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From Troubleshooting to Thriving: Strategies for Successful Wi-Fi Deployment in Warehouses

Updated: 4 days ago

Wifi deployment in warehouse

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The word “warehouse” may not conjure up images of cutting-edge facilities and innovative technology, yet the warehousing sector has made great strides in the digital transformation era. Recognizing the need to adopt new technologies or be left in the dust by competitors, warehouse managers have embraced Industry 4.0 solutions, aiming to increase productivity and efficiency.


Automation offers solutions to contemporary challenges such as worker shortages and supply chain issues. There is no shortage of new IoT devices warehouses can implement to help streamline logistics and operations, but in order for these devices to work they require strong, uninterrupted internet connections. And here is where the trouble often begins.


Reliance on Wi-Fi for connectivity, ubiquitous and popular as it may be, often falls short of the demands of modern warehouses. While the purpose of bringing new technological solutions into the warehouse is to make the job easier and save time and effort, many warehouses that rely on W-Fi connections find themselves wasting valuable time troubleshooting, negating the intended benefits of the solution. 


In this blog, we will delve into the readiness of warehouses to adopt IoT solutions, the challenges that may arise as well as  strategies to preempt problems so that warehouse operations can reap the benefits of technology especially as they integrate location tracking solutions. 


The Need for Wi-Fi Technology in Warehouses 

It’s hard to imagine any place without Wi-Fi in today’s day and age. From homes to classrooms to businesses to airplanes, constant connectivity is an expectation, and Wi-Fi provides the solution in most cases. 


At its core, Wi-Fi is a wireless networking technology that uses radio waves to provide wireless Internet access, allowing smart-devices to connect to the Internet and to each other. In a warehouse, this connectivity allows sensors placed on pallets to broadcast information about their location, for example, so that inventory can be located immediately when needed. Having access to this type and other real-time data is crucial for maintaining optimal stock levels, ensuring quicker and accurate order fulfillment and delivery. 


The Challenges of Wi-Fi Integration in Warehouses

While having an internet connection is crucial to the operation of any warehouse, particularly in the creation of a digital twin, there are a number of critical challenges that commonly plague those who rely on Wi-Fi. The negative impact of these challenges will only continue to grow as warehouses integrate even more IoT tools. The main challenges include:


Connectivity Issues

When an IoT device loses Internet connection, its functionality becomes severely hindered or even useless. It’s therefore crucial to ensure that there is seamless connectivity throughout an entire warehouse - a difficult feat considering the sheer size and ceiling height of most warehouses. Traditional 2.4GH Wi-Fi struggles to penetrate through metal racking and travel long distances, while 5GHz offers better performance but a shorter range. 


The placement of access points also plays a crucial role. While ceiling-mounted access points offer wider coverage, wall-mounted access points can be more effective in warehouses with many high racks by directing signals down the aisles. However, even with optimal placement, dead zones can still occur, leading to inefficiencies. 


To mitigate this, some warehouses implement a fallback plan using cellular data, ensuring devices remain connected even when Wi-Fi signal weakens. This redundancy helps maintain functionality for critical IoT devices and mobile scanners, minimizing inefficiencies within the warehouse.


Scalability and Reliability

Many warehouses are dynamic and require flexibility to accommodate growing inventory and operations. Scaling up Wi-Fi coverage can be costly, as numerous access points and routers must be added to establish a strong and stable connection throughout the entire warehouse.


In addition, increased network traffic can make it difficult to sustain the reliable speeds and strong connection needed to keep all devices and operations running smoothly. Unreliable connections lead to unplanned downtime and reduced productivity - something that a busy warehouse simply can’t afford to risk. 


Security Concerns


Adding numerous IoT devices to this mix further expands the attack surface, potentially creating new entry points for unauthorized access. Once a hacker successfully breaches the Wi-Fi network, the entire business becomes vulnerable. This challenge is not unsurmountable, but it is important to implement robust security measures to protect sensitive data. This means always being aware of new threats and keeping up with security patches and updates to ensure that the network is always as protected as possible.  


Physical Site Factors

The layout and physical set-up of a warehouse can have an impact on the Wi-Fi signal propagation. The warehouse designers and employees have different needs and goals than those of the Wi-Fi installers, and they are likely not even aware of how the layout can impact the Wi-Fi performance. The three biggest layout issues include:


  • Distances: warehouses, with their focus on maximizing storage over connectivity, present unique Wi-Fi challenges. Signal blockers like high shelves and metal objects, coupled with the vast distances across the warehouse, make achieving constant coverage a complex task.

  • Physical obstructions: pallets stacked high with dense materials like metal boxes or heavy machinery can act as barriers, disrupting the Wi-Fi signal and creating dead zones. Picture a warehouse filled with pallets stacked 15 feet high, and you can imagine how the Wi-Fi signal from a ceiling access point might struggle to penetrate these dense obstacles.

  • Harsh environment: warehouses can experience extreme temperatures, dust, and humidity, all of which can negatively impact the performance and lifespan of Wi-Fi equipment. For instance, excessive heat can cause access points to overheat and malfunction, while dust buildup can hinder proper cooling and signal transmission. 



