Despite its ability to significantly elevate performance capability in industrial environments, 5G is yet to take full flight in manufacturing industries. Why?
In this piece, Lorraine During from Digital Catapult – a 5G Factory of the Future partner, bringing private cellular network deployment and integration capability to the project - explores manufacturers’ main concerns around exploring 5G, and offers insights into how 5G could benefit manufacturers across the UK.
Telecommunications have been around for nearly 200 years. The first telegraph was invented back in the 1830s, making communication over long distances possible and changing the way we exchange information forever.
Although whispers of 6G have already started carrying over on the breeze, entering 2022, we’re still sitting firmly in the era of 5G: the 5th generation of mobile network telecommunications, representing a step change in network performance capability.
Through working with businesses across the length and breadth of the country, at Digital Catapult we see how 5G can provide business grade service levels, reliability and availability incomparable with earlier generations. That said, we also recognise that 5G has been disproportionately evangelised – and too prematurely - in recent years, causing many people to lose interest in it altogether. A lack of understanding of what it can provide, and fear it can’t possibly live up to expectations, have also played their part.
Designed for Industry
5G is actually the first mobile technology system that has been designed with the deliberate intention to meet the advanced digital communication and connectivity requirements of industrial environments such as manufacturing.
Unfortunately, despite its power to take digitisation in factories a level up, the UK has been slower than some European nations to invest in industrial digitisation and modernise manufacturing industries and supply chains. As an example, 75 percent of the German companies in most industries have implemented digital solutions, and 15 million employees are directly and indirectly involved in advanced manufacturing industries in Germany.
With waning productivity at the forefront of everyone’s minds, more than ever this year we hope to see a surge in use cases demonstrating 5G’s value to industry, setting off a spiral in meaningful adoption.
At this stage, what are the biggest blockers to 5G taking full flight in the manufacturing industry? How many of manufacturers’ concerns are hearsay, and is there any truth in these? How can we ensure 5G is able to gain real traction in 2022?
“I’m still not sure it’s particularly safe or secure”
Entering 2022, reliable studies showing that 5G is not harmful to public health from leading organisations – such as the World Health Organisation and Public Health England – are taking the place of exaggerated or untrue theories about 5G. 5G operates at a wavelength that does not produce enough energy to cause cell damage at the very moderate levels it is used at.
Its security is also still sometimes called into question. Organisations often wonder whether 5G creates new vulnerabilities that compromise safety and operational integrity, or whether a 5G solution makes it easier or harder to secure a system.
By design, 5G is the most secure publicly available network at the moment. When paired with edge computing, 5G actually offers higher levels of privacy, security and compliance when compared with other networks, as the volume of data that needs to be transmitted through an external network is reduced. It also offers the ability for a 5G network owner/operator to manage their own security programme, including configuration, processes and procedures.
And, as well as dedicated spectrum slices, organisations can create a private 5G network within the factory environment which is highly secure - such as 5GEM, a project including Vodafone that implemented a mobile private network at Ford Motor Company’s Dunton facility, to improve real-time machine monitoring, process analysis and planned maintenance.
This article was featured in The Manufacturer. To read the full article, visit The Manufacturer here.