Three key test cases for industrial 5G being explored by AT&T and Samsung
AT&T and Samung have revealed a number of initial use-case experiments for industrial 5G at the duo’s new ‘Innovation Zone’ within Samsung’s semiconductor factory on Austin, Texas.
These include tests of robotics, industrial IoT, and mixed reality applications, allied to 5G, LTE and Wi-Fi connectivity, and variously geared towards improving efficiency, safety, security, and operational performance.
AT&T said the test cases draw on “real world issues”. The connectivity mix will lean increasingly on 5G as additional 5G devices become available, it said. The new venue, located within the Samsung Austin Semiconductor facility, works as a drop-in zone and a collaboration environment, and the use cases are arranged as interactive demos for visitors.
The pair claim the venue, announced last year, is the first “manufacturing focused 5G innovation zone” in America. The Samsung semiconductor fab collects data from thousands of machines, noted AT&T.
“Adding 5G into the mix can enable manufacturers to enhance the scale and volume of data collection, improve process flexibility by eliminating wires and improve the ability to process data in near real time,” it said.
“Increased bandwidth and reduced latency would be a gamechanger in improving efficiency and performance on the production floor and predicting issues before they happen. Safety also gets a boost as 5G’s lower latency could enable critical data to get to emergency respondents without lag or delay.”
Mark Louison, senior vice president and general manager for Samsung’s networks division, commented: “These use cases will help us determine how 5G can bring high impact innovations to manufacturing and help pave the way for the smart factories of the future.”
In particular, AT&T and Samsung have revealed three industrial 5G experiments. Here they are, in AT&T’s own words…
1 | Environmental monitoring (sensors)
“Demonstrating how 5G and sensors could help first responders better locate employees and speed up response time in an emergency situation. Keeping employees safe at work is a top priority for manufacturing companies.
“In an emergency situation, 5G’s capacity and reliability can be used to communicate an injured person’s vitals such as heart rate, blood pressure, and temperature directly to first responders during the critical first hour, which can result in faster, more efficient care.”
2 | Material handling (robotics)
“Demonstrating how 5G, 4K live video and IoT sensor data better supports the factory automation process. Advanced manufacturing facilities use automated processes and robotic equipment throughout their production process. 5G can enable large-scale, near real-time monitoring and proactive maintenance of factory automation equipment, helping to improve production.
“An automated material handling system equipped with IoT sensors and 4K wireless cameras will demonstrate remote monitoring of factory automation equipment. With 5G, this type of automation could be equipped with a full suite of devices to collect important data on acceleration, position, temperature, humidity, and gas flow rates.”
3 | Staff training (mixed reality)
“Demonstrating how 5G and mixed reality can be used to train employees. 5G has the potential to educate. Mixed reality technology – using tools such as wireless augmented reality (AR) glasses along with low latency content delivery from the edge – can provide an untethered method to virtually train hundreds of employees, providing immersive and immediate access to equipment diagnostics, as well as directions for repairs.”
Meanwhile, the AT&T Foundry in Plano, Texas, is also making noises about experimenting with 5G in the enterprise space. “Nowhere is 5G’s promise currently more powerful than in the enterprise,” said Vishy Gopalakrishnan, vice president of ecosystem and innovation at AT&T, in a blog post.
“While 4G was primarily about faster speeds, 5G brings a range of new capabilities that will ultimately change almost everything about how we live and work. In addition to faster speed, 5G was designed from the ground up for low latency, energy efficiency, and widespread connectivity. The network is going to become not just faster, but closer and smarter, too,” he said.
Gopalakrishnan noted the impact of 5G and edge computing on industrial AR applications, as well. “4G struggles to power that sort of experience, but 5G was built for it,” he said.
“When a piece of specialised equipment breaks down, businesses don’t always have an onsite engineer qualified to make that repair. Augmented reality could eventually offer a perfect solution. Using lightweight, unobtrusive AR headsets, remote engineers could guide onsite technicians through the repair process using context-sensitive 3D animations streamed across the network.”
There are other enterprise and industrial applications that will hinge on advanced LTE, and ultimately 5G, of course, and AT&T has announced a deal with Israeli startup Vorpal to scale its drone detection and tracking technology.
At the Foundry setup in Plano, AT&T has devised a network-edge test environment, which connects drone-tracking sensors via LTE and 5G, as well as cloud services from Microsoft Azure.
Gopalakrishnan said: While consumers will benefit from 5G, we think 5G is going to be led initially by businesses looking to optimise their operations and deliver unique capabilities for their customers.”