Overcoming Wi-Fi Integration Challenges

The good news is that the challenges presented by the need for a robust Wi-Fi system  in modern warehouses are by no means insurmountable. With forethought and planning as well as leveraging experienced providers and advanced technology, warehouses can reap the benefits afforded by Wi-Fi systems. Steps that warehouse managers can take include:


Strategic Planning and Design

Before installing any solution, it is imperative to have a professional conduct a site survey and provide recommendations for optimal Wi-Fi blanket coverage and minimizing potential dead zones  based on the size and layout of the warehouse. A Wi-Fi expert will know how to take into consideration the physical structure of the warehouse - such as the ceiling height, distance between walls and any crevices and nooks that may be hard to reach - as well as the location of inventory pallets and machinery in order to design an infrastructure with optimal coverage and performance.


In addition to determining the type of Wi-Fi routers and access points to use and where to position them, there are also design practices to consider. The use of directional antennas (as opposed to omni-directional) and proper mounting and placement of the access points (wall and/or ceiling), for example, are strategic decisions that can be made with the help of an expert. 


Implementation of Advanced Technologies

Warehouse Wi-Fi needs can’t be met by the same infrastructure that would work in a home or even some offices. Consumer Wi-Fi providers don’t necessarily have the same capabilities that enterprise users require, especially when it comes to speed and bandwidth. This is why it’s important to be aware of advanced technologies that could provide a better solution, such as mesh networking.


As opposed to the separate access points that a standard Wi-Fi network uses, mesh networks are made up of a number of nodes that are connected to each other via a mesh or web-like structure. Because all of these nodes are connected to each other, they work together to route signals around obstacles, transferring the data from node to node until it reaches its final destination. Mesh networking can cover bigger areas and offer better bandwidth for stronger connections, providing a warehouse with the solution it needs for seamless operation of its connected devices. 


Robust Security Measures

Regardless of the technology used, robust security measures must be put in place. Implementing strict encryption protocols and the most up-to-date authentication mechanisms will help protect Wi-Fi systems from the cyberattacks, malware, and viruses that could cause data loss and significantly impact the business’ ability to operate. 


As cyberthreats are constantly evolving, it’s important to have a process in place that includes conducting regular security audits and performing any necessary updates and upgrades to safeguard against new threats. 


Collaboration with Experienced Providers

As the digital transformation and the shift to becoming an “intelligent” warehouse is a change for traditional warehouse managers and operators, there is no shame in seeking out the guidance of those with more experience. In fact, leveraging others’ expertise will help smooth the transition and ensure that the warehouse is set up to maximize the benefits. 


Taking advantage of industry best practices and lessons learned from others’ successful implementations can help avoid pitfalls and make sure the right infrastructure is in place to enable all technological tools to work properly. When choosing the solutions to integrate, it’s important to partner with experienced vendors who have a proven track record in warehouse Wi-Fi deployments. 


Leveraging Existing Wi-Fi for Seamless Deployment 

Unlike traditional solutions facing challenges in warehouse Wi-Fi deployment, Deeyook offers a unique approach through its cloud-based location-as-a-service (LaaS). Here's how it works:


Plug-and-play simplicity: Deeyook’s Wireless Enabled Soft Trackers are connected to the Deeyook Tracking Suite 24/7, enabling real-time location tracking for any number of individual trackers without modifying existing Wi-Fi layouts.

Sensing, not connecting: Deeyook's trackers utilize Channel State Information (CSI) signals passively emitted by any Wi-Fi Access Point (AP), regardless of type, model, or frequency. This eliminates the need for specific AP configurations or permissions.

Flexible deployment options: As long as the minimum signal strength is met, Deeyook can leverage any existing AP, even those not owned by the site. However, optimal performance requires an AP density with a maximum inter-AP distance of 30 meters and a minimum of 3 APs encompassing the service area. Additionally, APs need to be Wi-Fi Alliance certified for 802.11n or later.

Connectivity options: Deeyook offers various backhaul options, including a dedicated Deeyook SSID (Soft Overlay), utilizing the site's existing internet connection, or cellular connectivity.


This unique approach eliminates the need for complex Wi-Fi infrastructure modifications, allowing for a seamless and cost-effective deployment of location services in warehouses.


The Bottom Line

Change can be intimidating and warehouse operators are proving their mettle as they adapt to the digital transformation. While it’s clear that the adoption of Industry 4.0 solutions promises warehouses increased productivity and efficiency, the reliance on Wi-Fi connectivity to make these devices work presents hurdles. 


Acknowledging and addressing these challenges in advance will save a lot of frustration later. Strategic planning, implementation of advanced technologies and collaboration with experienced providers are all key steps in ensuring successful Wi-Fi integration. The most important of which is choosing the providers that understand  the limitations of warehouses’ infrastructure and have the expertise  to overcome them.


Deeyook works with existing Wi-Fi infrastructure to provide real-time location tracking, so that warehouse operators know exactly where all inventory and other assets are at any time. Learn more here


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