Why 5G is the heart of Industry 4.0

The premise of Industry 4.0 is all about the marriage of physical and digital technologies. With Industry 4.0, manufacturers can use connected systems to gain critical insights about their operations. These insights can be used to improve operational efficiency. The global Industry 4.0 market is projected to reach $337.1bn by 2028, such is the surging potential that the space still holds for business.

A subset of Industry 4.0 is smart manufacturing, defined by The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) as systems that are “fully-integrated, collaborative manufacturing systems that respond in real time to meet changing demands and conditions in the factory, in the supply network, and in customer needs.”

With the next generation of the industrial revolution being triggered by the combination of emerging technology, the impact that 5G has on Industry 4.0 will be unique. As a trend itself, 5G won’t redesign the production line but it will enable new operating models. With network characteristics that are essential for manufacturing, 5G will offer manufacturers the chance to build smart factories that can take advantage of the emerging tech that’s changing the industry.

How do you connect systems?

The Internet of Things (IoT) is an integral part of the connected economy. Many manufacturers are already using IoT solutions to track assets in their factories, consolidating their control rooms and increasing their analytics functionality through the installation of predictive maintenance systems.

Of course, without the ability to connect these devices, Industry 4.0 will, naturally, languish. While low power wide area networks (LPWAN) are sufficient for some connected devices such as smart meters that only transmit very small quantities of data, in manufacturing the opposite is true of IoT deployment, where numerous data-intensive machines are often used within close proximity.

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This is why 5G connectivity is key to Industry 4.0. In a market reliant on data-intensive machine applications, such as manufacturing, the higher speeds and low latency of 5G is required for effective use of automatic robots, wearables and VR headsets, shaping the future of smart factories. And while some connected devices utilised 4G networks using unlicensed spectrum, 5G allow this to take place on an unprecedented scale.

Real-time communications

The other big thing about 5G in relation to Industry 4.0 is how 5G improves network latency. According to Anurag Lal, CEO of Infinite Convergence Solutions, “this provides the ability for applications, devices and entities to communicate in near real time, if not absolute real-time,” he said.

“This really enables a range of applications that may not have been available in the past; autonomous driving comes to mind immediately, because of the real-time nature of that particular application, and how that application has to communicate constantly to the ever-changing environment that it’s deployed in.”

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At the same time, it’s not just about speed; 5G also offers slower speeds with frequencies that travel farther from cell sites into buildings that contain IoT devices. This means longer battery life for many devices, sometimes up to 10 years.

5G will change networking

The promise of unrivalled wireless speed and consistency comes with a requirement for some changes in the way networks operate. Providers will need to harness Software-defined Networks (SDN) to handle 5G’s throughput capabilities and scalability. With SDN, new functionality can be built and added on a software-based timeline, rather than the traditional (and slower) hardware timeline, ensuring networks are more agile and more efficient.

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SDN ensures networks can secure and manage this additional traffic. Many forward-thinking organisations have been extensively testing and deploying SDN as a means to lower costs and increase bandwidth across their corporate networks.


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Andrew Ross

As a reporter with Information Age, Andrew Ross writes articles for technology leaders; helping them manage business critical issues both for today and in the future

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Industry 4.0