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Jan 26 2016

Low Power Industrial Wireless Technology

Posted by Jon Herrity in Wireless

As companies around the globe are using wireless networking devices within their office environments, it’s only a matter of time before the technology creeps itself into more and more of the industrial world. For industrial automation OEMs and End Users, this can provide a wide range of new opportunities. Short and long distance wireless communication, for example, provides solutions for remote maintenance, machine troubleshooting, visualization, and basic machine I/O control. Wireless communication, which is undoubtedly among technology’s biggest contributions to mankind, can however have its drawbacks for some heavy industrial applications. This is due to the underlying concerns regarding its reliability, safety and speed. With the correct environments and applications, however, a wireless solution can make a lot of sense, especially from a financial standpoint with regard to the total cost of ownership.

Take a look at Schneider Electric’s wireless pushbutton technology, and you can immediately see an example of a truly innovative wireless technology designed specifically for industrial users. The Harmony™ XB5R wireless pushbuttons are especially unique because they do not require any batteries to operate. A pushbutton can be placed up to 100 meters, which is a little more than a football field, away from a receiver unit and still be able to transmit a reliable signal without any obstacles in the way.

The XB5R wireless pushbutton uses ZigBee® technology, which has developed to the point where it is now poised to become the global wireless control/sensor network standard for a wide and varied range of residential, industrial, and commercial applications. Even though ZigBee transmits data over the same 2.4-GHz Industrial, Scientific, Medical (ISM) band, ZigBee’s 250 kbps data transmission rate is hundreds of times lower than WiFi’s data rate. But ZigBee’s data rate does not need to be higher due to the nature of the devices connected. An intrusion sensor, for example, transmits and receives very simple signals. These low data rates result in very low energy consumption, which provides not only an economic advantage, but an ecological advantage.

Below is a comparison of ZigBee with other wireless technologies. It is clear to see that the network size and battery life specifications provide the most unique advantages. Due to the low energy requirements, the Harmony XB5R wireless pushbutton from Schneider Electric does not require a battery, which is incredibly unique for an industrial device. When an operator pushes the button, mechanical energy is transformed into electrical energy, which sends a one-time radio message to the receiver. This “batteryless” solution offers permanent availability, benefits the environment, and eliminates costly battery maintenance, re-charging and recycling.

When a receiver unit is installed within a metal cabinet, the XB5R wireless pushbutton can remotely control machines at a distance of up to 25 meters away. Similar to other Harmony pushbutton products from Schneider Electric, the XB5R is well-suited for harsh industrial environments where added protection of people and machines is paramount. One example of an application where the technology can be used is for conveying systems where start/stop control can be conveniently controlled from a human operator that is walking around the machine. When a jam occurs on an out-feed conveyor, for example, after clearing the materials out of the way, the machine can be started again very quickly and easily by the operator. Another example would be the control of bay doors within a facility for loading and unloading products. Bottle filling and palletizer equipment in the Food & Beverage industry, warehouse control from mobile forklift trucks, lighting control, automobile production; The list of applications is endless.


Some of the unique advantages to using this wireless pushbutton technology include:

-      Easy and fast installation

-      Up to 20% reduction in costs compared to wired solutions

-      Maintenance-free operation

-      Robust design for industrial environments (up to an IP65 rating)

-      Eco-friendly green technology


The following videos and links help to further illustrate the power and flexibility of Schneider Electric’s XB5R wireless pushbutton technology:

Harmony XB5R Product Webpage:

YouTube XB5R Wireless Pushbutton Distance Demonstration:

22mm Pushbutton Configurator Tool:

22mm Product Competitive Comparison:

ZigBee Technology White Paper: