Coal, steam and oil helped to fuel the industrial revolutions we read about in history books. But as time passes and a new decade approaches – one that promises even higher levels of digital innovation and disruption – it’s becoming ever more clear that 5G mobile network technology will help power the so-called Industrial Revolution 4.0.
And that fact will have significant implications for enterprises, along with payments and commerce, even if any of the effects remain relatively vague at this point in time.
A big part of this new industrial revolution, at least according to scholars and other observers, is the rise of what are commonly called “smart factories,” which, among other things, feature a new level of automation and efficiency. Such capabilities can’t really be enjoyed without the fast and reliable transmission of data, and that’s where the emerging 5G mobile technology comes in.
Smart Factory Plans
Sweden-based telecommunications firm Ericsson provides a recent example of how this might all play out, at least initially. According to a report from late September in TechRepublic.com, Ericsson plans to open in 2020 a 30,000-square-foot smart factory in Texas that “will use 5G to create advanced antenna system radios to boost network coverage” for further 5G deployments. “Ericsson is creating the first greenfield, 5G-enabled smart factory,” according to that report.
In its own previous announcement about the Texas factory, Ericsson said that “5G connectivity will enable agile operations and flexible production. This will be achieved through automated warehouses, connected logistics and automated assembly, packing and product handling, and the use of autonomous carts.” Not only that, Ericsson said, but “over time, activities to support new product introduction will also be added to the new factory operations as local competence and knowledge of 5G is built.” And, of course, the factory promises to further fuel the deployment of 5G mobile technology.
Images and Robots
As retailers and payments services providers try to craft their best use cases for 5G mobile technology – for one, it could help merchants offer more visual experiences to customers via augmented and virtual reality – so, too, are enterprises and companies involved in the so-called Industrial Revolution 4.0 also doing the same.
According to another recent report about this trend, this one from RCRWireless.com, that could involve more use of images and visuals in industrial settings – for example, better deployments of video within factories. The publication quoted one 5G expert as saying “with 5G, you can put more video cameras up in a big facility to monitor where folks are going and what they’re doing. Then bring analytics into the picture to increase efficiency. Speed really matters when you’re adding that many cameras.”
More efficient use of factory robotics, along with a significant increase in the number of Internet of Things sensors that can be used, also stand as coming benefits of 5G in the enterprise and industrial worlds. Indeed, it’s not only Ericsson that is trying to get a leg up in this part of the 5G future, but also other such powerhouse companies as Samsung and Deutsche Telekom (DT).
A good description of such work – specifically, as it involves DT – comes from Fiercewireless.com. “EK Automation, which manufactures automated guided vehicle systems, worked with DT to equip transport robots with 3D cameras,” that recent report stated. “Technicians integrated 3D obstacle detection with dynamic route planning into the DT Edge Cloud. The transport robot sends the 3D camera images to the cloud for analysis almost in real time via the Deutsche Telekom 5G network. This enabled the vehicle to immediately avoid obstacles placed in the roadway.”
Other Areas for 5G
Enterprise healthcare operations also are looking to 5G to improve things in the coming years, via tasks that promise to impact pricing, billing and payments. Hospitals already are thinking about how to best equip themselves for 5G technology and what use it will bring, hooking up to the Internet of Things (IoT) as part of larger efforts to embrace digital, a push that will bring new efficiencies to recordkeeping, payments and the daily practice of medicine.
Those trends reportedly are playing out at Chicago-based Rush University Medical Center. “The first step, though, is for Rush to digitize health records and move all of the hospital’s various apps and services into the cloud,” the report said, adding that the hospital has some 400 applications involved in this technical effort.
That move to digital records and 5G presents challenges for hospitals and medical offices, though. As the report on the work at Rush describes, “many of the hospital’s physicians and staff use iPhones and iPads. That could create problems … considering Apple is widely expected to skip 5G this year and instead release its first 5G phone in the fall of 2020. In the meantime … Rush plans to get Android 5G devices up and running shortly.”
The new 5G deployments and ideas are looking into a world that is being created before our very eyes — one that is likely to impact all of us before too long, either indirectly or directly.