Connectivity Options for Quuppa Systems

Quuppa Technical White Paper

April 2022

Table of Contents

Introduction

The Quuppa system is made up of various hardware components (e.g. Locators, tags, servers) and the Quuppa software components (including the Quuppa Positioning Engine). The Locators collect Direction Finding packets and data packets to be processed by the Quuppa Positioning Engine (QPE). In order to pass the data to the QPE, a connection must be established between the Locators and the server running the QPE. Typically, this connectivity is provided by Ethernet cables, but in some cases alternative options may be more appropriate.

The purpose of this white paper is to provide an overview of different connectivity options that can be used for Quuppa system. The optimal solution for your deployment will depend on your use case and the deployment environment. For more details, please contact your Quuppa representative to discuss the details of your case.

Cabled Connectivity

In a typical network infrastructure, the Quuppa Locators are connected to the network using Ethernet cables. Ethernet cables are ideal for the purpose as they can provide both power and Ethernet connectivity to the Locators when connected using a PoE switch. In the vast majority of use cases, especially for indoor deployments, a cabled infrastructure is recommended as it's the most convenient and sometimes even the most cost-effective option once total costs are considered.

In the image above, you can see that there is an Ethernet cable run for each Locator in the deployment directly from the wiring closet, where a PoE switch is located. This is a very typical setup of smaller deployments.

The key advantage of using a simple setup of Ethernet cables to provide direct connectivity for a Quuppa system is that a cabled network will always provide the most reliable and robust connection between the infrastructure components. This means that you can set up a system with lower latency and higher capacity and be sure that any data loss will be kept to a minimum.

However, the challenge with such setups is that running Ethernet cables to each Locator can become very expensive for larger deployments and in some environments it can also be very impractical or even impossible to install the required Ethernet cables. For these reasons, this classic setup may not be optimal for all deployments. The following sections of this document will outline some alternatives to reduce deployment costs with cabled network setups and to explore alternative connectivity options for environments where it's not possible to use Ethernet cables.

Aggregated Cabling for Cabled Connectivity

While cabled connectivity using Ethernet cables provides superior reliability for the system, the cost of installing extensive Ethernet cable infrastructure can be a significant consideration when deciding to implement a positioning system. Luckily, there are some options to optimise the cabling infrastructure that you can consider to help reduce the cost of deployment. One such option is zonal cabling, which will be described in this section.

Zonal cabling is the installation of Ethernet terminations and PoE devices at key strategic locations in the deployment, allowing for shorter cable runs for a number of devices and far fewer home runs back to the intermediate distribution frames (IDF) and the main distribution frame (MDF), as shown in the image below. Inexpensive devices, such as Q-Ports, can be deployed in this environment to keep hardware cost at a minimum when calculated at a per Locator price.

Considerations for this type of deployment include:

  • Providing electrical power to the deployed zonal Q-Ports

  • The cost of Q-Ports versus the cost of home runs for serviced Locators

Zonal cabling is a cost-effective and reliable option for deploying a Quuppa system. It typically costs much less than providing alternative connectivity options for each Locator (e.g. wireless connectivity) and the cost of shorter cable runs to a zones as opposed to home runs for all Locators can provide a significant cost savings for the deployment as a whole.

For example, the images below show two different cabling options for the same deployment, that demonstrate the difference that zonal cabling can have on the total cost of the deployment. In the image on the left each Locator is directly connected to a PoE switch in a wiring closet, with an estimated cable length of some 3.8 km for the whole deployment. In the image on the right, each Locator is connected to a Q-port, which in turn connects to the PoE switch in the wiring closet, with an estimated cable length of some 1.7 km for the whole deployment. The difference of some 2.1 km of cabling that needs to be installed is a significant saving for the deployment, especially when we consider that the two options provide the same coverage for the same area with the same reliability.

The key advantages of using zonal cabling are that you can keep the cost of the deployment down, while still enjoying the benefits of a cabled system that is more reliable, less susceptible to changes in the environment and not impacted by potential interference issues from the existing WiFi infrastructure.

The downside to zonal cabling is that you will still need to install cabling runs throughout the deployment environment. This means that you will need a specialist installation crew to install the system and that this solution doesn't solve the issue of extending the positioning system to areas where Ethernet cables just aren't an option. However, the reduced cost of deployment still makes this an excellent option for most deployments, especially indoor ones.

WiFi Bridges for Wireless Connectivity

In some use cases, one option to extend the connectivity of the system beyond the Ethernet cable coverage could be to use a WiFi mesh, bridge or a cellular uplink. For example, for outdoor deployments, where Locators cannot be mounted to the exteriors of existing buildings, it may be impractical and expensive to run Ethernet cables to structures where the outdoor Locators can be mounted.

An example of such a case could be a parking lot, which has existing lighting poles with electrical cabling for power where the Locators could be mounted, but no network cabling. In such cases, deploying new cabling for connectivity requires trenching and boring for each light pole, which could raise costs and the required effort levels so high that the project is no longer viable for some use cases. Instead, depending on the size of the outdoor area to be covered, a wireless infrastructure may be the only practical solution.

