Industry 4.0 leading the Age of Information in 5G

ASOCS is disrupting the industrial network connectivity market with an open and virtualized software solution that delivers 5G private mobile network solutions in a single software stack.

Introduction

ASOCS presented a unique view on 5G and Industry 4.0 at 5G World 2021 in September and we have put together a summary of the keynote in case you missed it or want to refresh your memory. The main theme of the keynote was 5G, Cloud and in particular the influence and application of Industry 4.0 in driving the development of both.

5G – Cloud – Industry 4.0

Contrary to what you may believe the technology is not leading the trends of change, it is software that is enabling the use of the technology that is the game changer, particularly in private enterprises in manufacturing, referred to as Industry 4.0.

What sets 5G apart from its predecessors is that 5G is pure software and highly configurable with a google of parameters that can be configured. From ASOCS experience, when we configured 5G implementation there were 500,000 parameters to configure as opposed to 10,000 on LTE and around 20 on 2G.

For the interests of clarity, when we talk about Cloud, we are still talking in terms of the main cloud providers like Microsoft Azure, Amazon (AWS) and Google.

Industry 4.0 is where it becomes interesting as they are leading an Age of Information. Technology is not driving changes in trends, it is software that is leading disruption and showing us that 5G is truly an IT technology.

The development of usage in manufacturing

Manufacturers always seemed to shy away from traditional carrier business and service models. Initially they utilized some elements of the public cloud before adopting some operator elements with work arounds on the cloud. The bigger change for them came with EDGE Cloud – on premise managed cloud servers such as Azure Stack EDGE or Outpost.

Under the radar they have changed mindsets by leasing servers on a SaaS style model enabling them to adopt new technologies at an astonishing pace including, for example, AGVs and AI

Procure – Manage – Leverage

The key to rapid adoption has been based on how technology is procured, managed and leveraged.

The EDGE model of paying a lease style monthly payment has turned procurement on its head. Instead of investing €1 million plus on purchasing their own equipment, an upfront cost of only around €10K is required. Being a SaaS style model means that it is elastic – shrink if you need, but more common is a model of pay as you grow with ever increasing benefits on ROI.

Management is also much simpler as it has become part of the daily IT routine as a single pane of glass. An IT Manager does not need to be a cellular communications expert, they simply monitor usage and capacity and manage their requirements on the go.

The real advantage of ORAN 5G is the ability to leverage the knowledge with Marketplace style application sharing. ASOCS has been focussed on Germany as a market. Just in the last year a factory looked to use 5G and AI to improve safety and alert workers of hazardous movements to prevent accidents. Traditionally at high cost they would bring in experts, develop and test and perhaps after two years have the solution in place. However, a factory had already developed a very similar requirement based on 5G and the development had been uploaded for public use. In this case the German factory basically downloaded the implementation like any application Marketplace and adapted it for their needs saving both money and more importantly time.

Common use cases

There are 3 main possible use cases when we look at it from a simple and practical way:

  1. Imaging – cameras driven by delta of events, which can be enhanced by AI. These cases require low investments in terms of both money and integration.
  2. Mobility – autonomous mobility such as AGVs and drones that require super low latency, accurate locations and continuous operations that 5G is ideally suited for.
  3. Sensors – like SCADA – the chances of 5G entering this space soon is minimal as current proven solutions are unlikely to be changed.

How it looks today

The common misconceptions are that the networks need to cover huge plants for hundreds of thousands of devices that combine to create demand for large capacities of data usage.

In fact, in Germany, for example, more than 90% of plants are under 3,000 square meters. Most plants do not get to 1 GB consumption of data usage, much lower than the 2-3 GB banded about by experts.

As for the hundreds of thousands of devices, we already know that sensors are not part of the equation. When we factor in the need for autonomous vehicles and cameras we are looking at 30 to 50 devices.

At these levels costs become extremely affordable.

Governing Dynamics

When we look at the factors driving the evolution the first is private allocation of Spectrum. With South Korea allocating bands three weeks ago nearly all Asian industrialized nations have already allocated Spectrum for private ownership and use. The same is true in Europe, so allocation of Spectrum cannot be considered a hurdle any longer.

We need to understand that this is a Service Industry. Key are integrators from the larger companies such as Infosys and Accenture down to smaller private integration companies.

We have entered an Age of Applications – use cases openly available for all like any App Marketplace.

Although no two plants, factories or sites are the same we have already seen that nearly all can already be categorized by similar requirements, also driving the move to the Age of Applications.

How can Operators Play a role?

It is not going to be easy for traditional operators to play a role in this market. At the core is to shift understanding that businesses today consume services on a flexible monthly service basis. Right now to reach even 20% of the market the main operators will need to adapt.

Firstly, they will need to partner with EDGE providers. Next is to simplify their engagement model – i.e. the commercial model to be SaaS like.

Where some progress has started is to embrace open standards there is a requirement to open up the supply chain – accepting numerous vendors and players in a truly open manner.

ASOCS view

There is massive potential that has been unleashed with 5G – and we have already seen adoption at an astonishing rate. If you require any more information we are happy to chat – please get in contact with us.

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