Connectivity & Interoperability (Part 2) – 5G and Industry 4.0

5G Taking the leap towards Connectivity

3G to 4G was a small step for connectivity, but 4G to 5G will be a giant leap for Industry 4.0. Adoption of 5G won’t just make connectivity faster and broader; it will trigger the dawn of a new age of data-intensive 4IR technologies, such as driverless vehicles, intelligent robots, wearable and implanted technology, virtual and augmented reality, and many more that promise disruptive industrial applications. 

While 4G-based Industry 4.0 pilot projects are emerging, 5G will unleash an unprecedented scale of connectivity. 5G is promising to be the connectivity leap that will make Industry 4.0 technologies available to the mass market.

Andrew Ross, an analyst for the Information Age, believes that with the next generation of the industrial revolution being triggered by the combination of emerging technology, the impact that 5G has on Industry 4.0 will be unique. As a trend itself, 5G won’t redesign the production line, but it will enable new operating models. Furthermore, with network characteristics that are essential for manufacturing, 5G will offer manufacturers the chance to build smart factories that can take advantage of the emerging tech that’s changing the industry.

Key Capabilities of 5G

5G Key Capabilities

5G, The Hyperspeed Connectivity for Industry 4.0

5G brings robust, high-speed data transfer through very low (1ms) latency to enable the dependable, real-time, data-rich connectivity these advanced technologies demand. 5G offers slower speeds too, designed to increase range, and low power consumption, helping the IoT take hold in large, remote, or distributed deployments. 

The sheer volume of data that can be transferred over 5G networks will bring powerful artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and big data analytics, which will drive efficiency and productivity to new levels. Figure 6-1: 5G Key Capabilities highlights the key benefits of 5G over 4G in a range of 4IR applications. When analysts and manufacturers think about enablers of Industry 4.0, their minds often go straight to the standard technology enablers such as artificial intelligence, virtual reality, or the Internet of Things. 

It’s easy to forget that connectivity —the function as well as the technology— is the ultimate enabler of digital manufacturing. If the ASEAN region hopes to compete in the Industry 4.0 era, upgrading connectivity infrastructure is an essential element.

The IMDA’s Second Public Consultation on 5G Mobile Services and Networks states that 5G, globally acknowledged to be the next big leap in mobile and wireless communications, will be a critical part of this infrastructure. More than higher speeds, 5G will enable more things to be connected, with better reliability and lower latencies.

The document continues with the statement that the 5G network architecture will allow operators the ability to customise and tailor services to meet the demands of different end-users, to support the innovative services and applications driving Singapore’s Digital Economy.

Network & Spectrum of 5G

The emergence of 5G is not without friction, however. Strong criticism and difficult challenges persist. In early 2019, a petition opposing the roll-out of 5G was signed by over 26,000 scientists on the grounds of health and environmental concern. Others in the scientific community dismiss these claims and point to previous generations of cellular connectivity. 

Further challenges, like spectrum bandwidth conflict with strategic infrastructures, such as weather satellite communication, represent technical hurdles to overcome. While complex regulatory demands also threaten to delay ambitious timelines set by many markets. 

Several ASEAN members will have to consider significant regulatory reform before they can start their full 5G roll-out. Previous iterations may have succeeded but 5G is a different ball game with broad applications – all actors will need to work together to bring it to fruition, especially in the manufacturing space.

The Singapore 5G public consultation document states that besides commercial readiness of 5G technology, IMDA will have to take other factors into consideration when allocating spectrum for 5G services. These include the harmonisation of 5G spectrum bands amongst neighbouring countries in the region, refarming of spectrum frequencies assigned for existing use and re-assigning them for 5G uses, and addressing coexistence issues with the neighbouring countries, amongst others.

International industry bodies hold critical roles in the development of 5G. The 3GPP (Third Generation Partnership Project) is focused on developing high-reliability and ultra-low latency radio technologies and architectural components that can support the Industry 4.0. The 5G Alliance for Connected Industries and Automation (5G-ACIA) and the EU’s 5G Infrastructure Association (5G-IA) meanwhile, serve as global forums to address, discuss, and evaluate challenges and opportunities. 

