- 5G can ease the deployment of autonomous mobile robots, augmented reality headsets, and other non-fixed technologies
- 5G offers higher data transfer rates and lower latency than other wireless network technologies.
- A private 5G network offers further benefits to bandwidth and cybersecurity.
Welcome to Take Five with Automation World. I’m David Miller, Senior Technical Writer for Automation World. Today I want to talk about wireless networking, and particularly 4G and 5G private cellular networks, and their benefits for industrial use cases. Now, what we’ve seen is that wireless connectivity has become increasingly important to industrial users in recent years for a variety of reasons. For one, the growth of technologies such as mobile robots and augmented reality headsets have forced users to ditch the wires, so to speak – being free-moving and non-fixed, these technologies just can’t work if you don’t go cordless in the proverbial sense. Just as importantly, in large and expansive process industry environments such as oil and gas or wastewater management, a wireless network can allow for data from a large quantity of devices spread over a geographically expansive region to be more easily integrated.
Of course, technically speaking, you could use any number of wireless network technologies, including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or Zigbee. However, what 5G—and 4G as well, albeit to a lesser extent—offers that sets it apart is higher data transfer rates, low latency, and the ability to connect to significantly more devices simultaneously. So, as a result, it is much more ideal for mission-critical industrial applications that require reliability, real-time communication, and large-scale coverage.
Moreover, it’s not just the speed and reliability that typical wi-fi lacks – It’s also the case that many industrial environments are not designed to support it, since fluctuations in temperature, humidity, moisture, and vibration or even something like the placement of metal or glass walls could interfere with the transmission of reliable wireless signals.
So, let’s go over some examples of 5G implementations that have benefited those who undertook them. One good example is from Electronics TCL manufacturing in China, which was able to expand its use of AMRs due to their use of a 5G network – Obviously with AMRs the individual robots utilize a virtual map and share their coordinates with one another on that map in order to coordinate and optimize their activities, and they’re moving around and doing this in real-time – so the 5G was needed here in order to grant the coverage needed, but also the low latency.
Now, there’s another example I’d like to give, even though it actually entails 4G rather than 5G, because the benefits are largely the same in this instance, and it’s very good at demonstrating the particular value of a private rather than public cellular network. So, in this case, British Sugar – the sugar producer – has rolled out its own private 4G cellular network across multiple factory sites, rather than relying on a public network. So, the real question here is, why the private network? In this case, it’s because using a dedicated private network eliminates the need to share spectrum with others, meaning that latency becomes less of an issue, which is of course very important in these very rapid, real-time applications. In addition, keeping the network totally private means that internal control can be maintained of all data – and this is going to be a huge boon in the era of cybersecurity concerns.
One last example now – And that’s Volkswagen, which has similarly deployed a 5G private network at its primary plant in Wolfsburg, Germany. Now, currently, this is still a pilot deployment – What they’re trying to see is if the network will meet the stringent requirements of its vehicle production process. And the way they’ll be doing it is with Nokia’s digital Automation Cloud Platform, which essentially allows automation applications to be very quickly delivered and operate in real time, from the cloud. So, once again, we’re back to the need for very low latency.
So, I think that’s a pretty good round up for now – I want to thank all of viewers for tuning in.