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Analysis: How Private 5G is key to Industry 4.0

The fourth industrial revolution (Industry 4.0) is expected to provide a digital shift in how companies manufacture their products. Private 5G networks are the key to turning Industry 4.0’s promise into a reality, GSMA Technical Director Jo Gilbert recently wrote for The Manufacturer.

“From the Internet of Things (IoT) to cloud computing, AI and even drones, the raw potential of Industry 4.0 in manufacturing is enormous and critical,” Gilbert said. “We’re looking at a revolution that will increase automation, bring self-maintaining machines, optimize processes improvements and even drive efficiencies to the highest of levels.”

Keep reading to see how private 5G wireless networks can enhance Industry 4.0’s potential.

Fully wireless environment

Wired networks often come with a high price tag and take time to deploy, leading companies to turn to Wi-Fi as a better alternative for connectivity. However, while Wi-Fi provides home and office internet access, it can’t always be counted on to supply consistent connectivity that’s needed on a connected, secure Industry 4.0 network, according to Gilbert. Industrial networks need a wireless combination of indoor and outdoor wireless connectivity with a “near faultless reliability.”

5G cellular technology can provide the type of wireless flexibility that Industry 4.0 networks require. A private 5G network can offer customized, wireless, secure, reliable capabilities for devices and services or the apps within them. Additionally, private 5G networks can guarantee connectivity to non-Industry 4.0 technologies such as automated guided vehicles. This is key for factories to prevent robots from disconnecting from the network and colliding with an on-site worker.

Data can stay more secure

A private 5G network allows businesses to continue to run data analytics, but now more securely. Previously, information was sent from end devices to one central location within a business or its cloud. The data would be processed, and insights would be delivered back to the same devices.

Now, a 5G-powered private network allows data analytics to happen right at the edge of the estate. Devices in various locations throughout a business’ infrastructure can process information immediately, determine if they need to be operating differently and act on that information. Operating on a private 5G network allows businesses to make decisions based on secure information in real time. Additionally, fewer access points are needed, providing more shop floor flexibility and cost savings.

What manufacturers should consider when deploying private 5G

Since private 5G networks are customizable, businesses can set theirs up based on their needs. A manufacturers’ goal for their network, whether it’s additional mobility, lower latency, more reliability, security, more capacity, or a combination of these factors, will determine what’s deployed within their property.

“There’s a lot of choice and one size will never fit all,” Gilbert said. “For example, even when you’ve decided to use a private 5G network, there’s the decision to use a public network integrated NPN (PNI-NPN) – a private network with a back-up connection to a public network – or a completely standalone NPN (SNPN). Your choice will, ultimately, depend on what you want your shop floor to look like, the innovations you want to embrace, and how you see your set-up evolving by making use of new technologies in the future.”

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