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Solving the challenge of integrating 5G and Wi-Fi 6e into legacy tech stacks will quickly accelerate Industry 4.0 and smart manufacturing growth. The world’s leading telecom providers are betting that their unique approaches to private 5G, combined with alliances with leading cloud providers, including AWS, will unleash the aggressive growth forecasts Industry 4.0 is known for.
Telecoms see cloud infrastructure as key
At Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, leading telecom providers launched a series of private 5G, Wi-Fi 6e, cloud-based cybersecurity and hybrid cloud services. The goal is to close the gaps in legacy tech stack manufacturers and enterprises that stand in the way of broader 5G and Wi-Fi 6e adoption. They seek out the tech stack challenges that get in the way of broader 5G adoption, a core technology for Industry 4.0 growth.
Telefónica Tech announced a series of new initiatives offering edge computing and cloud-native private 5G networks that run on AWS Outposts. Additional new services launched at MWC include support for machine learning, Industry 4.0, Internet of things (IoT), and video & game streaming. Microsoft announced new additions to Azure for Operators and updated their many telecom partners globally, including AT&T, Nokia, T-Mobile, Vodafone, Etisalat, BT, Amdocs, Lumen, Telstra, NTT and Singtel. In addition, Cisco announced its 5G-as-a-Service, and Qualcomm announced it is combining its 5G technology and hardware ecosystem with Microsoft Azure’s private Multi-Access Edge Compute (MEC) and core solutions for pre-integrated, turnkey private enterprise 5G networks.
As these and many other new product and partner announcements made this weekat MWC indicate, the world’s leading telecom providers see hyperscalers as pivotal to their success in owning the Industry 4.0 tech stack. AWS and Azure have become established leaders in telecom infrastructure and will greatly impact Industry 4.0 tech stacks for years to come.
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Integrating new tech will drive faster industry 4.0 growth
Telecom providers are concentrating on solving the paradox that’s holding pack 5G growth across Industry 4.0 and broader enterprise tech stacks. On one hand, they’re hearing 91% of manufacturers say 5G is important to the future of their business, with 61% saying it’s critical, according to the latest survey from The Manufacturing Institute. However, on the other hand, they’re seeing how implementation costs, security concerns, legacy systems, processes and equipment integration are holding back progress. Cloud platforms are purpose-built to overcome these challenges, another reason for telecoms to seek hyperscalers as strategic partners.
MWC 2022 is the perfect venue for global telecom providers to explain how they plan to help manufacturers close gaps in their legacy tech stacks while delivering greater speed, security and scale. It’s also the ideal venue to launch enterprise-wide initiatives to streamline tech stacks, challenging to integrate 5G and newer technologies. Based on the announcements at MWC 2022, telecom providers agree that cloud platforms are the future of integration, and the hope they have of owning the Industry 4.0 tech stack rides on how well this strategy works.
Getting edge, IoT, sensor and shop floor data right
Closing the gaps in Industry 4.0 tech stacks needs to start on the shop floor. Given the massive amount of data the typical manufacturing operation generates daily, getting edge, IoT, sensor and shop floor data right are table stakes. In addition, real-time production and process monitoring that feeds a historian database accessible across secured telecom networks is going to be key.
5G can achieve its potential in Industry 4.0 by improving quality control, starting with real-time capture of scrap rates, calculating material cost and actual cost variances in real-time and identifying defective products before they’re packaged for shipment. Edge, IoT and sensor technologies need to be orchestrated with a real-time monitoring system that provides data analysis and reporting to any Internet-enabled device on a 24/7 basis. The goal needs to focus on providing data to connected workers, regardless of whether they are across the plant or the planet. Real-time production monitoring based on a proven edge, IoT and sensor integration strategy will help close the gaps in production performance.
Telecoms and their cloud partners need to stay focused on what’s going on with shop floor data if they’re going to influence and potentially own the Industry 4.0 tech stack. Manufacturers prioritize equipment monitoring and control, safety procedures and employee safety.
In a recent interview, manufacturing CEOs and COOs told VentureBeat that any business case for new technology needs to provide cost control and visibility to the job, order, process and machine or asset level first. They added that while 5G opens up exciting new applications, it needs to deliver solid, measurable results now. That includes keeping connected workers informed and engaged with what’s happening in plants, prolonging an asset’s life with preventative maintenance, and more. In addition, manufacturing C-suite executives who spoke with VentureBeat seemed to agree that 5G has to make Industry 4.0 investments pay off first.
Future challenges for telecoms
Telecoms face several challenges in dominating the Industry 4.0 tech stack today. Getting cloud integration in place with their public cloud partners is table stakes. Creating new cloud services that can support 5G-based shop floor applications is another proof point. But the most challenging will be seeing if telecom’s many initiatives for smart factories and Industry 4.0 can report back in real time how production decisions impact profits. That’s not the most prominent use case of 5G in Industry 4.0, but it is the most valuable for running a manufacturing business in turbulent times.
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