Industrial Network Devices Prove Tough Enough for Global Sailing Competition

Aug. 10, 2012
A rugged wireless Ethernet network bridge and M2M devices kept ocean-side communications flowing during the Galway grand finale of the Volvo Ocean Race.

Corrosive salt spray, extreme temperatures, moisture, dirt and debris are just some of the assaults facing automation devices deployed near the sea. Ruggedized network and machine-to-machine (M2M) communications devices are essential in such applications, which push the boundary of what industrial systems are expected to do.

Industrial automation supplier B&B Electronics, Ottawa, Ill. took on the elements to apply its industrial expertise to the harsh seaside environment of Galway, Ireland when it provided an extensive fiber, cellular and wireless communications network for the Volvo Ocean Race Galway Grand Finale.

This nine-day festival celebrated the final leg and finish line of Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12. This test of sailing prowess and human endeavour pits crewed yachts in a nine-leg, almost nine-month race around the world. High-tech components enable live link-ups with the boats and 24-hour surveillance from embedded reporters, and the Grande Finale celebrates the winners, dockside.

B&B Electronics Europe, based in Galway, provided network expertise for the event, which ran from June 30 – July 8, 2012 and was expected to attract more than 800,000 visitors to Galway.

B&B Electronics is an expert in rugged wireless and wired M2M connectivity solutions, but “this installation really pushes the edge,” said Jerry O’Gorman, managing director of B&B Electronics Europe.  “Our engineers are increasingly asked to help connect M2M devices being deployed in increasingly challenging locations, and where network boundaries are being relentlessly stretched to reach them, but this project takes the cake.”

B&B Electronics Europe provided the equipment and monitor services for the physical communications infrastructure for the Grand Finale event, just as they had for the 2009 race finale. Scope of work also included Internet access and a ruggedized network used by the race teams, media and Galway event management team. Fergal Concannon, the B&B Electronics engineer responsible for the network both in 2009 and today, said, “It’s the most difficult network project I’ve ever managed in my life.”

10 land and sea locations

The network is deployed across 10 event locations including the docks area, event headquarters, media center, Race Village, Global Village and the seaside resort of Salthill. It supports security, crowd management, Web feeds, live TV and radio broadcasts, video streaming, credit card and point-of-sale facilities, commentator feeds, big screen displays and interfaces to Volvo’s own IT Group networks. B&B worked with the Galway event organizer, Let’s Do It Global, in providing the network.

Fiber, cellular and other wireless communications technologies were used to make difficult remote connections and to ensure network redundancy. The 20 km of fiber in the docks area includes sections microtrenched into the ground, as well as marine fiber installed by divers, said O’Gorman. 

“B&B products are known for being simple to order, use and install. We specialize in connectivity out at the edge of networks, offering rugged M2M connectivity and communications solutions for wireless and wired communications using serial, Ethernet and USB protocols,” O’Gorman added.  

Network designers used the company’s GhostBridge Wireless Ethernet Bridges to create point-to-point equipment links across the harbor and to establish Internet connectivity at remote locations where wired infrastructure was not feasible, said Concannon.  Other network equipment included B&B Electronics’ ELinx Ethernet Extenders, ELinx ESW Series Ethernet Switches, Power-over-Ethernet (PoE) Switches, and Cellular Wireless Routers (used for failover connectivity). 

B&B Electronics drew from its recently expanded portfolio of industrial networking products including long-range, last-mile fiber acquired from IMC, and cellular technology for M2M device connectivity acquired from Conel.

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