The use of suitable ATEX / UKCA marked, internet-enabled devices in Hazardous Area workplaces has grown greatly in recent years. These devices include smartphones, tablets, laptop PCs and tracking tags.
There are two ways that they can be connected to the internet:
Via the mobile phone network (LTE, 4G, 5G)
This requires appropriate sim cards to be purchased, one per device and assumes that the network provides a suitably strong signal in the areas where the devices are to be used. It is also possible for a large organisation to have their own site mobile phone mast installed.
Install Wi-Fi Access Points
Suitable ATEX / UKCA marked Wi-Fi Access Points can be installed to provide a reliable signal in the areas where the devices are to be used. These APs will generally be connected to the same network that is used in the non-Ex parts of the site, such as offices.
There are three common ways to ensure that an Access Point can be used in Hazardous Areas covered by the ATEX, IECEx and UKEX (UKCA ‘Ex’) requirements:
- An AP has been designed to meet the requirements of Hazardous Area Zones (eg Zone 1 or 2 for Gas and vapour or Zone 21 or 22 for Dust) and is sold with the appropriate Hazardous Area marking.
- An industrial / commercial AP with separate antenna ports may be fitted into a suitable Hazardous Area enclosure that also protects the antenna outputs and is suitably marked for the chosen location.
- An industrial / commercial AP with built-in antennas may be fitted into a suitable Hazardous Area enclosure that is made from a non-metallic material, which allows the signal to pass through with minimal losses.
The first option is generally chosen when a simple, self-contained solution is required and the installation does not require a particular brand of Access Point. The second and third options are normally used when a particular brand of AP is needed, perhaps for compatibility with non-hazardous areas of the plant.
Exloc is pleased to be able to offer solutions covering all the above options:
- We have two solutions available for those who wish to use a self-contained, straight-forward access point, designed to be installed in any of the ATEX Zones 1, 2, 21 and 22.
Firstly, the popular Solexy SW AP, available with either an aluminium or affordable stainless steel compact Exd housing and suitable for any Ex applications including installation off-shore. Secondly, the Primation P-Ex WLAN AP, with its Exeq protection method and clean-room appearance that will suit those wishing to avoid an Exd installation: particularly popular in the German market.
- We also have two enclosure solutions available for those who wish to use a particular model of AP that is not inherently Ex approved, such as industrial / commercial units by Ubiquiti, Cisco or Aruba.
Firstly, the iWAP107: a Zone 1 and 21 Exd enclosure with intrinsically safe devices to protect each external antenna output, allowing the user to choose the AP they want to have placed inside, perhaps to match those used in non-Ex parts of the organisation. There is also the iWAP XN3: a dedicated Zone 2 and 22 Ex ec nR enclosure with ic protection devices for the external antennas, again allowing user choice of internal AP in an affordable Category 3 solution.
- Not all industrial / commercial APs have external antennas, or they may have an additional antenna for dedicated blue tooth, for example. Of course, such a device will lose all its signal if fitted in a metal Ex enclosure. For such devices, we can offer the following: Wireless-X Zone 1 and 21 enclosure consisting of an aluminium or stainless steel base and a non-metallic, composite dome that allows the signal from AP devices with internal antennas to pass through with minimal losses.
With our ability to provide a variety of Wireless solutions for hazardous areas, via a number of well-respected suppliers, please contact Exloc to discuss your requirements.