Cellular networks deliver industrial IoT connectivity – cut the cables for flexible production
Manufacturers may not need to know all the in-and-outs of networks and wireless technology, but I think they should know this much: cellular provides one simple, wireless solution to IoT and a fully digitalized industry.
Industry 4.0 is happening now. Technologies related to IoT, intelligent automation and cyber-physical systems are transforming the industrial site as we know it. All these applications need mobility and instantaneous support provided by cellular networks.
At the same time, connected products are redefining offerings, and therefore what a manufacturer is. Everything from a ballpoint pen to heavy machinery can be enhanced "as a service". When manufacturers can co-create offerings based on direct user feedback, the customer's bond with a product and brand grows stronger.
Cellular networks are not only relevant to optimizing industrial production processes, connected products on the consumer and enterprise markets rely on it, too. As networks evolve from LTE to 5G, cellular becomes even more powerful, as does the value cellular enables.
Cellular supports both massive and critical communications for IIoT
We usually divide Industrial IoT (IIoT) into two categories: massive and critical. Massive refers to the massive type of communication needed for connected tools, simple automatic machines and Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs). All these examples are staples of the smart factory.
Sensors are also included in this category. Based on our own Ericsson factories, we predict that there will be up to one sensor added per 2m2 in future plants. Here, cellular IoT technologies like Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) or Cat-M1 are a perfect fit, thanks to their wide broadcast area and low energy consumption.
Critical IoT, on the other hand, requires very high, real-time connectivity in order to work. Use cases for critical communication includes everything from remote control of underground mining equipment to self-driving buses. With 5G comes a much greater capacity to handle real-time data, making critical IoT a reality faster.
Another consequence of these critical capabilities is that intelligence will be moved from the machines and up to the cloud. This is when mobile robots will collaborate with each other, and humans, in real time.
For both main application categories, cellular passes the '3S test' of being Stable, Secure, and Simple. While other wireless technologies may check a couple of the boxes, none can fulfil that trifecta like cellular can.
Cellular makes it easier for SMEs to develop IoT solutions for manufacturing
Sometimes being rooted in tradition can be a disadvantage. Digitalization can prove difficult for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) around the world, both because of the initial financial investment, and the lack of in-house knowledge.
The transition to Industry 4.0 is a must for SMEs. Digitalization supports competitiveness of these businesses, which in turn secures jobs, and also supports a strong and attractive manufacturing sector.
One solution is to automate legacy equipment that wasn't "born smart" using a combination of sensors and electro-pneumatics. The ready-availability of cellular coverage makes it cheaper and faster for SMEs to connect retrofit equipment, which could be located in remote or hard to reach locations.
Catch the wave of Industry 4.0
I'm not just a tech geek, but also a surfer, so waves are always on my mind. Today, there is a massive wave of digitalization headed our way. As it swells, the question is: are you going to just dip your toes in the water, or are you ready to swim out and surf that wave?
Of course, it takes some time to learn how to surf, so you better start learning now. That's where my colleagues and I come in, we're ready to swim out there with you and catch that wave before it peaks.