5G for industry – coal miners could ‘wear suits and ties at work’, says Huawei chief
Huawei in February opened the Intelligent Mining Innovation Lab in Shanxi province
Huawei CEO Ren Zhengfei, speaking at the opening of the company’s Intelligent Mining Innovation Lab in China’s Shanxi province, discussed how the “main goal” of 5G is enabling the digital transformation of vertical industries, including transportation hubs, ports, mines and manufacturing. The point of facilities such as the Intelligent Mining Innovation Lab is “to learn more about the needs of these industries,” Zhengfei said.
Last year Huawei started working with a mining equipment manufacturer, Yuexin Zhineng, to continue developing autonomous mining equipment with some autonomous assets already in use at a molybdenum mine in Henan province. Having collaborated prior to the 5G era on similar projects, Huawei and Yuexin Zhineng are now bringing 5G into the mix with numerous base stations deployed at a mining facility last year in support of autonomous equipment testing.
At the lab in Shanxi, more than 220 staff members from both Huawei and various coal mining interests, work on what Zhengfei called “a co-leadership mechanism, where leaders from the coal industry have a greater say on mining aspects, while Huawei leaders have a greater say on the electronics side of things.”
Zhengfei noted that while different verticals need different things from 5G, “most of the technologies are the same. Our main goal is to increase the adoption of electronic, software and computing systems in different industries.”
Specific to mining, he mentioned using ICT to improve worker safety and increase worker efficiency. Autonomous equipment and operations will ultimately reduce staffing needs with an emphasis on getting workers out of mines to the extent possible. “We can also enable coal mine workers to wear suits and ties at work, and propel the mining machinery industry…forward.”
In a conversation with Enterprise IoT Insights, Huawei Carrier Business Group CTO Paul Scanlan discussed how 5G would be delivered to vertical industries–will public networks stand up to the needs of enterprise, will private network deployments win out, or is a hybrid approach more likely? “It’s about the DNA of the operator and how they engage in the discussion,” he said. “There are operators that commit teams of people to solutions.”
In terms of the long-term revenue opportunity carriers can tap into by properly developing and selling vertical-specific 5G solutions, “A port doesn’t churn,” Scanlan said. “A robot doesn’t churn. A water meter doesn’t churn. I would’ve thought the operators would understand that. It’s very close relationship—you’re providing a significant amount of value. It’s a very high network worth-type customer.”