Understanding 5G – The Backbone of the Industrial Internet
A data-driven “fourth industrial revolution” has long been predicted. Now the backbone of that platform is finally becoming a reality. The long-promised benefits of cyber-physical industrial systems are in sight.
The year 2019 will be remembered as the year when true mobile connectivity for the Internet of Things (IoT) finally took off. Today, not a week goes by without another announcement of a new 4G NB-IoT / LTE-M network rollout. Yet the future for the industry is already speeding towards the fifth generation (5G) wireless communication technology.
5G promises blazing fast speed, barely noticeable latency (or communication response time), and vastly increased capacity. All four major US carriers have green-light test networks and partial deployments in some cities.
The benefits of marrying the physical world with digital technologies have been debated for what seems like a generation. Many industries could use the information gathered from connected systems to gain critical insights about their operations and how to make improvements that make a real difference to their bottom line. While 4G is already creating dramatic improvements for industries around the world, 5G is creating the bigger buzz.
Data alone is not enough
Jani Vilenius, Director of Research and Technology at Sandvik, says data is already driving industry around the world: “Everyone is already collecting and using data to some extent. But improved connectivity is needed to really use the data and add business value. When we add more artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and speech / image recognition to everyday systems, the bandwidth requirements mean that 5G is inevitable to take advantage of the new possibilities. ”
Industry 4.0 should have delivered these benefits, but until now it was missing a crucial element. For the idea of a collaborative, adaptive, real-time industrial digital system to become a reality, a truly flexible communications infrastructure is needed.
Beyond step-by-step improvement
But in reality, the difference between 4G and 5G is not the same as comparing one iPhone model to another, it is more like comparing a horse and buggy to an electric race car.
Yes, 3G and 4G technology is usually equated with smartphones. That’s because the systems are designed for voice and mobile data, respectively. And while it’s true that 5G’s dramatic speed increases mean so much more than just higher-quality streaming and blazing-fast downloads, the fact that it’s designed from the ground up for data connectivity will be the game changer.
Faster connectivity and low to no latency provide operational benefits in every industry in the world. So far, there has only been talk, but now that test systems are in place, those operational benefits are becoming apparent.