specific applications needs such as dispatching, AMR/AMI, and backhaul. ODP will ease the development of these applications, and speed their time to market, providing enhanced benefits for Fusion networks nationwide.
Keywords: White Papers
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