Private 5G and the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Spotlight on BSS Innovation | TelecomDrive.com

Digital innovation has led us into the fourth industrial revolution (4IR), which is changing the face of manufacturing across sectors.

4IR, or Industry 4.0, enables manufacturers of all sizes to boost operational efficiency and lower costs by implementing high-speed connectivity, high-end computerization, ultra-reliable infrastructure, and end-to-end process automation – advancements that are possible using private 5G networks.

Manufacturing is not unfamiliar with private networks – many enterprises currently operate on WiFi and/or LTE. But these networks are expensive to operate and do not adequately support breakthrough 4IR technologies such as machine-to-machine communication, the internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality (AR/VR), robotics, and more.

Private 5G provides a secure and controlled wireless network that leverages next-gen capabilities such as ultrafast speeds, ultra-low latency, reliability, flexibility, and automation, enabling all the smart features of 4IR. It facilitates high-capacity near-real-time connectivity anytime and anywhere, integration with industrial IoT (IIoT) devices, highly customized security solutions, and controlled SLAs.

How private 5G facilitates Industry 4.0

Deploying 4IR technologies over private 5G networks affords enterprises a host of benefits. With immersive technologies like AI, augmented reality, predictive analysis, robotics, automation, and IoT tools, a private 5G network helps build smart factories. This powerful combination of technologies helps businesses collect real-time data, manage production and business activities, and predict outcomes, helping increase productivity.

Manufacturing units with production running business-critical activities need infrastructure and applications that require low latency, high reliability, and incessant connectivity without a wired network. This helps them improve flexibility and keep production costs low, while ensuring they can quickly develop, configure, and maintain the infrastructure. They can minimize downtime and production line delays, monitor and manage the supply chain more efficiently, implement heightened quality checks, improve worker safety, and make decisions in real-time using the BI data and analytics available to them.

Some private 5G features that help enterprises realize their business goals:

Innovative use cases

Private 5G enables use cases such as smart factory floors, drones, human-robot collaboration, digital performance management of connected devices, digital twins, and more.

Agility

Private 5G does away with bulky and limiting cables. It operates entirely on wireless technology, enabling more flexible processes on the manufacturing floor.

Security

The large number of IIoT devices connected to the network demand added provisions to keep the network secure from cyberattacks and other potential security threats that are common with WiFi networks. Private 5G networks offer stringent security options that are constantly updated for threats.

Resource allocation

Enterprises can divide their private network into multiple slices, enabling each network function to operate as a separate entity and allocating different resources to each to improve overall efficiency.

Customizable for different contexts

Private 5G networks can implement any combination of next-gen features to meet different enterprise goals. The network also scales for changing production requirements.

Private 5G applications across industries

Private 5G benefits various sectors: from healthcare, energy, and automotive production, to drones, autonomous vehicles, and entertainment, the possibilities are infinite. Some first movers, industrial and otherwise, include:

Autonomous vehicles

Autonomous vehicles let people more productively use the time they’d otherwise spend on driving, prevent the stress of navigating through traffic, and help reduce their carbon footprint with green mobility or eco-friendly cars. And these can be used in closed industrial campuses, where private 5G networks are viable. Private 5G supports the high bandwidth, speed, resilience, real-time data communication, and low latency they require. Vehicles connected to the 5G network also employ edge computing, AI, and IoT to scan traffic and make sound decisions to ensure passenger safety. Use cases like C-V2X, digital twins, smart traffic control with prioritization, airborne taxis, car infotainment, vehicle-to-vehicle communication, vehicle remote health monitoring, and prognostic maintenance system help build sophisticated systems.

Energy and utilities

Technologies such as AI, machine learning (ML), and data analytics help build a next-gen digitalized smart grid, overcoming challenges the industry faces due to uncertain fuel prices, declining revenue, old infrastructure, stringent regulatory requirements, and so on. Thanks to the intelligence collected using 4IR technologies and IoT devices, utility suppliers have more control over the distributed generation, battery energy storage, and renewables, making it easier to transform to smart factories, reduce operational costs, increase agility, maximize ROI, and enhance customer digital experience. Use cases include smart street lighting, smart energy management, drone monitoring, electric vehicles, smart metering, smart grid, and predictive maintenance.

Entertainment and media

Private 5G finds applications in broadcasting and media production houses. It is also useful in the production of live events such as music festivals, for which a temporary network can be allocated by operators. Other use cases include immersive media (AR, VR, and cloud gaming), enhanced mobile advertising using videos and banners, enhanced mobile media (video, music, and games), and new media, which includes 3D holographic, in-car entertainment, connected haptic suits, and more.

Healthcare

Private 5G holds the potential to redefine the way hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare units operate. Coupled with IoT-enabled automation, it facilitates preventative and monitoring practices using e-health and mobile applications, personalized medicines, and connected devices. Features such as high-speed connectivity, real-time data streaming, network reliability, and low latency enable remote surgeries, implantable device monitoring, robot-assisted minimally invasive surgeries, telehealth, remote patient monitoring, AR/VR-enabled healthcare, wearables and ingestibles, and more.

Banks, financial services, and insurance

5G with its ultra-high reliability, higher data capacity, and low latency capabilities will help banks, finance, and insurance (BFSI) companies take customer experience to the next level. The integration of private 5G networks, along with IoT devices and systems, will help introduce use cases such as wearables for payment, internet of moving things, remote tellers, and more.

Retail

Private 5G will help upgrade the in-store and digital store experience for retails. Declining footfall in malls and with customers inclined towards online shopping, retailers are adopting digital technologies to improve customer experience and achieving operational excellence. 5G-ready radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags will help automate in-store transactions, facilitate autonomous check-out by attaching items in digitized in-store shopping carts, and enable the introduction of cashier-less or unmanned stores. Other use cases using immersive technologies include augmented reality, mixed reality, virtual reality are consumer 3D holograms, trial virtual reality experience, smart CRM, layout optimizations, inventory loss prevention, in-store personalized promotions, and more.

Looking ahead

While enterprises such as Volkswagen, BASF, Google Fi, and Siemens are among those procuring their own local 5G networks, many others are opting for operator deployments. At Alepo, we’ve been early movers in helping operators implement 5G technology globally, and we’re confident that over the next few years, we will see many businesses, especially small and medium enterprises, acquiring their private 5G networks through operators, as they offer several unique benefits to enterprises. As an end-to-end solutions provider, we forge cross-industry partnerships, develop fool-proof cybersecurity plans, and ensure regulatory compliance, enabling our operator-clients to focus their attention on helping enterprises realize their business goals. Operators can deploy the network over licensed spectrum, their domain expertise means the networks they provide are more reliable, and they can also leverage network slicing capabilities to offer dedicated networks over shared infrastructure at competitive price points. And while the operator manages network activities, the enterprise can focus on their core business operations.

This article appeared in the December 2020 issue of Disruptive Telecoms