Thanks to Industry 4.0 As a trend, proprietary information is increasingly coming in and out of autonomous robots. This includes CAD files, production statistics, and other key data that directly affect an organization’s competitiveness, results, and customer satisfaction.
A secure, reliable and high-performance wireless network is essential to ensure the flow of data and production while protecting them from hackers and industrial espionage. IoT network manufacturers may consider investing in 4G LTE and 5G as part of their strategy for secure private networks that meet their performance needs.
In 2019, manufacturers and other companies spent $ 945 million on private 4G LTE and 5G network infrastructure, IDC estimates. By 2025, they will spend $ 5.7 billion, a compound annual growth rate of 43.4%. As a newer technology, 5G offers some features that 4G does not have, including:
- Ultra-reliable, low latency communications. This feature provides latencies as low as 1ms, which is ideal for critical delay-sensitive use cases such as time sensitive networking.
- Massive machine-type communications. This feature enables 5G networks to support up to 1 million IoT devices per square kilometer, such as autonomous material handlers, industrial robots, and sensors that detect if a conveyor motor is starting to overheat.
- Improved mobile broadband. This capability supports bandwidth-intensive applications such as HD and 4K CCTV cameras in and around a factory. AI could also use this video to monitor and analyze plant operations for issues and opportunities, such as adjusting workflows to remove bottlenecks.
4G will be around for years to come and 5G also offers longevity for use with network infrastructure and IoT devices that will be widely available for at least the next 20 years.
Although new, 5G is already moving down the cost curve. Private 5G operators benefit from deployments of public networks, the scale of which for the general public regularly lowers infrastructure costs. At the end of 2020, 163 public 5G networks were in commercial service worldwide, and the total is expected to reach 277 by the end of 2021, according to TeleGeography.
Organizations choose different technologies for their private networks, but all share the strategy to gain more control. For example, some utility companies have chosen to build private 2.5G, 3G, 4G and WiMax networks to better control access to the network. By owning a private network, manufacturers control coverage and can fine-tune performance to meet their unique needs.
Some companies have chose 5G for standalone use cases, such as robotics for discrete manufacturing and more granular control of manufacturing. Autonomous mobile robots improve the efficiency, reliability and precision of transporting and transporting automotive parts and materials. They can reduce labor costs, eliminate human errors, and increase workplace safety. With more flexibility than automated guided vehicles, which follow planned routes, these robots can be programmed to change routes and avoid obstacles.
Few manufacturers have the experience of designing and installing a mobile network. There are also no turnkey, plug-and-play private 5G network solutions for robotics. Even if there were, they would still have to be heavily customized to make sure everything was working properly. For example, manufacturers should verify that signals are not attenuated by physical obstacles such as steel storage racks and sources of interference such as electric motors.
Organizations should collaborate with all vendors providing software systems, devices, autonomous robots, and other components of an Industry 4.0 ecosystem to achieve seamless coverage across all manufacturing plants. Interoperability is the key.
Organizations must develop operational technology (OT) and IT expertise to avoid the many ways a network deployment can go wrong. For example, the CIO may be too focused on selecting the technology instead of considering how those choices affect use cases and business requirements.
Mobile operators are increasingly offering Network as a Service (NaaS) to capture their share of the growing private network market. One downside is that NaaS offerings are often mere extensions of the public grid rather than an infrastructure specially designed and deployed to meet each customer’s unique business requirements. Even if a manufacturer decides to go the NaaS route, they will still need OT, networking technology, and IT integration, which are specialties outside the realm of mobile operators. These are all potential challenges to consider when developing a strategy for private networks.
Define your strategy
Many large manufacturing plants are built in places where land is cheap. These remote locations are often the last places where mobile operators deploy the latest network technology. In such places, manufacturers can deploy 4G LTE for private networks. Alternatively, they can also deploy and use their own 5G technology for private networks.
With the right planning, resources, and awareness of potential pitfalls, manufacturers can implement their private network strategy to take advantage of robotics. The bottom line: Getting everything in place from the start may be easier said than done, but ensures that the private 5G network can support an Industry 4.0 transformation for years to come.
About the authors
Ben Pietrabella is a global technology leader with more than 30 years of experience in the success of complex business applications and telecommunications products. Before taking up his current position as vice-president of Capgemini Engineeringthe network equipment supplier business unit, Pietrabella led Altran’s advanced network technology and global IoT service suite. He has extensive knowledge and experience in enterprise architecture, product management, product development and integration services for multivertical enterprise application products, as well as telecommunications software products from operator class. At Comverse, he led the company’s product portfolio architecture, technology selection and roadmaps. Pietrabella also held senior positions as Vice President of Deployment Architecture at Pitney Bowes, where he led architectural design and led operations for its on-demand SaaS solutions. He holds a master’s degree in computer engineering and completed the Wharton School Advanced Management Program at the University of Pennsylvania.
Manas Tiwari is currently the customer manager of the network equipment suppliers business unit of Capgemini Engineering. Over the years, he has held various leadership roles within the organization since the founding of Hughes Software Systems. He has worked with communications service providers to virtualize their network and deliver applications that drive growth, reduce capital and operating expenses, and provide a paradigm shift for bringing new solutions to market. He is a global technology leader with more than 20 years of experience in the success of complex business applications and telecommunications products. He has extensive knowledge and experience in enterprise architecture, product management, product development and integration services for multivertical enterprise application products, as well as telecommunications software products from operator class. He holds a Masters of Business Administration in International Trade from ESCP Business School.