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5G Networks are Ready to Open the Floodgates of Innovation

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5G networks deliver the versatility and flexibility to support millions of IoT devices and sensors in a way that 4G or LTE couldn’t.

While there have been countless advances in technology in recent decades that have paved the way to the next intelligent industrial revolution, 5G networks may be the force that puts it all over the top.   5G – particularly in industries such as manufacturing and transportation – may

In a recent podcast, Chris Pearson, president of 5G Americas, explained how he sees a significant impact unfolding within these sectors, with 5G delivering “versatility and flexibility.” The emerging protocol will support “millions of IoT devices and sensors in a way that 4G or LTE couldn’t,” he states. For example, vehicles are increasingly being linked to the cloud – and one another – via emerging 5G-enabled vehicle-to-everything (V2X) protocols. “Although safety is at the forefront of what we want in automobile connections, there’s much more that can happen,” Pearson says. “We want cars to be connected to an overall wireless ecosystem, which includes carriers and partners.”

On the factory floor where cars are made, robots, robotics, and system automation are also seeing a major boost with 5G, according to a report from Ericsson. “Smart robots and their control systems have enabled entire processes, like vehicle assembly, to be carried out automatically. By adding mobility to the mix, the possibilities to include system automation in almost any process in almost any industry increase dramatically.”

In the process, “cloud robotics puts systems intelligence in the cloud and simplified robotics on the ground,” the report’s co-authors, led by Marzio Puleri, point out. “Within this model, mobile technology plays the key enabler role — connecting the cloud-based system to the robots and controllers in a system. High-performance mobility will provide the latency and bandwidth needed to support system stability and information exchange, which in turn facilitates the building of sophisticated yet affordable robotic systems.  Within mobile, radio technologies will provide the wanted level of performance, and so it is the capabilities of 4G and 5G radio systems that will enable 5G cloud robotics and facilitate the uptake of robotics in new applications.”

Industries that will see benefits from 5G-powered cloud robotics include the following Puleri and his team state:

Manufacturing: “Cloud robotics will improve the performance of a production plant, for example, through preventive maintenance, and support advanced lean manufacturing. By storing intelligence in the cloud, it is possible to increase the level of automation of a system, regulate on-the-fly processes, and prevent malfunction and faults.”

Healthcare: “Emerging applications include robot-assisted remote patient care, automation and optimization of hospital logistics, and cloud-based medical service robots. As is the case in most industries, initial solutions will take care of simple tasks, with development leading to more complex and demanding applications, such as remote surgery, further down the line.”

Transportation: “Driver-assisted, autonomous, and semiautonomous vehicles, automatic transportation for the disabled, and unmanned delivery services are just some of the emerging applications in transportation. And in consumer services, domestic robots, automated wheelchairs, personal mobility assistants, and leisure robots exemplify the types of solutions on the design table.”

The rising level of intelligence in robots across various industry sectors enables them “to adapt to changing conditions, which is positive for development, but significantly increases their complexity,” Puleri and his co-authors state. “By instead connecting robots and placing this complexity – intelligence — in a cloud, affordable minimal-infrastructure smart robot systems with unlimited computing capacity will evolve. At the outset, 4G systems and Wi-Fi will be used to provide cloud robotics with the necessary connectivity, but 5G is the target technology truly capable of delivering the performance needed to support the applications of the future.”

5G capabilities can be quickly established within corporate sites, thanks to a service called network slicing, says Pearson. 4G had such capabilities, but 5G take it to a whole new level.  ”A network operator can go into a vertical industry and provide you your own slice of what would be considered your network, and handle exactly what you need on your manufacturing floor,” he says. “It would be specific to exactly what you want and what you need, and that could be the radio access and the core components. Additionally, we could slice out a piece of spectrum to serve you on your manufacturing floor. Before, with LTE, the architecture wasn’t set up in this way to allow these new technologies.”

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About Joe McKendrick

Joe McKendrick is RTInsights Industry Editor. He is a regular contributor to Forbes on digital, cloud and Big Data topics. He served on the organizing committee for the recent IEEE International Conference on Edge Computing (full bio). Follow him on Twitter @joemckendrick.

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