This article will discuss:
- The importance of the 5G network and Wi-Fi 6.0 to the industrial sector
- Implemented 5G updates and the important updates to expect
- How industrial manufacturers can leverage 5G and edge computing to achieve Industrie 4.0 business goals
The hallmark of communication and the inter-exchange of data still remains in wireless technology. First, the introduction of wireless technology and its corresponding iterations – 2G, 3G, and 4G – eliminated the need for wired communication networks within offices and the domestic space. Now, the introduction of the latest iteration is expected to successfully replace wired networks within the harsh environment of the industrial sector in which communication failure can affect productivity.
5G networking and Wi-Fi 6 in the industrial sector
As upgrades go, 5G has provided the industrial sector with a long-awaited transformative tool to execute the smart facility applications that have been on hold for quite some time. Today, every stakeholder within the industrial sector, with emphasis on the manufacturing industry, understands that 5G introduces enhanced communication speed within the shop floor. What a majority of stakeholders overlook is the reliability the modular approach associated with installing 5G brings to the table.
Leveraging 5G, the industrial sector can scale up its networking requirements at will to meet specific application requirements. An example is scaling up a facility’s IoT framework with tens of new smart devices. Adding these new devices to existing networks requires the addition of new wires for wired connections or configuring them into 4G wireless networks. For wired connectivity, the cost of adding tens of devices is a costly initiative; for 4G, reliability issues will have to be dealt with. 5G solves both challenges by providing scalable modular boxes at affordable rates which deliver reliably within harsh manufacturing environments.
Wi-Fi 6 is the next iteration of Wi-Fi technology. Like the 5G network, it was built to cater to the increased use of smart devices to reduce lagging and deliver the deterministic wireless networking which is important for the industrial sector. Wi-Fi 6 makes use of service level agreements (SLAs) and voice delays to ensure communicated data packets can be sent to individual devices at determined transfer durations. Knowledge of when a data packet arrives at a specified location is then leveraged to implement real-time Industrie 4.0 use cases.
Expected 5G updates
The 16th iteration of 5G was released in 2020. Its release provides the industrial sector with a reliable latency lower than 10 ms. Although 5G networks are still in their development phase, the 16th iteration highlights the fact that manufacturers currently have a wireless network they can use and continue to use as more capabilities are added to future iterations.
Future updates are expected to be rolled out consistently until 5G is reliable enough to support the hundreds or thousands of IoT implementations individual manufacturers will undertake. These iterations are expected to imbibe characteristics such as AI, convergence, and enablement. Starting with AI, 5G updates are expected to eliminate configuration difficulties through intelligence assistance powered by AI. The inclusion of AI will improve the quality of services, from network functions to network management, for manufacturers.
5G is also expected to deliver convergence by supporting and accommodating the several subsystems used within the manufacturing floor. Therefore, fully-developed 5G networks will support the implementation of edge computing networks, multi-protocol services, robotics, and automated guided systems. In terms of enablement, 5G is a customizable network with the capability for diverse use cases through determinism. Thus, enterprises will get a modular, customizable private network if needed for security reasons. These three characteristics of 5G will reduce installation cost, simplify its uses, and enable determinism within the smart factory.
Transforming manufacturing operations with 5G
5G and edge computing provide the capabilities needed to capture, transfer, and analyze data from every aspect of the shop floor. In this scenario, edge computing hardware captures and aggregates data but relies on 5G networks to transfer insight to the appropriate recipients. These recipients could be other edge devices, legacy equipment, or centralized computing platforms.
The relationship between 5G and the edge provides developers with a platform to develop applications that leverage the data-analytical powers of edge hardware and the communication capabilities of 5G. Manufacturers can leverage these applications to enable the application of remote monitoring and remote maintenance within the shop floor. The edge and 5G will ensure large data sets such as 4k videos are remotely transferred to maintenance sites.
The combination of both capabilities also supports the application of digital-transformation solutions such as the digital twin, simulation modeling software, risk-based scheduling software, and augmented reality to optimize manufacturing operations.
The evolution of 5G networks will provide a highly intelligent, automated, and autonomous network that can adjust to changing networking requirements within the factory floor. Manufacturers seeking to leverage 5G are expected to devise new ways to stretch its application within the factory floor. This means remote monitoring is only the beginning.