Industrial Automation & 5G Networks
As the world is moving towards a new era with the deployment of 5G networks, automation & control applications are in focus as one of the new beneficiaries of new 5G wireless network technologies.
The roll-out of 5G wireless technology is expected to make an outsized impact on automation and control applications, with its strong focus on machine-type communications and support for the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). Unprecedented reliability and very low latencies add to the basic potential of Industrial 5G in manufacturing, even though the main technology building blocks and implementation challenges haven’t been fully resolved.
Industrial 5G Basics
The 5G networks guarantee much higher bandwidth and data rate more than 5G or previous network standards.
The basics of Industrial 5G applications include support for three different types of factory communication: enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB), massive machine-type communication (mMTC), and ultra-reliable low-latency communications (URLLC).
Enhanced mobile broadband communications is expected to leverage 5G’s high data rates and enhanced coverage, compared to 4G, to open up wireless applications in areas such as augmented and virtual reality. Possible uses include overlays on smart glasses for assembly line workers.
Ultra-Reliable Low-Latency Communication (URLLC) leverages 5G’s high system reliability and reaction times in the low millisecond range. Potential applications are seen in process automation for closed loop control, mobile control panels with integrated safety functionality, mobile robots and motion control.
Learning About Industrial 5G
Two websites in particular are helpful in learning more about Industrial 5G and its possibilities for smart manufacturing.
One is the 3rd Generation Partnership Project, which is comprised of seven telecommunications standard development organizations, which provides its members a forum to produce reports and specifications that define 3GPP technologies.
A second is the 5G Alliance for Connected Industries and Automation, which presents itself as a central global forum for shaping 5G in the industrial domain.
According to a white paper on the 5G ACIA website, “5G has the potential to provide wireless connectivity for a wide range of different use cases and applications in industry. In the long-term, it may actually lead to convergence of the many different communication technologies that are in use today, thus significantly reducing the number of relevant industrial connectivity solutions. Just as there is an ongoing trend towards Time-Sensitive Networking (TSN) for established (wired) Industrial Ethernet solutions, 5G is likely to become the standard wireless technology of choice, as it may for the first time enable direct and seamless wireless communication from the field level to the cloud.”
The white paper provides a comprehensive review of 5G key technologies, primary features and also how the basic 5G system architecture has specific benefits for smart manufacturing. But major challenges also must be addressed in order for 5G’s potential to be realized. One is that the work of standardization bodies and the manufacturing industry are not fully aligned yet.
Other challenges include:
- How to develop 5G to support in the manufacturing
- Spectrum and operator models
- Safety and security
- 5G-enabled industrial components
- Establishment of a common language
- Transparency of 5G connection in the radio access and core network
The white paper concludes that that efforts to enable Industry 4.0 in manufacturing stand to benefit greatly from Industrial 5G. Key technologies of 5G networks offer important benefits that can be applied to Industry 4.0 deployments but, as great as the benefits of 5G for the industrial domain may appear, challenges of equal magnitude must still be addressed.