John Deere Industry 4.0 Lead: ‘5G is really important to us’
Non-Standalone 5G deployment at U.S. facilities will form template for expansion to global John Deere manufacturing facilities
DENVER–Representatives from John Deere, a global manufacturer of agricultural machinery headquartered in Moline, Illinois, have gradually become mainstays at telecoms and technology events as the company looks to build on its core value of innovation by leveraging the latest in connectivity. This held true at the Big 5G Event this week as Industry 4.0 Lead Kiel Ronning spoke with Enterprise IoT Insights about the firm’s plans to put its CBRS spectrum to work for 5G-enabled applications at facilities in America’s heartland.
John Deere spent nearly $546,000 for five CBRS Priority Access Licenses in five counties, and drew attention as one of a number of non-traditional bidders who sought to acquire spectrum licenses for the first time. It won licenses in Rock Island,Illinois; Scott County, Iowa; Dubuque, Iowa; Polk County, Iowa; and Black Hawk County, Iowa. Now it’s time to build out those networks, Ronning said.
The CBRS licenses cover “some of our most prominent facilities in the organization,” he explained. “In those areas we performed an RFP where we tried to find somebody to help us build out this network. We selected a supplier for that and most recently we’ve completed site surveys and ordered hardware. We’re in the process of receiving this hardware and installing it.”
John Deere views 5G, which it will initially deploy in Non-Standalone mode with plans to transition to Standalone 5G as the endpoint technology becomes available, as providing more capabilities than Wi-Fi along with the ability to gain production line flexibility by switching from wired to low-latency wireless connections.
“First and foremost, cellular communications gives us flexibility,” Ronning said. “We’ve got a lot of IoT devices. Most of those IoT devices are connected via hardwired connections for the sole purpose of reliability. If we put things on Wi-Fi, we get some density challenges we have to deal with. We also have some latency issues where you get inconsistent latency. So we’ve primarily kept everything hardwired.”
He continued: “Long-term, we’re really trying to create factories that deliver products to our customers based on the demands that they need and based on world-class quality levels.” We want to “drive productivity and efficiencies for the organization. Embracing technology is one way for us to accelerate our aspirations in all of those objectives.”
The move to liberalize access to spectrum and remove a major gating factor for enterprise-led, rather than carrier-led, 5G network deployments is a global trend and the focus of regulatory machinations in multiple industrialized countries. Deere has manufacturing facilities in Germany, Brazil, Argentina, China, India, France, Russia, Netherlands and Mexico, among others.
The work being done in the U.S. using CBRS spectrum will “demonstrate the value proposition” of 5G, and inform future investments in other geographies. “That’s the work we’re undertaking now is to understand the pros and cons of sub-leasing spectrum or taking part of some public spectrum,” Ronning said. “A lot of this comes down to how do you get some level of control and how is that network established.”
“This is really the first part of a big technology play,” he said. “Being able to connect devices is the thing that unlocks the next wave of innovation. When you can efficiently extract data from a number of sensors, inference it, and send actions back to those devices, that’s when the optimization takes place. 5G is really important to us.”