Gaurav Verma (Research Manager, IDC Energy Insights)

In these unprecedented times, enterprises have left no stone unturned to ensure business continuity and resilience. Having navigated through one of the worst economic slowdowns, companies are eager to make the most out of the next normal. The fundamental key to success will lie into organizations’ ability to ensure connectivity among their people, processes, and assets.

They all need more consistent investment to ensure effective connectivity at least into critical operational activities. There is already more interest among industrial players in the asset-centric digital initiatives such as IT-OT integration, industrial automation, and remote operations (asset monitoring and smart maintenance).

However, in most cases the adoption of digital initiatives is yet to be scaled up. While in a few cases industrial-grade digital initiatives are already implemented on a large scale, the outcome is not satisfactory and still to be improved in terms of efficiency and performance.

What is preventing end users from realizing the true potential of digital solutions? The lack of robust connectivity infrastructure that can withstand the millions of IIoT sensors and the multitude of OT systems effectively and reliably. As we advance, industrial players require stable network coverage for the enormous amount of operational data generated by disparate sensors to flow seamlessly through machines to the control centre in near real time.

Meeting such needs, 5G is going to play an instrumental role in the future of multiplied innovation.

5G: Taking the Industry 4.0 Concept to the Next Level

5G is not merely an incremental version of 4G/LTE. It is more of a catalyst for enterprises to accelerate their digital transformation. With its solid package of disruptive communication standards (fastest data speed, ultra-low latency, and massive device density), 5G will not only address the existing connectivity challenges, but also be a key enabler of innovative use cases.

An example of such a use case could be a fully automated smart factory — a factory setting in which real-time operations can be intelligently automated at scale, with computing and analytics performed near operational assets using multi-access edge computing. For instance, it would enable the transmission of videos from the production assembly line to the edge to run AI-ML powered real-time video analytics. It could open more avenues for industrial players to unleash new capabilities, such as intelligence at the edge, machine-vision-based defect detection, real-time collaborative operations, and deployment of large-scale autonomous devices.

Leveraging a robust and reliable 5G network communication infrastructure, 3rd Platform technologies can function optimally to support end-to-end near-real-time operations.

In fact, the technology ecosystem started to respond to future opportunities by codeveloping a 5G-based application portfolio. Several new tie-ups are emerging between CSPs and tech giants, such as Verizon and AWS, offering scalable and ultra-low-latency use cases. For example, Verizon’s partnership with IBM will bring 5G, edge compute, AI, and IoT solutions together to offer innovative use cases around Industry 4.0.

Network Slicing Enabling High Performing and Cost-Effective Solutions to Industrial Players

There is a lot of buzz about 5G’s three key features — Massive Machine Type Communications (mMTC), Extreme Massive Broadband (eMBB), and Ultra-reliable and low-latency communications (URLLC). However, the real jewel in the crown is its network slicing feature.

Network slicing works with 4G too but it is very limited, and the scope of the customization is not as sophisticated as what could be achieved in 5G.

5G network slicing allows end users to select a single or a combination of any two of the capabilities. The mobile network operators can virtually segment their network to provide customized levels of service tailored to industrial customers’ network performance requirements to meet, for instance, IIoT-based use case specifications.

With such a curated product, the user will only have to pay for what they use. It will allow end users to run critical operations with high performing features of the network while running the less critical operations at normal speed or bandwidth using the same network architecture.

5G Candidates — Industries and Prominent Use Cases

The greatest beneficiaries of 5G will be manufacturing, the public sector, petrochemicals, oil refineries, EPCs, O&G upstream, utilities, mining, healthcare, and warehouses.

There are several cross-industry use cases where 5G network could be a much-needed performance booster. However, caution must be taken to prioritize use cases that need 5G most, and to do that some key questions must be asked:

  • Does the use case require high speed?
  • Does the use case require very low latency?
  • Does the use case require massive connection density?
  • Can it work on a different radio technology?

Having considered above questions, the following are some use cases for which 5G is the right technology:

  • Connected smart factories
  • Digital twins
  • Real-time intelligent video analytics
  • Asset performance management
  • Automated control systems
  • Real-time asset tracking
  • Drone-based logistics
  • Vision-based quality assurance
  • Smart grids
  • Smart wearables
  • Autonomous hydrocarbon production
  • Smart AR-VR applications

IDC European Industrial IIoT Digital Summit

European industrial companies are applying IoT in the context of digitization. Understanding the opportunities this technology offers beyond process optimization and cost savings is crucial for organizations seeking to maximize the value from the IoT data they collect and to generate innovative business models as a result.

IDC’s European Industrial IoT Digital Summit, to be held on September 24, will be an exclusive knowledge exchange forum for C-level executives.

For more information, please contact Helena Chappell.

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