With more than 200 years since the start of the Industrial Revolution, the manufacturing industry is ripe for a new disruptor. According to AT&T, “the sector faces its biggest transformation with the arrival of 5G technology.”
For proponents, 5G can deliver “factories of the future” by interconnecting devices and enabling them to make decisions autonomously to enhance machine-machine interoperation on the work floor. The main driver of the ‘factories of the future’ will be the availability of agile and highly fluid infrastructure. To this end, experts highlight the underlying capabilities of 5G networks as the deliverer of the demanded agility and fluidity. In a sense, the ever-increasing pace in the adoption and deployment of the 5G networks by carriers is demand-driven by necessity, rather than technological evolution. According to Ericsson, demand for 5G networks offers “telecom operators a USD 619 billion revenue opportunity by 2026.”
As the devices for the factories of the future become more sophisticated, the demand for networks offering high-speed connectivity and lower end-to-end delays increases. Experts point out to 5G’s low-latency as the perfect option to deliver connectivity needs of sophisticated devices of tomorrow’s factories. According to Ericsson, 5G also promises to enable manufacturers and telecom operators to take advantage of new and emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), and augmented reality (AR).
With sensors monitoring every aspect of the working environment, the smart factories of the future will rely heavily on high-speed connectivity to feed a wide range of data and information into these sensors. Combining accurate, real-time data such as accelerometer and location data to enable autonomous vehicles with pinpoint accuracy requires a network with wireless flexibility, high capacity, and low-latency performance. According to AT&T, these demands and needs of devices of the future “make 5G a natural choice to support manufacturers in these environments.” 5G networks promise to assist in tackling the hurdles and challenges that have impeded extensive and intensive automation. Challenges associated with connectivity costs, issues in data transmission, and lack of communication capacity will be resolved by 5G.
Among the aspects of manufacturing that will be revolutionized by 5G includes data gathering, which will be increasingly challenging as networks grow and become smarter, producing more information than ever before. To this end, 5G carriers will benefit as demand for networks with high-bandwidth capabilities and low latency increases among manufacturers. 5G-enabled sensors combined with machine learning algorithms will enable factories of the future to predict and anticipate mechanical issues in equipment before they occur, reducing operation and downtime costs drastically. Also, 5G will enable combining of “fast production-line operations with the power of networked intelligence,” boasts AT&T. This capability is expected to deliver advanced visual recognition driven by deep learning and the cloud.
The benefits promised by 5G is already enticing manufacturing companies, such as Whirlpool. The appliance maker announced that it is planning to replace its WiFi network with a 5G network by AT&T. According to Network World, “the first phase of Whirlpool’s 5G rollout will connect around 80% of the company’s 100 driverless vehicles.”