Astronaut stands at night at street and tries to hitchhike

The smooth factory


January 31, 2020 Hermann Hänle

Do you still remember acoustic couplers? For all those who are younger – let’s say – than 40: it’s a device from the “When the internet learned to walk” category. The first modem (presented at CeBIT in 1990) offered 2,400 bits/second. One year later, its successor was already able to offer a massive data transmission rate of 38.4 kbps. I see your smile. Or is that likely to give you nightmares tonight?

More connectivity, more load – more load, more connectivity

As much as data transmission performance has developed since then into the gigabit range – one thing remains constant: bandwidths are NEVER enough. It’s the chicken or the egg dilemma. The more bandwidth you have, the more you want to do with it. Connectivity inspires our dreams. In the automotive sector, that not only applies to public road traffic, where in a few years, there will be many millions of connected cars, exchanging information with other connected traffic systems and road users. It also applies to the private, protected area of industrial plants where new cars are produced.

Limited mobile campus area networks

Thanks to Wi-Fi, many cables have disappeared at automakers’ and suppliers’ plants over past few years. But not all ideas that digitalization generates can actually be implemented on the basis of Wi-Fi. Think of comprehensively monitoring all devices, machines, and components or autonomous transport. Robots or connected vehicles, which are meant to take over transporting workpieces or materials on the site between various halls, like to take a break if they are monitored and instructed by Wi-Fi. The latency is too high for robots/forklift trucks to run smoothly. Reminds me of the YouTube videos I wanted to watch recently in a Mediterranean hotel (“Wi-Fi included”). That wasn’t much fun.

If you want to optimize the processes at your company and, for example, save on transfer processes, such an experience is not an inconvenience, it’s a killer criterion. If the network infrastructure cannot ensure that processes run efficiently, the idea – however, brilliant it might be – goes right back into the drawer.

5G makes business ideas real

And I bet that would make some ideas reappear on the table at meetings.  One of the reasons: 5G. A different form of edge computing. Both approaches can be optimally integrated on site to implement innovations. Combined with each other, typical round-trip times are shortened from the 240 milliseconds today to 10 milliseconds. Even using 5G alone, an acceleration of around 10 times can be achieved compared to the current LTE standard. With such speed, 1 TB of data takes just 100 seconds to download. Augmented reality and autonomous ‘pack mule’ colleagues are no longer a future vision, but business approaches that can be addressed with confidence. Because the mobile network foundation for it is available.

However, what also makes 5G compelling is that the density of end “devices” that can be managed increases by a factor of 500. From currently approx. 2,000 devices per square kilometer to one million. That then opens the floodgates to a widespread use of industrial IoT for central mobile production control, systems and machine monitoring (predictive maintenance).

About the author
Porträt von Hermann Hänle, Senior Manager, Sales Marketing Automotive, T-Systems

Hermann Hänle

Senior Manager Sales Marketing Automotive, T-Systems International

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