Smart Factories Need Smart Connectivity by Alistair Elliott

Smart Factories Need Smart Connectivity

 

Pod Group’s CTO Networks, Alistair Elliott, joined an expert panel at the IMC’s IIoT Infrastructure Online Conference to discuss the benefits of 5G and the first use cases of this new global wireless standard being seen in industrial settings. Scroll down to the end of the article to watch the discussion on-demand.

Industry 4.0 and connectivity

The digital transformation of manufacturing processes and operations is seeing next-generation industrial IoT applications increasingly deployed on the factory floor, including predictive maintenance programs, digital twins, and Autonomous Guided Vehicles (AGVs). Such IIoT applications, however, require high-performance networks, and the connectivity technologies that most factories continue to use today—WiFi, Ethernet cabling, LPWAN—cannot provide the low latency, high bandwidth, reliability, and security that Industry 4.0 deployments demand. WiFi, for example, poses security, reliability and interference issues, while cabling is unable to offer the flexibility needed for dynamic factories, and LPWAN technologies, such as Sigfox and Lora, have low throughput.

What other connectivity technologies are available that make high-performance IoT networks capable of supporting large numbers of remote and mission critical applications a reality?

The benefits of 5G

The following specifications of 5G make this new wireless technology standard ideal for Industry 4.0:

  • Ultra-high bandwidth capacity allowing for faster throughput
  • High data speeds (up to 10 gigabits per second)
  • Low-latency communications (1-10 milliseconds)
  • Five-nines availability (99.999% uptime)
  • Low-power consumption (up to 10 years’ battery life for low-power IoT devices)

5G is enabling faster, more stable connectivity, and low-latency communications make real-time data transfer possible.

It’s not all about network reliability and speed, though.

5G network slicing offers flexible performance, as well as giving enterprises the ability to secure their IoT network. The network can be partitioned on the fly and applications assigned to different packet gateways with varying frequencies, thus guaranteeing interference-free connectivity throughout the plant, while devices that have been affected by malware can be quarantined in separate slices to limit further security threats and prevent other IIoT devices on the network from being affected.

There is a “but”, however, and that is that it will be some time before 5G cellular networks are fully rolled out and the manufacturing industry can take full advantage of the benefits.

Private LTE: a stepping stone to 5G

Until 5G SA is readily available, Private LTE is already offering manufacturing enterprises many of the aforementioned benefits, while also providing an easy transition path to 5G further down the line.

Private cellular networks, owned and operated by the enterprise, are fast becoming a mission critical resource. Industrial IoT applications require additional resilience and security, and Private LTE gives manufacturing companies the means to tailor their connectivity to meet specific application requirements and optimize demand for network resources.

Thanks to innovation in pLTE, the control of the network no longer resides solely with the MNO. Enterprises are gaining ownership of their network connectivity, and deploying a private cellular network is the answer to accommodating today’s mission critical, data-centric IoT applications before 5G becomes widely available.

How to deploy a pLTE network

A lack of telco experience in-house, however, may leave manufacturing companies puzzled as to how they can deploy and manage their own private network that does not touch the public internet.

The solution? Working with an Enterprise Network Operator (ENO). 

ENOs provide managed connectivity services (Network as a Service), helping enterprises take control of their IoT network. Connectivity solutions are tailored to individual business needs, whether that be supplementing an existing network with a pLTE core, for example, or providing a complete private cellular network on unlicensed spectrum.

An ENO for IIoT report front cover

Find out more about deploying a private network as a managed service in our report, “An Enterprise Network Operator for Industrial IoT: Unleashing the Potential of Manufacturing Enterprises.”

5G enables dynamic production in the factory

Watch the IMC panel on-demand now and hear industry experts from Pod Group, Transforma Insights, Microsoft, and Telit discuss how 5G enables dynamic production in the factory.

To hear how working with an Enterprise Network Operator (ENO) will revolutionize IoT networks for industry, as well as the full panel discussion, fast forward to 00:53:35.

Do you want to learn more about cellular connectivity in industrial settings?

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Alistair Elliott

CTO Networks

Alistair heads up Pod Group’s solutions business where he is the principal strategist and architect for Pod Group’s technical services.

Posted: April 20, 2021