How Cellular Is Changing Remote Connectivity

November 1, 2021
Richard Theron

When it comes to safety, instant means everything. If it’s a matter of safety that’s pressing or urgent, instant can make the difference between a controlled incident and an uncontrollable catastrophic event.

That’s why having remote connectivity to safety devices and building management systems (BMS), is so incredibly valuable. Remote connectivity is a key component in preventing – and overcoming – safety challenges.

It also is especially useful when needing to monitor hard-to-get-to and hazardous locations, such oil pumping stations or wastewater treatment facilities.

But the number one question we get asked about remote connectivity is,

How do we enable remote connectivity without having to connect to the company network?

The answer? A cellular network and wireless gateway.

What Is a Cellular Network?

A cellular network is a high-speed, independent data communications vehicle that supports roaming capabilities. It can enable fast data sharing and transfer through a cell phone signal.

As few as 10 or 15 years ago, cellular networks were not as widespread as they are today. That made using them extremely cost prohibitive, especially for industrial applications. Since then, cellular networks have grown in availability, popularity, and capability. So, too, have cellular-enabled applications and installations.

Today, cellular technologies have taken giant leaps from the 3G technologies of almost a decade ago. Now 4G long term evolution or LTE and 5G capabilities can deliver more speed for more devices with more reliability.

Why Use a Cellular Network?

Safety professionals looking to quickly and seamlessly connect their workers, worksites, and workflows will find that a cellular connection is ideal when combined with a cellular gateway like the MSA FieldServer ProtoAir, a cloud-based platform like the Grid, and a mobile application like FieldVEU.

Cellular connectivity offers these benefits:

  • It’s quick to get a remote connection to critical devices.
  • It’s an easy way to connect to devices that otherwise don’t have Ethernet Internet access.
  • It is a secure means of connecting to devices – without going through corporate firewalls.
  • It offers unlimited device connection.
  • It delivers simple configuration and connection capabilities.
A cellular-enabled gateway, cloud platform, and mobile app solution gives you instant access and visibility into the people and places you’re working so hard to keep safe.

How to Use MSA FieldServer ProtoAir

At MSA, we’re always looking for new and better ways to protect workers and worksites from hazardous and life-altering situations. One way we’re doing that is with the FieldServer ProtoAir Wireless Gateway.

This external, high-performance, low-cost, Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) gateway is both Wi-Fi and cellular enabled. Because it can connect devices to the cloud wirelessly by both Wi-Fi and cellular connection, ProtoAir offers a progressive and pragmatic answer to the question:

How do we create a secure cellular connection to the cloud for remote monitoring and troubleshooting?

ProtoAir features easy set up for for on-site and off-site installations. It supports one to many devices, totaling up to 3,000 Modbus, EtherNet/IP, or BACnet points for cloud data transfer.

And because it’s cellular enabled, ProtoAir is fast and hassle-free to connect MSA and other manufacturer’s safety devices and equipment directly to our secure cloud solution. In fact, there’s no need to connect to a company LAN or corporate WAN to access local applications.

Bottom line: There are no configuration files to build. No network connections needed.

What About the Security of Cellular Connections?

Right now, cellular networks are not only more affordable than they were just a few years ago, they’re also more secure.

The MSA Grid and hardware products have been successfully tested by a third party to meet international Cyber Security standards.

Integrated MSA Cloud support enables secure remote monitoring, control, cloud-based alarm notifications by e-mail or SMS, plus data visualization and configuration via the MSA Cloud dashboards.

Using LTE technology, ProtoAir securely connects devices to any cellular network, including Verizon, AT&T, and Vodafone for:

  • Secure and instant remote access of devices
  • Secure data transfer from device to cloud
  • Secure data downloads
  • Secure programming of field devices
  • Secure and direct connection from any mobile device

Need secure connectivity – without a network connection? To learn more or schedule a demo of our cellular solutions, please contact your MSA representative today.

Richard Theron
Richard Theron is the product line manager for FieldServer at MSA, where he works intimately with companies in the building automation, industrial automation, energy management and life safety markets to help them cloud-enable their equipment.

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