How 5G URLLC and edge computing can make smart factories smarter

How 5G URLLC and edge computing can make smart factories smarter
Comarch is a stable, experienced provider of innovative IT products for multiple industries, including telecommunications, banking, airlines, petrol stations, and utilities.

5G has brought a lot of hopes and dreams to the telecommunications industry, promising communication and digital service providers a way to open up new revenue streams and monetization models. Yet, for most CSPs, this hasn’t come to fruition.

Now, this can change. Thanks to 5G URLLC and edge computing, telecoms can become the main enablers for manufacturing automation based on 5G networks with the use of intent-driven orchestration, realizing the smart factory concept.

The concept of a smart factory

What makes a factory smart? There is a significant difference between traditional factories and the concept of a smart factory. While both refer to a physical place where manufacturing happens, the way in which they operate is very different.

Traditional factories need to be built for specific companies, with very strict requirements. Most of the time they aren’t digitized at all, and if they are it is at a low level.

The concept of a smart factory incorporates digitization and the use of various modern technologies, including artificial intelligence, machine learning, edge computing, and drones. It’s hyperflexible and adapts to the changing needs of its owner/tenant.

What’s needed to make this happen?

5G URLLC as the ultimate enabler of smart factories

5G URRLC can be perceived as a game-changer when it comes to the proliferation of smart factories. Previously, many IoT applications couldn’t be served by wireless technology. Solutions such as “factory floor” were strictly in the wired domain and, prior to 5G URRLC, wireless technology could not meet these requirements.

Now, 5G URLLC has the potential to change this.

5G has huge potential to become a real enabler for more advanced automation and digitization for Industry 4.0. Unlike previous wireless technology, thanks to URLLC combined with MEC, 5G can be a viable alternative to wired factory floor solutions which require ultra-reliability and latency below 10ms.

Getting rid of wires even for static factory assembly lines provides much more agility in reconfiguration of the factory floor. This, combined with a new network architecture, allows PLC softwarization and the implementation of cloud computing, which then facilitates more advanced manufacturing systems automation software.

How operators can take advantage of smart factories

Communication and digital service providers, after having made huge investments in 5G, expect it to return the favor with a significant increase in revenue. This is possible, especially when it comes to smart factories, but the operators need to get their strategy right.

Some might want to approach the mega factories—big players with a lot of spaces in different locations. This might seem like a good idea, but it can be tricky. Mega factories have the financial resources to deploy solutions internally, without involving a middle-man such as an operator.

The takeaway from that? CSPs should be targeting other, smaller players. SMBs (small and medium-sized businesses) can be a more promising target, given their need for flexibility and out-of-the-box solutions.

Curious about how exactly to approach the subject as an operator? Discover the answer to this and other burning questions in the white paper titled ‘Edge Computing and 5G URLLC: Making Smart Factory Smarter’.

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