Key takeaway from Hannover Messe: 5G is breaking into the industry mainstream
Last week, Ericsson made an impact in terms of visitor engagement, partnership development and media coverage. Out of 6500 exhibitors and countless robot demos from established automation players, our 5G human-machine collaboration with the car manufacturer Audi & sensor vendor SICK made German Chancellor Angela Merkel uncharacteristically joyful.
Several mentions of 5G at the opening ceremony and photos that captured the Chancellor’s genuine reaction, ensured a steady flow of interested parties to the Ericsson booth throughout the week. Boasting a live 5G network and interactive showcases, Ericsson’s presence was attracting direct dialogue with end-customers and triggering discussions with ecosystem players. Multiple governmental delegates were hosted in Hall 8, and Ericsson even received a royal audience from Prince Carl-Philip of Sweden.
Five years ago, an Ericsson exhibit would have been unforeseen, but with the merge of ICT and operational technologies and notably, the cancellation of CEBIT, Hannover Messe stands out as the platform to reach a global manufacturing audience. The total number of visitors to the fair is also growing, reaching 215000 this year. The event has truly become an international affair with 60% of exhibitors coming from outside Germany.
The best way to predict the future is to create it
The noticeable shift from previous fairs is that industry conversation now includes mobile communication, encouraging dialogue on wireless technologies. A foreign concept to most just a year ago, a critical mass of innovators and early adopters are creating the momentum needed to question the status quo. While only 6% of operations are wireless in factories today*, the industrial audience at large as well as established players are responding to this “new” technology standard.
While recent public announcements of 5G commercial contracts and deployments might not have gone unnoticed, industrial interest for mobile networks is now palpable. As a representative from a large IT vendor exclaimed: “What happened in the past two months? Everybody is now talking about 5G!”.
Impressive technical features make it easier to start a conversation, but it doesn’t necessarily lead to new business. To cut through the noise at Hannover Messe, stakeholders must be able to understand and evaluate mobile communication as a solution.
With partners in almost all showcases, social proof is strong, speeding up acceptance. But at the end of the day, all that matters is the product market fit; a successful translation of needs and conditions of a target market into a product that can be sold.
Product is still king
While presenting aspects like built-in security and global IoT management is valuable, the simplest concept to embrace is a tangible product. Especially at manufacturing fairs, enterprises come to peruse the next generation of machines and robots where the benefits are understood and the price familiar – neither of which is the case here with mobile communication.
Fortunately, with not one, but two recent private network launches, Ericsson’s product portfolio was made concrete to different market segments. While assessing Ericsson Industry Connect, a visitor declared: “you are doing this exactly right”, referring to the ease of use and simple deployment of the network. When attempting to break into the mainstream, ideas must be accessible and solutions democratic.
Make wireless tangible
The challenge with network products is that they must be presented in conjunction with something else to showcase the actual value. This can create confusion being a newcomer in this market; enabling an Automated Guided Vehicle is not the same as selling that Automated Guided Vehicle. Fortunately, with active partners like SAP and Hexagon, Ericsson’s role is made more apparent to all.
With Automated Guided Vehicles running on Industry Connect in Hall 7, SAP were pleased to report that “everything just works”, leaving behind instability issues of the past.
By connecting Hexagon’s handheld metrology tools, factory employees are able to measure on the fly, 3D scanning 1-2 million points per second. This is just one of many applications Industry Connect can enable in Scania’s Smart Factory Lab in Södertälje. Benefits include lower maintenance cost and higher flexibility, not to mention measurements of higher quality than if the tools were connected on Wi-Fi. Normally dimensioning a part of a truck, the interactive demo drew a big crowd when making a digital copy of a business builder's face.
Switch on 5G
In sectors where wireless is met with lower confidence, a new, extraordinary standard can redefine perceptions. Creating experiences where visitors can feel the contrast in capabilities is the most effective approach. Our most compelling demo was the "edge cloud robot in perfect sync", which could run on two different modes. While the hexapod moves, and even dances seamlessly on extreme low latencies, one visitor concluded that “the spider looks creepy on 4G”, its six legs shaking wildly. Thus, making an undeniable case for 5G supporting massive robot collaboration.
With over 50 rotating business builders and experts manning 21 proof points, mindsets were expanded as visitors could experience how to “be limitless with 5G”. Of course, starting with 4G will mitigate many industry pain points already, but the evolution to 5G finally rivals wired communications, delivering on the holy grail of Industry 4.0; namely flexibility.
Value propositions delivering on this capability will resonate immediately, accelerated by the fact that current connectivity complexities make digital transformation and data-driven operations difficult to scale.
Besides Ericsson’s physical touchpoints, the consistent message in multiple keynotes was that the need for mobility is increasing in most industry segments, driven by efficiency demands, but also propagated by new technologies and intelligent automation.
Business is no longer linear
Although focus on strategic collaboration is nothing new, and was prevalent in the Ericsson booth, the best manifestation of changing business dynamics was the Swedish Pavilion. Taking co-lab to the next level, the total amount of partners used to demonstrate “Flexible Production and Next Generation Employees” was 47.
At Hannover Messe, it became evident that the recipe to succeed with Industry 4.0 is tight partnerships - both across the stack and throughout segments to create the ecosystem of the future.
This is especially true when positioning mobile communications in a new market; several fronts must be engaged simultaneously to build a new end-to-end foundation.
On April 1st, the ABB partnership was a timely announcement, the joint vision of intelligent wireless automation for flexible factories strengthening both companies in the manufacturing space.
In Ericsson’s Ringside Session on AI and 5G, ABB’s Chief Digital Officer, Guido Jouret, summarized that manufacturing needs a more agile digital backbone, moving from binary actions to build the proactive networks of tomorrow.
Looking back, the event signaled a departure from 5G and wireless technologies being a niche in manufacturing, making a considerable leap, opening the concepts for mainstream consumption. Granted, the journey from interest to investment can be long, but will be shortened if the value of adopting the technology is made tangible and accessible to non-telco audiences. And it will be even shorter if demonstrated through partnerships with a clear mission!
*source HMS, Ericsson Partner