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Nightmares from the Network Edge

| 10/31/2014 12:00:00 AM

Mike the WzzardIt’s Halloween season in Illinois.  We start by decorating our yards with ghosts, gremlins, goblins and ghouls; the scarier the better.  We put illuminated pumpkins on our porches and trust our teenage neighbors not to smash them until Halloween night.

When the great day comes, the kids troop from house to house dressed up as miniature witches, super heroes, pirates and zombies.  Some costumes are scary; some are funny.  One year, for example, I found myself handing Snickers bars to a couple of killer bees.
 
As a parent, of course, it’s difficult to watch the heirs to your dominion stuffing themselves stupid with corn syrup and cane sugar.  But it’s tradition, so all you can do is look the other way and be grateful that it’s only for one night.
 
After all, some nightmares and horrors can occur at any time; any day out of 365.  As an electrical engineer, for example, I’m constantly hearing stories about the mayhem caused by things like lightning strikes.  By altering ground potentials around a site, they create unexpected electrical events that wreak havoc with data networking systems.  If you’re lucky, all they’ll do is insert a gremlin into the works.  In the scarier scenarios they’ll permanently destroy your equipment.
 
That’s why B&B addresses these nightmares with a full line of isolators and surge suppressors.  We integrate isolation into devices like our 485LDRC9, an RS-232 to RS-422/485 converter that uses optical isolation.  We also design and build standalone units.  One of our award-winners is the UH201 Port Guardian, a compact USB “key” Isolator that protects a laptop’s USB connection when technicians plug into industrial equipment.  B&B can place isolation and surge suppression in strategic locations all around your network, even in locations where space is at a premium.
 
Spectre Cellular Routers
 
Hollywood has made sure that we all know better than to head out to the lake house on Halloween night.  Lake houses may be lovely, bucolic retreats in June.  But on Halloween night they’re all death traps. They’re invariably infested with homicidal maniacs who want to dice you up like a pimento, and you’ll surely be dismembered in spectacular, yet creative ways.  This will be nobody’s fault but your own, of course.  You could have been safe at home, dispensing Snickers bars to killer bees. 
 
In data networking it doesn’t take a homicidal maniac with a chainsaw to ruin your day.  A careless backhoe operator half a mile down the road can easily stir up plenty of trouble for you – no chainsaw required. All he has to do is cut your cable connections.  Suddenly you’ve got no Internet, you’re not sure why, and it may be awhile before anybody does anything about it. 
 
B&B has the answer to that one, too.   Our Spectre cellular routers are often used to connect remote networks and equipment in locations where cabling is impractical.  We’ve got a number of them parked on the slopes of live volcanoes in Iceland, for example, where the Icelandic Meteorological Office uses them to provide network connections for devices like seismographs and gas sensors.  If Eyjafjallaj√∂kull is going to erupt and shut down all the air traffic in Europe again, it will be nice to have some advanced warning.
 
But Spectre cellular routers don’t just provide Internet connections for equipment in difficult locations. They are also used to provide redundant Internet backhaul in emergencies.  When that demon in disguise knocks out your cable with his backhoe, the Spectre’s VRRP feature will provide automatic, seamless failover to 3G or LTE networks within seconds.  Instead of being cut off until such a time as your Internet provider restores your primary connection, you’ll be up and running as if nothing had ever happened.
 
The Wzzard Wireless Sensing Platform
 
Another terror that keeps folks awake at night is the thought that one of their automated systems, somewhere, is quietly planning to self-destruct without warning.  That’s where the magic of B&B’s Wzzard Wireless Sensing Platform comes into play.  Wzzard creates a complete, quick and easy connectivity stack between your sensors and your application, on your network or on the Internet. The platform uses Intelligent Edge Nodes, a wireless 802.15.4e SmartMesh IP network and the IoT-ready MQTT-SN data protocol to transmit sensor data to the Spectre Network Gateway. The Spectre Network Gateway can connect to the Internet via wired connections or the cellular data network. The Wzzard Intelligent Edge Nodes accommodate virtually any industry standard external sensors.  So you could use Wzzard to create an overlay monitoring system that told you what motor temperatures and currents were, all over your installation.  Like those sensors on the volcanos in Iceland, your own system could tell you when trouble was brewing and send you alerts while there was still plenty of time to intervene.  With information like that at your fingertips, even Halloween night wouldn’t be quite so scary.

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