5G becomes wireless technology of choice in industrial applications
Source: John Liu
Smart manufacturing requires connectivity among different assets on the floor, and 5G
has generated substantial share of commercial interest when it comes to the wireless protocol option, according to the Hannover Messe 2019 Whitepaper published by ABI Research.
The appetite to connect hardware is growing. Some companies are looking into advanced functions like “predictive and prescriptive analytics and the employment of AI
,” but the majority of the marketplace is really just focused on connecting assets and trying to get data off them
,” says Stuart Carlaw, Chief Research Officer at ABI Research.
Almost all exhibitors at Hannover Messe held earlier this month were discussing different use cases for 5G. For example, in the car industry, some automated guided vehicle (AGV) manufacturers are using 4G for telemetry but are interested in 5G for remote operation.
In addition, many companies consider 5G as a faster pipe to transfer video feeds from around the factory floor.
“Several exhibitors also expect 5G to simplify the communications landscape on the factory floor, as it many take as many as seven different technologies
for data to traverse from the sensor to the cloud,” ABI says, adding that these exhibitors also hope deterministic 5G networking will replace proprietary field bus technologies.
There are challenges in using 5G, however. A common trend was the lack of commonalities between different use cases. In fact, most companies exhibiting in the 5G Arena at Hannover Messe were interested and testing different functionalities of 5G to address their own requirement specifically, ABI says.
The industrial sector requires tailor-made solutions, ABI says. “Some industrial clients may need stationary 5G connections for camera, some may need outdoor campus 5G networks for AGVs, while some others will need deterministic networking features for machinery.”
Telecom may lose advantage
Industrial operational technology suppliers have adopted Qualcomm’s 5G modems and Nokia’s network to solve their problems. In a way, industrial companies are innovating for 5G, moving several steps further than telecoms that have yet to launch “industrial-grade” 5G products, according to ABI.
Mobile service providers have mostly operate on a “build it and they will come” model. “They have been building networks without knowing what services would eventually be running on them,” ABI explained.
Telecoms “must get serious about the industrial domain immediately and start speaking the language of manufacturers. Otherwise, they will be at a risk of being disintermediated in one of the most promising end markets,” ABI says.
Wi-Fi is underutilized
From a wireless connectivity perspective, it is clear that 5G is winning the battle for hearts and minds over Wi-Fi in the industrial space. “Wi-Fi is largely viewed as an uncomfortable necessity that is being used despite its flaws,” says the ABI whitepaper.
“While industrial grade Wi-Fi solutions for a number of non-mission critical, redundancy, enhanced safety and other applications are widely utilized today, and are likely to be in the future, Wi-Fi’s role in manufacturing environments
is increasingly being drowned out by the behemoth of 5G innovation,” ABI’s report says.
Nevertheless, Wi-Fi will remain relevant in the manufacturing sector in some applications. Though 5G will undoubtedly bring about a number of enhancements for robotics, automation, mobility, and other mission-critical applications, many industrial applications will have less stringent latency requirements and can be served by existing wireless standards like Wi-Fi,” ABI says.