Future Factory: How 5G will transform industry, networking and communications

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Manufacturing looks set to become one of the first industries to be transformed by 5G. Until now, the full potential of IoT has not been fully realised as network capacity, speed and latency have been barriers. 5G could remove all these obstacles.

Smart factory

Understanding how vital 5G will be to the development of businesses in the manufacturing sector is the subject of an EY report that concluded: “Despite the positive investment profile associated with IoT — and its status as a key driver of the ‘fourth industrial revolution’ — a surprising number of enterprises are still not sold on its fundamentals. 40% of enterprises cite poor understanding of IoT technology benefits and use cases as a concern, the joint-top answer. IoT’s game-changing potential may be lost if these basic concerns are not addressed.”

Indeed, Greg Corlis, Managing Director, Advisory and Global IoT Leader, KPMG in the US also commented: “What surprises me the most is that companies are failing to see the impending disruption that integrated data and IoT is bringing to every industry. Manufacturers large or small are in no way insulated from this disruption.”

One major area of concern as IoT becomes a reality is how security will be managed across these diverse networks. Says Andrea Carcano, Co-founder and Chief Product Officer at Nozomi Networks: “There are a number of challenges that manufacturers will face in their efforts to harness 5G and at the forefront of these challenges will be security and overcoming resistance to change. Many legacy manufacturing facilities have well-documented security risks. The temptation is always to leverage this new technology for business benefit; the return on investment often makes a compelling case. The danger is that the legacy networks and systems are not modernized and remain indefensible with the result being an even greater exposure to cyber born threats within manufacturing.”

Also, research from Ericsson reveals: 79% of respondents to their survey said concerns around data security and privacy were a barrier to more IoT investment (up from 60% in 2016). This was followed by fears of a lack of standards (76%). So, while companies are now more aware of how to exploit 5G technologies across their organization, they still have some way to go to overcome the key barriers to actually using the technology.

The smart factory also brings together several technologies to work in unison: IoT is typically integrated with cloud services, which themselves are AI enabled. Industry 4.0 requires fast connected networks, but also the ability to interrogate the masses of information generated to direct production more efficiently and of course, identify problems as they occur. IBM calls this cognitive manufacturing.

“Creating new value from manufacturing data: Cognitive technologies look deeply into a manufacturing process and business environment to derive information that has tangible value for a manufacturer,” IBM describes. “The process considers new data sources as well as unstructured data and applies advanced analytical models to find significant relationships that weren’t revealed in the data before.”

The UK already has a 5G enabled factory. In February of this year, the Worcester Bosh factory became a test facility for 5G technologies to realize the potential that IoT and associated services could deliver. Carl Arntzen, CEO of Worcester Bosch said: “It’s important to our business to have the real-time element 5G brings so that we can react in real time in the factory environment to mitigate any losses in output and protect and grow our business bottom line.”

Also, Tiago Rodrigues, General Manager of the Wireless Broadband Alliance, notes: “One important aspect of 5G that is critical to industrial IoT is the broadening of the 3GPP identity model. Significantly, 3GPP has recently adopted the same extensible authentication framework used by the Wi-Fi industry for over 15 years. This means that the same EAP methods used to authenticate Wi-Fi devices, including PKI based certificates, as well as usernames and passwords, can be used within an industrial 5G environment.”

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