Cost-effective remote solution for controlling canal bank lighting


Canal lighting at night  

Even at night, the canal lighting ensures the safe passage of ships

  • Istimewa Elektro B.V. specializes in the fields of offshore, infrastructure, water, and the environment.
  • The canal bank lighting of the Dutch section of the Gent-Terneuzen is able to be controlled centrally and locally.
  • The Radioline system does not just transmit commands to the lighting controls, but is also used to transfer various status signals from the bridges and locks to the control room.
  • In comparison to laying cables, the wireless system reduces costs considerably. In addition, the data is always communicated reliably.

Customer profile

Wireless station at Gent-Terneuzen canal  

The wireless station is equipped with an omnidirectional antenna

Based on its expertise, in 2016 Istimewa Elektro B.V. was awarded the contract to renovate the lighting along the Dutch section of the Ghent-Terneuzen canal that stretches 26 kilometers when all of the side ports are included. This length has to be doubled, because lamps are installed on both sides of the canal.


Overview of the canal including the wireless stations  

There are a total of 17 control boxes installed along the canal for switching the lighting

The route beacons, i.e. the canal bank lighting, are an essential part of the technical infrastructure of a waterway. A total of 300 lighting masts are installed along both banks of the Ghent-Terneuzen canal, ensuring safe passage for ships even during the night.

To ensure that the new LED lights could be grouped more efficiently, Istimewa Elektro installed additional control boxes that are connected locally to the power grid. However, no control lines for switching the lighting both centrally and locally were installed at the time.

"Due to the significant cost involved in the installation of such lines, we were faced with the challenge of finding an alternative, more cost-effective solution," recalls Wilco van Genderen, Project Manager at Istimewa Elektro. "We finally decided upon the Radioline wireless system," adds Max Verveer, Technical Engineer at Istimewa Elektro. "We were thus able to make an offer that was considerably less expensive than those made by our competitors."


Radioline wireless module with I/O extension module  

Each control box is equipped with one Radioline wireless module and an I/O extension module for transmitting the control commands.

Once the technical support staff from Phoenix Contact had completed the initial route planning, the ideal position of the wireless modules and antennas was determined on site. This showed that the control boxes for the lighting had in some cases been installed great distances apart from one another, and were obscured by obstacles such as trees or buildings. In this case, the modular Radioline system enables the use of various wireless frequencies. The wireless specialists recommended to those responsible at Istimewa Elektro to perform a test with 868 MHz devices. Compared to the 2.4 GHz frequency band typically used, the 868 MHz band is characterized by a better penetration of obstacles. This is due to the lower frequency range and the higher transmission power that is permitted.

A total of 17 control boxes are installed along the canal for switching the lighting. The largest distance between two boxes is more than two kilometers. Each control box is equipped with one Radioline wireless module in combination with one I/O extension module for transmitting the control commands. Two lighting strings (north/south) are activated per box. This happens automatically when darkness falls, but can also be activated manually by a bridge attendant or from the central control room in Terneuzen. "We do not just use the wireless network to control the lighting. It is also used to transmit various status signals from the bridges and locks to the control room," explains Herman de Grave, who works as a planner for Istimewa Elektro. Thanks to the redundant communication paths, the availability is very high, such that even large ships, which can block the line of sight between the stations, do not cause a wireless communication failure. "Aligning the antennas was easy, thanks to the bar graph display integrated into the wireless module and the RSSI signal output," continues Max Verveer.


Thanks to the significant cost savings resulting from the use of the Radioline system, Istimewa Elektro was awarded the contract for renovating the lighting along the Ghent-Terneuzen canal. "The wireless network has been in operation since April 2017, and so far has fully satisfied our expectations. There were no failures in the first year – whether during fog, snow, or in the case of large ships passing by," concludes Wilco van Genderen.

As Radioline is based on the proprietary wireless technology Trusted Wireless 2.0, the protocol is not publicly accessible, which means it is better protected against unauthorized access. Furthermore, security mechanisms such as 128-bit AES encryption and an integrity check have been implemented.


C6 The Exchange
Calmount Park
Dublin 12
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