The new communication standard will represent a real paradigm shift for wireless communication. From the world of mobile connectivity to that of the manufacturing industry, the consequences in terms of possible new application scenarios are still to be discovered. But let’s start from what are the technological assumptions on which they will be based: what is 5G and what developments and implications will it have for the future of manufacturing?
5G: what is it?
First of all what 5G is not: the upgrade of the current 4G. The new technology will mainly be characterized by 3 fundamental factors: connection speed, low latency, high density of connectable devices.
Speed and broadband: the new 5G network will guarantee theoretical peak speeds of 20 Gbps in download and 10 Gbps in upload, per single cell. In other words, data transfer with 5G will take place at a speed and reliability comparable to that of the world of cable communications and 10 times higher than the predecessor 4G.
Latency: the second important cornerstone will be the possibility of real-time transmission, thanks to a significant reduction in response times, going from the current 20 milliseconds to a 1 millisecond or less. In the industrial sector this means being able to think of a deterministic wireless communication in the cycle times of a machine with immediate implications in the process management processes or unexplored in terms, for example, of the flexibility of the line lay-outs.
Density: augmented reality, artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, none of this will actually be possible without the guarantee of an increasing number of devices connected to the network, at the same time. The 5G will give the possibility to connect more than 1 million devices per km 2 at the same time, without compromising on security or network stability and making wireless connectivity of the single sensor possible.
If we then consider that the performance of the 5G network can be modulated through “network slicing” according to the specific use case, it is clear that 5G has much more potential than the current wireless support.
What will be the development of 5G communication for the industry?
Today wireless communication (Bluetooth or Wi-Fi) is made possible via 4G / LTE despite critical issues and interference.
5G will offer the industry the possibility to manage communication also on a wireless basis with reliability and performance similar to that of the wired one. This will allow to rethink the processes in a totally flexible way, where the “format change” will not be a concept related to the machine alone but to the whole line lay-out thus increasing the degrees of freedom in production management.
This pillar must then be combined with open architectures, which allow interoperability between different machines, easy access to data and their immediate usability. Only with a future-proof factory approach will the ambitious objectives of the Factory of the future be achieved: flexibility in production, availability of machine data, and overall efficiency of the value chain.
What implications will the new network have for large companies and SMEs?
As main users, large automation companies are investing in advance in developing their private 5G booster networks Texas in order to develop and validate new use cases. This experience flows into the development of products for drive and control technologies, as well as for production-related software solutions.
The developed applications will also be available for small and medium-sized enterprises which, without their own investments in research and development, will be able to implement the use cases tested within the 5G public infrastructure, with adequate security measures, without having to invest in their own networks.
The 5G can also be installed in existing factories, both as a private and public networks and, within the machines already in the field, the sensors already installed can transmit their data via cable to suitable gateways.
5G revolution: first application scenarios
This overview of what 5G is, the first developments and the possible implications also offers us inputs on what the first enabled scenarios could be. We talk about the possibility of monitoring and managing production thanks to a more extensive machine-to-machine communication. In addition to improving process efficiency, the data collected will enable the support of artificial intelligence in industrial contexts. Another area that will be able to immediately exploit the advantages of 5G will be that of intralogistics with a more extensive interaction of self-driving vehicles (AGV) with the operating context.