Major ASEAN 5G and Industry 4.0 stakeholders must also come together to ensure smooth 5G development in the region.

5G in the ASEAN Region

ASEAN region and across the world. Lured by faster data transfer speeds, greater bandwidth, and more connections, all ASEAN nations have announced some intention to bring 5G connectivity to their country. The diversity of ICT infrastructure standards, as well as socio-economic and political capacity to upgrade them, will mean a staggered introduction of 5G across the region.

The promise of Industry 4.0 represents a driving force for the region’s 5G development. Manufacturing is a crucial avenue of economic growth for many ASEAN members; the sector contributed 21% (approximately $670 billion) to the region’s total GDP in 2018, which is predicted to double to $1.4 trillion by 2028. 

According to global management consulting firm, AT Kearney, ASEAN will have about $250 billion to $275 billion in incremental value at stake by 2028, representing a 40% increase in manufacturing value added (MVA), via productivity gains and new revenue streams offered by 4IR technologies. There is little doubt that 5G will be fundamental to the future of ASEAN manufacturing.

The AT Kearney report states that the rise of Industry 4.0 technologies poses a major threat to ASEAN manufacturing and its growth potential. Manufacturers’ low-cost competitive advantage is gradually being eroded as competitors in advanced economies use new technologies to achieve significant improvements in cost, speed, quality, and sustainability. 

Meanwhile, contrary to the threat, Industry 4.0 also presents regional manufacturers that embrace the digital revolution with a significant opportunity: the ability to leapfrog onto the global manufacturing stage. It is therefore crucial for ASEAN manufacturers to accelerate their 4IR adoption or risk being left behind.

Singapore is the regional leader for connectivity. Its modern industry, successful smart technology initiatives, and highly-educated population mean the economically prosperous city-state offers an ideal environment for 5G. Singapore is not alone; however, other ambitious ASEAN members proved their abilities with successful 4G deployments and have announced strong intentions for their 5G roll-out. 

Impact of 5G

Figure 6-2: The Impact of 5G in various verticals and use cases

According to a recent report by London-based Opensignal entitled ‘The State of Mobile Network Experience,’ Singapore performed best for 4G provision, followed by Thailand, and Indonesia showing that cellular connectivity can be successful in a variety of socio-economic and political environments. 

The report, published in May 2019, notes that 4G availability shows the proportion of time Opensignal users with a 4G device have a 4G connection. However, this is not a measure of coverage, and therefore does not account for some of the more challenging Southeast Asian geographies.

Ultimately, each ASEAN member state will have to bring 5G online themselves, but pressure and confidence will rise as the region’s progressive nations begin deploying. However, the value of greater cooperation between all stakeholders will also be critical to elevating connectivity and enabling Industry 4.0 across the whole region.

Maziar Nekovee, Professor of Telecommunication, 5G Mobile Technologies, and Head of Department of Engineering and Product Design at The University of Sussex, UK. Suggested that the key to achieving the enormous potentials of the marriage of Industry 4.0 and 5G is collaboration between stakeholders from the manufacturing and mobile industry ecosystems, which in the past, have been largely operating in parallel. He also mentioned that, “Traditionally, the focus of the mobile industry has been the provision of conventional service, voice, video, and data to consumers while the manufacturing industry has been relying on its own solutions, or those retrofitted from the IEEE family of wireless technologies to support limited connectivity inside factories, plants, and warehouses. With 5G all of this is changing rapidly.”

To continue reading on the this article about Connectivity & Interoperability Part 3 – Enabling Interoperability with OPC-UA, please click here.

Written by Colin Koh, Senior Business Development Manager, Industry 4.0 Consultant. This Industry 4.0 Article Series is aimed to enlightened readers about everything they need to know about Industry 4.0 and its application about technologies and benefits to companies and consumers.

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