The image below shows an example of how a wireless bridge could be used to provide wireless connectivity for a Locator that cannot be connected to the network using Ethernet cables.

When considering a wireless uplink for connectivity, the following considerations should be taken into account:

  • Whether a WiFi or cellular uplink is best suited to the deployment

  • Availability of power for both the Locator and the wireless device to be used, either WiFi or cellular. Power can be provided by tapping into a local electrical sources, battery, solar panel or similar

  • Possible interference of WiFi uplink devices with an existing WiFi infrastructure

  • The cost of WiFi or cellular uplink devices, as well as providing power for the devices and Locators and other necessary items, e.g. PoE injectors, power converters, batteries, enclosures

  • Building characteristics that may play a part in interfering with a WiFi or cellular uplink

  • In the case of WiFi, distance limitations between the access point at the Locator and an access point linking to the core infrastructure

In most environments, there will typically be an existing WiFi infrastructure. Adding additional WiFi access points, be it in a mesh or bridge configuration, for Locator connectivity would most likely add co-channel interference, and other complexities inherent to a dense WiFi access point deployment in the 2.4GHz band.

In cases where keeping wiring infrastructure costs to a minimum is the primary motivation for considering WiFi mesh as a means of providing Ethernet connectivity, it's good to note that the costs of providing and deploying a WiFi mesh will typically exceed the cost of wired connectivity. Wired connectivity provides PoE and Ethernet connectivity, negating the need for a WiFi access point at the Locator and providing electrical power to the Locator, which together far exceed the cost of Ethernet cabling in the vast majority of cases. As such, this solution should only be applied to cases where connectivity via Ethernet cables is truly not an option.

There are also hybrid situations where a partner could create an isolated zonal cabling infrastructure that is connected to the core through a wireless uplink. This could provide network connectivity for a number of Locators in an isolated area, or in an area where home run cabling is impossible or not cost-effective.

The key advantage of this type of solution is that you can extend the positioning system to areas where connectivity via Ethernet cabling is just not an option.

However, while interest in wireless deployments is often motivated by the logistical challenges and cost of installing cabling infrastructures in some large deployments, it's important to remember that even though wireless setups seem like viable options, they can incur a greater overall cost as well as cause other issues in an environment where an existing WiFi infrastructure already exists.

Private 4G/5G Networks for Connectivity

Another connectivity option for Quuppa systems is to use a private mobile network with a dedicated frequency license for the deployment area. Private mobile networks are fully managed by the user and so can be optimised for the needs of your use case, for example:

  • Decide whether to keep all data local with a stand alone network or whether to connect the network to the Internet
  • Select the devices that best suit your deployment as private networks use the same standards as commercial networks, making it possible to use the same devices that are available for commercial networks
  • Optimise the system for very short (e.g. <1ms) network delays
  • Dimension the mobile networks so that there is no risk of congestion
  • Build coverage as needed (output power limits are high and required number of base stations is low)

To implement a private network, you will need a mobile core, base station(s) and a wireless router with a SIM card.

The key advantage of using a private mobile network with a licensed frequency are that you can avoid the air interface interference issues and have complete control over configuring the system to your needs. Meanwhile, the cost of running a private mobile network is similar to running WiFi networks and require the same skills set.

However, there is a cost related to frequency license and they are not available in every country to be used for private mobile networks. Wireless routers need a SIM card that is a private network specific.

Conclusion

In summary, there are multiple different options for providing connectivity for your Quuppa System. The best solution for your deployment will depend of the requirements of your use case. In some cases, the optimal option may even be a combination of the above described options, for example creating an isolated zonal cabling infrastructure that is connected to the core through a wireless uplink. This could provide network connectivity for a number of Locators in an isolated area or in an area where home run cabling is impossible or not cost-effective.

When selecting a connectivity solution for your deployment, it's important to consider the motivations behind the decision and use the total cost to benchmark which solution is best. For example, often the motivation to select a wireless connectivity options may stem from the desire to reduce deployment costs by removing the need for cabling. However, as described above, the costs of deploying a wireless system may in fact be higher when you consider all the costs than using cabled solutions such as aggregated cabling to reduce cable runs. If however you are considering wireless connectivity because running cables to certain Locators at the periphery of your deployment is not possible, then selecting a wireless connectivity option may be the only possibility.

It's also important to understand what you gain and what you lose when selecting any of the above options. As has been mentioned, a cabled infrastructure always provides higher reliability and is less affected by other environmental factors. As such, we always recommend cabled connectivity as the first choice. But if your use case can tolerate some more latency, data loss and even momentary downtime or if wireless connectivity is simply the only option logistically, then you can turn to the other options outlined in this document.

At Quuppa, we recognise the costs associated with deploying the infrastructure required to take the Quuppa system into use. This white paper has touched on the current proven methods for keeping these costs to a minimum but we are also continuously on the lookout for any existing or new technologies that would make it even easier and less expensive to implement our technology.