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Private LTE Through CBRS Helps Companies Keep Workers Safe at Large Refineries

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CASE STUDY PK SOLUTIONS ©Cradlepoint. All Rights Reserved. | +1.855.813.3385 | cradlepoint.com 2 Challenges Oil and gas companies use PK Solutions' digital inspection software, designed for in-field tablets, and an integrated workforce optimization software called weavix TM — the information is gathered from wearable devices — to eliminate inefficiencies and maintain real- time communication and the utmost workforce safety at refineries. A variety of on-site devices require connectivity, including gas monitors, biometric monitors, the tablets, and the wearable devices. PK also must ensure network connectivity for workers and devices inside towers, or vessels, that are hundreds of feet tall. When specialists wearing the devices are sent into these towers to perform inspections and repairs, safety is a major concern. The devices tracks a person's vital signs and environmental readings, while video cameras mounted inside help safety officers elsewhere remotely monitor the situation. "Our main focus is the health and safety of the people going into those towers," said Justin Nickel, director of marketing at PK Companies. From a network connectivity perspective, the biggest challenge is creating a reliable, high-performance Wireless LAN across these large areas. PK tried using Wi-Fi and then public LTE, but key challenges arose, including: Insufficiency of Wi-Fi in Some Areas — Oil and gas companies need 24x7 connectivity everywhere for the business operations and safety applications they use, and Wi-Fi connectivity isn't sufficiently pervasive, stable, or robust to meet such demands. "Wi-Fi just doesn't provide the coverage we need for the things we're trying to connect across large areas," Nickel said. That's especially true in and around the towers, which are too oddly proportioned to work well in a Wi-Fi-as-LAN setting, or when the signal needs to penetrate walls and surfaces. "When you've got workers inside confined spaces, needing connectivity with their lives at stake, Wi-Fi just doesn't get the job done," Nickel said. Network Congestion Causing Poor Performance — Public LTE is an excellent WAN link for most IoT use cases, but it proved problematic as a Wireless LAN source across a large area. While LTE coverage is excellent, public networks struggle to meet the needs of industrial deployments where robust performance with low latency and coverage is critical. Secondly, public networks are typically "best effort." With the high density of devices that need connectivity at these refineries, especially in regions where lots of public LTE users may be attached to the same base station, network congestion was prohibitive. Because employee safety is crucial at these sites, it could be disastrous if communications between safety officers and workers inside the confined spaces were to cut out or lag due to network congestion generated by lower-priority traffic. "Quality-of-Service is something we can't control on a Public LTE or Wi-Fi network," said Ben Burrus, Chief Technology Officer at PK Solutions.

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