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5g communication for factory automation summer in the labs

Factory automation describes the use of robots, various machine-tools and sensors in discrete production processes and is an interesting but challenging use case for 5G. In this post, you will get to know how Hubertus did further research within this area during his master thesis at Ericsson Research.

Students from many different fields join Ericsson Research for internships or thesis work. You could be next. Follow our blog to learn about the students at Ericsson Research this summer.

This week we met Hubertus, a student who started at Ericsson in December 2016. He is 26 years old and is studying electrical engineering at RWTH University in Aachen, Germany. His master’s degree is within information and communication technology. Once Hubertus finishes his master’s thesis at the beginning of August 2017, which he has done in the field of industrial communication at Ericsson Research, he will then join the team as a research engineer.

Improving industrial machine communication through 5G

Hubertus has been working with ultra-reliable low-latency machine communication in 5G. He has been focusing on the radio interface creating protocols on the medium access layer. The challenge has been to avoid packet losses in the transmission, something machines are sensitive to – unlike humans browsing webpages. A packet contains information to be delivered between machines like data from a movement sensor that is needed for the motion planning of an industrial robot. When information like this is lost, production in a factory is likely to stop.

Name: Hubertus Andreas Munz
Unit: Industrial communication
Education: Information & communication
technology at RWTH Aachen University
Location: Aachen, Germany
Age: 26

Hubertus Andreas Munz

Hubertus told us that today this critical communication is only possible over wired connections with drawbacks on flexibility, cost and increased maintenance efforts and therefore 5G technology is a very hot topic for industrial use cases. This thesis work was not only theoretical but also practical as he had the chance to test his concepts on Software Defined Radios (SDRs) which basically are special radio hardware that can be configured via software. He furthermore could perform measurements with the SDRs in a realistic industrial environment.

Getting to know the industry

Like many others, Hubertus was excited about working at a global company. It has however been a challenge working with industrial communication since he initially needed to learn about the many different and often proprietary communication protocols used in the industry. These protocols are necessary for machines to communicate and differ quite much from typical wireless communication Hubertus had previously encountered. He needed to learn about automation application and new terminologies which took time but was interesting and beneficial for his development within the area.

SDR-boards placed next to an industrial robot used for machining metal work-pieces

SDR-boards placed next to an industrial robot used for machining metal work-pieces

When it comes to his free time Hubertus has since a couple of years back been the coach of a youth water polo team which he trains three times per week. He has previously played himself but eventually had to decide between playing himself or coaching. He chose the latter due to him finding it more rewarding to coach others than to play himself.

Being able to work with 5G was one of the big reasons Hubertus chose Ericsson Research. He believes that 5G will enable numerous changes that have not been possible before with any other wireless communication system. Having studied communication technology, he was aware of Ericsson and its core business.

Hubertus is part of a diverse team at Ericsson working within different areas. He is part of the same team as Raphael, who was featured in a previous blog post who works with VR technology and 360° video streaming. Beyond this, the team also does research within car communication which is another upcoming technology.


Facts about Aachen

  • Residents: ~ 245 000
  • Students at RWTH Aachen University: ~ 44 000
  • Latitude/Longitude: 50°46′35″ N , 6°05′00″ E
  • Aachen is known for being the westernmost city in Germany, located close to the borders of Belgium and the Netherlands.
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