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Why Will 5G Propel Industrial IoT to New Heights of Innovation?

The arrival of 5G in manufacturing and other industrial settings has opened many opportunities for companies to capitalize on the Internet of Things (IoT). Industrial IoT applications range from mobile robots to predictive maintenance sensors and more. When people explore 5G IoT technology options, they can benefit from the offerings of each innovation, allowing their industrial facilities to become more innovative and competitive.

Using 5G IoT Technology for Better Positioning Accuracy

Many businesses use mobile robots, automated guided vehicles and other connected equipment that move around facilities with little to no human input. One project involved relying on 5G in manufacturing to increase the position-related accuracy associated with these machines. Precision localization is critical in crowded industrial environments where people usually work closely with machines.

Two organizations collaborated on a proof of concept in an industrial factory. The work centred on putting several receive antennas on 5G nodes so the network could detect the angles of incoming signals.

Researchers conducted numerous experiments in a realistic factory environment, with results showing their solution offered accuracy within 50 centimetres across 90% of the facility. Some tests indicated this innovation could track mobile robots throughout the factory in real-time. This 5G IoT technology application increases safety while streamlining workflows and helping managers maximize their assets. 

Controlling Industrial IoT Applications in a Different Country

Ultra-low latency is one reason why applications of 5G in manufacturing are so popular. That characteristic becomes essential when factories require machine-to-machine communications. Excessive delays could make the equipment impractical to use or even dangerous.

Researchers are eager to see how ultra-low latency could give manufacturers unprecedented control over operations. Many factories already have remote monitoring platforms that allow authorized users to see everything happening in the environment, whether at home, travelling or otherwise in off-site locations.

In one case, a group demonstrated an industrial IoT solution that simultaneously controls assets in two countries. They verified the maximum communication delay over 10,000 kilometres was only 0.3 seconds, depending on the direction of the information flow. The experiments involved controlling a South Korean factory’s connected assets from Finland.

The team’s achievement introduced a new remote manufacturing diversification service that allows users to exert independent control over factories at home and abroad. Such solutions help industrial leaders enjoy more consistent factory productivity despite geographical distance.

This setup enabled numerous applications, including:

  • Controlling and monitoring mobile robots throughout facilities
  • Manipulating virtual reality manufacturing processes 
  • Gathering sensor data for better equipment oversight

The researchers believe their work will support 5G IoT technology applications that don’t require on-site operation. Their future work includes further mobility and connectivity tests, plus the implementation of hyperspatial services.

Tackling Labor Shortages

The leaders of industrial facilities frequently need more people to cover various shifts. However, training new hires takes time, as does finding and interviewing candidates. Some decision-makers take a different approach by seeing how automation could fill some labour gaps. For example, automated welding products can provide more consistent quality and better productivity for brands using them.

The combination of industrial IoT applications and the 5G network also enables business leaders to pursue innovation through lights-out manufacturing, which allows production to occur continuously without human oversight. In one example, a Malaysian electronics company installed a 5G network to proceed with plans to automate surface-mount technology assembly in the facility.

This investment became part of an 80,000-square-meter production area, representing a 45% expansion of its manufacturing footprint. Executives expected numerous advantages, such as better quality control and a 24/7 production schedule.

Transitioning to lights-out operations requires significant planning, but people can still address labour shortages without going to that extent. Some manufacturers prioritize automation to increase safety. This approach often involves employees working alongside robots, allowing the machines to handle monotonous or dangerous tasks.

Enabling Better Sustainability and Growth in Operations

Many consumers prefer to support sustainable organizations. This increased demand has encouraged decision-makers to consider how to prove to current and potential customers their operations conserve resources, involve responsible shipping decisions, improve products to make them easier to recycle, and more.

A 2023 study found 81% of enterprise representatives cited environmental, social, and governance as a leading or important principle in their 5G investments. Additionally, 57% of those polled said investments would occur within three years. 

Many respondents brought up 5G and industrial IoT applications when asked about their growth plans. For example, 30% said they’d use the IoT to overhaul existing strategies. Moreover, 80% anticipated using 5G IoT technology solutions, such as virtual reality headsets.

One way to capitalize on sustainability is to focus on applications that provide better visibility. Then, people can find and fix excessive resource usage and other issues. Consider a 5G effort aiming to connect 25 farms spanning more than 250,000 acres — those overseeing the project will get creative when installing the necessary infrastructure. They’ll use existing grain storage facilities up to 120 feet tall. Once operational, this technology will help farmers spot crop diseases earlier, letting them use smaller quantities of insecticide. 

However, then agricultural professionals were particularly excited about the moisture-management sensors. Farmers owning non-contiguous land over many miles typically must drive to individual fields to check watering needs since they can vary drastically. However, IoT sensors connected to the 5G network can give real-time statistics, showing users the exact fields to water at which times.

These benefits can also support manufacturing facilities by indicating which connected machines to service before breakdowns occur. Such applications support sustainability because failing or non-optimized equipment may use more energy.

A Promising Future for 5G in Manufacturing and Beyond

The ability to innovate faster is an appealing reason to use 5G in manufacturing, but the advanced network can support any leaders overseeing industrial settings. Whether they want to tighten quality control or raise output, industrial IoT applications can assist in reaching those goals and many others. However, the best plans to incorporate these technologies require significant forethought.

You must consider factors such as the budget, associated implementation timelines, and whether the facility will expand or get reconfigured to maximize the results. It’s also a good idea to revisit how you use the 5G network for industrial IoT needs periodically. What works well already and how could further improvements occur? Answering those questions and getting feedback from everyone involved facilitates a goal-oriented culture.

Emily Newton is the Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized Magazine. She has over six years experience writing articles for the tech and industrial sectors. Subscribe to the Revolutionized newsletter for more content from Emily at https://revolutionized.com/subscribe/
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