Will 5G fuel Industry 4.0?

If you haven’t heard about 5G, you soon will. As you can probably guess, 5G is the latest generation of cellular network technology. The technology is on the cusp of being rolled out to the masses with big mobile phone players marketing it heavily to their current and prospective customers. 

5G will certainly provide a better user experience than the old 4G and even older 3G connections. While users will enjoy faster download speeds, improved streaming, enhanced gameplay and so on, this is not where 5G’s true power will shine through.

5G is no mere incremental update, it is no more, no less than a platform for innovation.

Industry 4.0 is about adopting new technologies to deliver innovative manufacturing and industry enhancements.  5G is beneficial to Industry 4.0 in a number of ways, it is…

  • Key to meeting the needs of flexible production techniques
  • Fundamental to delivering seamless collaboration and automation between machines
  • Beneficial in enabling secure wireless connectivity.

The Advent of Wireless Factories

With 5G, an entire facility or multiple facilities will be able to work seamlessly on the one network, all while enabling the adoption of new and emerging technologies as they come online.  Any device with an inbuilt SIM card can easily connect to the 5G network, delivering a true plug and play experience.  More automation and collaboration between devices will inevitably improve productivity. Productivity gains equal cost-savings, a key driver in any business.

The ability to monitor the manufacturing process allows operators to be alerted to problems or potential problems. These real time updates allow timely intervention, thus helping to reduce errors, minimise faults and potentially save thousands, if not tens of thousands of man hours in production downtime.

While Humans will still play a key role in monitoring the facility, ever more machines will run 24/7, learning and self-repairing as they go.

Secure Connectivity – Network Slicing, 5G and IoT

5G offers an exciting advantage in the form of network slicing. This type of virtual networking architecture, which is like software-defined networking and network function virtualisation, allows multiple virtual networks to be created on a shared physical infrastructure.

Using common resources such as storage and processors, network slicing permits the creation of slices devoted to logical, self-contained, and partitioned network functions which can be used by specific ecosystems.

The reliance on the IoT is having an exponential impact on security requirements. In my view, there needs to be proportional and relevant security applied to protect the technology and ultimately the business.

The good news is that emerging technologies, like Network Slicing (NS), allow different operations to be accorded differing layers of security across different virtual networks.  Ensuring that the growing number of connected networks and devices are secure is important for all operations, but is crucial for critical operations.

With NS, 5G offers speed, capacity and encryption which can be tailored to the specific needs of different machines and operations, this will ultimately improve security while keeping costs down.

Final Thoughts

Just as coal and then oil fuelled the Industrial Revolution, 5G will be the game changer and big enabler for the Industry 4.0 Revolution, we certainly do live in interesting times!

If you would like to discuss 5G or other areas, including industrial automation systems, industrial control applications, IoT, data analytics, workflows, business and manufacturing processes, please feel free to contact me via LinkedIn, Twitter or Email.

Kieran