Detmold, 5 March, 2018. Last week, the Mobile World Congress, the leading trade fair for the mobile radio and communications sector, opened its doors in Barcelona. A key topic for exhibitors and visitors to the trade fair was 5G – the next mobile radio network generation, which is expected to be 100 times faster than previous standards. But it's not just in the private sector where the topic is getting so much attention: companies too are becoming increasingly interested in the new 5G standard. 5G networks are making an important contribution to the implementation of Industry 4.0, and are fundamental components in the digitalisation of production and new value-creation systems. When permanently wireless machine data is collected at the same time that digital assistance systems such as data goggles are being used, this calls for powerful mobile networks.
In industrial applications, the new mobile radio standard 5G is expected to help further promote digitalisation within production and to support the faster networking of machines
"One challenge associated with digitalisation is the smart transport of data and the creation of the necessary infrastructure", explains Dr Patrick Benjamin Bök, Head of the Global Digitalization division at Weidmüller. "This challenge is faced not only by us as a company, but also by other industry sectors such as the automotive industry. In order to ensure that everything is functioning correctly within an industrial environment, however, there are particular requirements that need to be met", adds Dr Jan Stefan Michels, Head of Standards and Technology Development at Weidmüller. "These include, for example, the absolute reliability and availability of the communication even in harsh production conditions, the option of operating "private" 5G networks without the mandatory involvement of mobile service providers, and diagnostics and error rectification when using provider-operated networks. At the same time, we need to work together with mobile service providers to develop business models for machine-to-machine communication, because this type of communication is operated in a fundamentally different manner than the one seen in smartphones and telephone services".
In order to ensure that these requirements are taken into account in the development and implementation of the standard, this topic was last year addressed by the German central association of the electrical engineering and electrical industry (ZVEI). Michels is represented in the work group as an expert in the field, and his experience makes a valuable contribution to the process. "It's important to create uniform standards", the technology expert explains. "5G is being used to develop and test technologies and mechanisms designed to enable future-proof communication – and there are many fields of application within the networking of industry".
There are two possible future scenarios in this area: if a 5G mobile network is available from a mobile service provider, then it will be possible to equip devices and machines with 5G interfaces and to connect to the 5G network. "The technologies and mechanisms developed with 5G can also be transferred to a local infrastructure, such as a production company's in-house machine network", explains Michels. In this case, machines are integrated not into the network of a mobile service provider, but into a private network. This is the solution currently preferred by the ZVEI, as it means that companies do not need to wait for 5G to be introduced by mobile service providers.
In addition to the dedication to the topic shown by ZVEI, Weidmüller is also promoting the issue at an international level. Weidmüller is currently participating in an international project together with 16 additional project partners such as the mobile service provider Telefónica and device manufacturers Huawei and Nokia. "As part of the research project '5GTANGO', which is supported by the EU via the funding programme 'Horizon 2020', measures for the qualification of services are to be introduced with the aim of making the 5G networks more flexible in terms of programming, thereby ensuring better scalability", explains Bök, who is responsible for the project at Weidmüller.
For the company, which is increasingly specialising in digitalisation and automation solutions, 5GTANGO provides synergies in its role both as a user (for in-house production) and a provider of solutions for digitalisation. With the pilot project "Smart Manufacturing", Weidmüller is opening up an industrial application scenario, with an IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) test bench being used for this purpose at a production hall in Detmold. "Not only are we providing the infrastructure, we are also defining requirements from an industrial perspective and supporting the research partners such as the Paderborn University in the validation and verification of the developed services", Bök explains. Another important aspect here is the support provided during dissemination and reporting, together with the EU Commission project partners.
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