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Wireless communication systems are rapidly becoming a viable solution for employment at the lowest level of factory automation systems, usually referred to as either "device" or "field" level, where the requested performance may be rather critical in terms of both transmission time and reliability. In this paper, we deal with the use of wireless networks at the device level. Specifically, after an analysis of the communication requirements, we introduce a general profile of a wireless fieldbus. Both the physical and data link layers are taken directly from existing wireless local area networks and wireless personal area networks standards, whereas the application layer is derived from the most popular wired fieldbuses. We discuss implementation issues related to two models of application layer protocols and present performance results obtained through numerical simulations. We also address some important aspects related to data security and power consumption.
Date of Publication: May 2006