“IoT is meaningless without 5G” – UK puts 5G at heart of industrial-change strategy
“The internet of things is meaningless without 5G.” That was the line this week from Siemens, or at least its UK chief, speaking as chair of the UK government’s new industrial change strategy, which makes 5G its linchpin.
Juergen Maier, chief executive at Siemens UK, suggested UK manufacturing has arrived at a “key moment”, where it could seize an early competitive advantage with industrial 5G, and boost the UK’s economic status on the world stage. Industrial 5G is a vehicle for the UK to “reclaim its place as a global manufacturing leader,” he said.
Against a backdrop of trade negotiations and political manoeuvering, as a new UK government tangles with its scheduled exit from the European Union, UK innovation agency Digital Catapult published a new (and excellent) review of the state of industrial 5G in the UK, and at large.
Maier, writing in his capacity as chair of Digital Catapult, and also its Made Smarter industrial accelerator programme, said the UK is “leading from the front” as it seeks to capture the new economic stimulus afforded by latest digital technologies, as they are sprung by industrial 5G networks.
Digital Catapult quoted figures from banking firm Barclays that 5G could contribute up to £15.7 billion per year to the UK economy by 2025. But its newly published review of opportunities and threats, called Made in 5G, says UK-based manufacturers see major obstacles ahead. The biggest of these the lack of demonstrable return on investment from industrial 5G, cited by 71 per cent of those polled in the review.
Other major threats to industrial change, according to the UK manufacturing sector, include the cost of deploying and managing 5G networks (cited by 56 per cent, barriers of culture and skills (54 per cent), and a simple lack of understanding (42 per cent). Interestingly, concerns around security, from connecting IT and OT environments, and interoperability, from joining legacy equipment, were less significant, although considerable still – at 32 per cent and 20 per cent, respectively.
Maier, at least in the foreword to the Made in 5G report, set his eyes on the potential prize, instead. He wrote: “Put simply, the internet of things is meaningless without embracing 5G. 5G offers the potential to move away from wired connectivity to increase mobility, flexibility and geographical range in a way that could be game changing for many companies across the country.
“This advanced connectivity will help create the wireless factories and production sites of the future and enable local edge cloud computing that connects in real time to artificial intelligence services and intelligently analyses and visualises the large volumes of data that will be generated as part of the digitalisation journey.”
The Made in 5G review takes input from various corporations in the international manufacturing sector, with homes in the UK. These include BAE Systems, Ericsson, GAMBICA, Huawei, Jaguar Land Rover, McLaren, Nissan, Nokia, Ocado, and Thales, among others. UK regulator Ofcom has also been involved, as has the protagonists in the UK5G Worcestershire 5G consortium, the UK’s primary testbed for industrial 5G.
Jeremy Silver, chief executive at Digital Catapult, commented: “Made in 5G sets the wheels in motion for the journey towards Industrial 5G. It’s a long road, and as with all leading edge technologies, it is essential for manufacturers to engage early so as not to be left behind.
“There’s a real business case for getting skin in the 5G game right now, helping to shape the use cases for a technology which promises to be revolutionary for output and productivity across the UK’s manufacturing industries. Digital Catapult is perfectly positioned to guide manufacturers along that road to success.”