As demand in global markets moves from an age of mass production to a future of mass personalisation, manufacturing and industrial processes must embrace mass automation in order to deliver the efficiency and flexibility required to achieve this. The massive shift in industrial practises that this entails has been dubbed the “Fourth Industrial Revolution”, or Industry 4.0. It sees a world where industrial processes embrace smart technologies on a massive scale. In this future world machine to machine communication and the Internet of Things (IoT) are widespread as they enable the real time analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) that drive the gains industry is looking for.
There is, however, a problem. For all this to work industry needs a high throughput, reliable, secure and low latency network, which until now has been Ethernet. Ethernet though relies on a physical wired connection; it doesn’t provide the flexibility needed in this future world. WiFi on the other hand can provide flexibility, but its lack of reliability, security and limit on connected devices means it is not a viable alternative. Increasingly then, industry is looking to 5G to solve this problem. 5G can provide Gbit throughput, five 9s reliability, end to end security and mSec latency. Perfect you would think, but many companies rightly have reservations about their facility being on an operator public network. No problem, 5G supports private networks, but this is not a business model that Telco operators are familiar with. So, although Industry 4.0 represents a great opportunity for them, indeed most revenue growth is predicted to come from these markets, they must adapt the way they do business.
Adapting to the Future
Fortunately, major Telcos have recognised this and are forming the partnerships and working with industrial customers to build out these private networks. Although at an early stage, with many installations still trials, it is starting to happen. One such case is the recently announced partnership between Verizon and Nokia to build a full private 5G network for the Port of Southampton. The technology will enable them to offer new advanced services such as: asset tracking, autonomous guided vehicles, workflow management, predictive maintenance and safety monitoring. These services combined will help smooth the operation of the Port of Southampton, which is the UK’s number one port for cruises and cars and responsible for £40 billion in UK exports and handles 900,000 vehicles each year
Just the Beginning
What we’re seeing in the Port of Southampton is just the beginning. Industrial usage of 5G is set to take off in the next few years as it offers unique opportunities for companies to flexibly optimise processes and link their operations with “just in time” supply chain management and outbound logistics of finished goods. For Telcos, industrial applications represent a whole new revenue stream and so these types of partnerships will likely become the norm as the fourth industrial revolution gathers pace.