With restrictions preventing human intervention in recent times, the demand for remote monitoring of infrastructure to reduce the reliance on physical hands and eyes, as well as more advanced automation, is seeing organisations accelerate their move to Industry 4.0. In this article we take a look at the role of 4G and 5G in Industry 4.0, and what it will really mean for industries.
Although many companies have already started to increase their use of connected, smart solutions, the full weight of Industry 4.0 and what it really means is still largely theoretical. This is primarily due to concerns around the societal shifts that it demands to be fully implemented, but also, to experience the true benefits of Industry 4.0, it will require entire industries to change together – a piecemeal approach will only offer limited change and returns.
Recent challenges related to restricted movement however have highlighted the need for businesses to accelerate their journey toward Industry 4.0, and many are now considering the importance of putting in place the right foundations. Today, this most likely looks like improved remote management and monitoring capabilities, especially for essential processes and production lines which rely heavily on physical human intervention.
Increasing connected machines throughout value chains is a solid first step toward future advancements and true Industry 4.0, improving operational efficiencies and helping to deliver more reliable and safe production processes. Enabling key applications such as proactive maintenance, connected machines and systems can highlight potential issues before they have a detrimental impact. It also means that when physical hands and eyes aren’t available, systems can still be remotely managed to a point.
Connecting Machines Today: The Role of 4G LTE
Introducing connectivity to enable smart machines in industrial settings is not a simple task, as it requires coverage for large areas with complex existing infrastructure. Laying new wired infrastructure is costly and in many cases unrealistic to achieve, interfering heavily with operations by requiring the need to disrupt the existing infrastructure. Wireless provides a simple and fast approach to deploying connectivity however, and 4G LTE provides an ideal option. With the ability to deploy a cellular solution in any location, it is a reliable, flexible and secure option for communicating with connected machines. With the right hardware it can also handle the tough environments of manufacturing plants and other industrial locations.
The Future of Industry 4.0 and the Role of 5G
True Industry 4.0 will completely transform manufacturing and supply chains across all industries, shifting to a completely connected infrastructure and introducing new technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), machine learning and advanced robotics. The role of cellular communications to enable this is key to unlocking Industry 4.0, and 5G in particular will be the step change that takes things to this next level.
Data Economy reported that:
- IHS Markit predicts that IoT technology will play a key role in Industry 4.0 and, boosted by 5G, more than 75 billion devices will be installed
- McKinsey suggest that this will create up to $3.7 Trillion of annual economic impact for smart factories
- IDC research found that IoT technology can boost supply chain productivity by 15%
- Accenture research found that IoT-based monitoring can lead to a 30% reduction in maintenance costs when used to enable proactive maintenance
Accenture also highlight the six key forces driving industry change and ultimately Industry 4.0:
- Consumer demand for personalised products and experiences
- Growing need for increased productivity with less resource
- Digital disruption
- Environmental improvements
- Business evolution whereby established companies need to work with, not against, others
- Economic politics related to trade and internationalism resulting in new regulations
Factoring these predicted impacts and the driving forces behind them, it is clear that Industry 4.0 will see a serious shift for industries – right from design through to delivery. Providing the necessary connectivity platform to support these changes and new technologies on a large scale demands secure wireless connectivity; the answer to which will be 5G. Incredibly reliable and highly flexible by design, 5G infrastructure will enable industries to completely change the way they operate. Combined with the increasing advancements in edge computing, it will also help businesses to collate and utilise mass data from their connected machines that can provide insights not currently possible.
In addition, 5G’s low latency will deliver the advanced communication capabilities needed to enable key technologies in Industry 4.0 such as remotely managed equipment, delivering the real-time feedback necessary to make this a feasible approach as well as truly opening up the possibility of advanced automation and robotics.
Though we may be some years from seeing Industry 4.0 in full, the technology roadmap is in place and fast approaching. Businesses today are looking at putting the right foundations in place and cellular communications are an ideal place to begin; the demand for flexible, reliable and secure connectivity can be readily and cost-effectively met with 4G now and 5G down the line as technologies pace forwards together.
Effective machine communications for remote management and monitoring are a great starting point with clear benefits, and for which Westbase.io has the experience and solutions to help advance your customer’s journey to Industry 4.0. We work closely with our channel customers to help devise and deliver the right answer to your customer’s requirements.
- Connected 1000s of machines/assets making us one of the most experienced suppliers of 4G LTE and IoT solutions
- Expansive partner support options, from technical design and delivery through to post-sale support
- In-depth understanding of industry drivers and requirements
- Industrial, hardened products built specifically for industrial IoT applications
- Our solutions all have built-in edge intelligence via software development kits
- Cloud capabilities mean 100s and 1000s of routers can be managed as easily as 1, plus our solutions can also enable Out-of-Band Management of other devices connected to the router/gateway via the cellular connection