In a sign of the carriers’ desire to monetize their 5G technology and of the rising importance of enterprise wireless, Verizon Business and IBM have combined their technologies to make the fourth industrial revolution, known as Industry 4.0, possible.
Verizon will bring its 5G and multi-access edge compute (MEC) capabilities, IoT devices and sensors at the edge and IBM will provide its expertise in AI, hybrid multicloud, edge computing, asset management and connected operations, according to Sowmyanarayan Sampath, president, global enterprise at Verizon Business Group.
“Mixing automation, robotics and artificial intelligence with 5G gives you a perfect storm,” Sampath said. “In terms of latency, there are many industrial applications that require low latency. You need to link the automation to compute resources that are very close by to minimize the latency. It can’t be several states away.”
Many industrial enterprises are today seeking ways to use edge computing to accelerate access to near real-time, actionable insights into operations to improve productivity and reduce costs. To address this need, the first solutions planned from this collaboration are to be mobile asset tracking and management solutions. Customers have been asking for this capability and sales should be brisk, according to AJ Naddell, principal offering manager – Watson IoT.
“Our customers report that one of the most difficult tasks is data acquisition to understand the condition of assets in near real time in a centralized place,” Naddell said. “It is filling a gap that they have. They either don’t have enough data or they have too much data all spread out. There is a huge value in gathering all the data into one central place, regardless of asset type, and then applying analytics through AI at scale. It closes the loop from an asset management standpoint. So you don’t just have problems with gaining insight but also in resolving that problem.”
For these initial solutions, thesecompanies plan to make use of Verizon’s wireless networks, including Verizon’s 5G ultra-wideband (UWB) network and MEC capabilities, alongside Verizon’s ThingSpace IoT platform and critical asset sensor (CAS) solution. These will be jointly offered with IBM’s Maximo asset monitor with IBM Watson question-answering computer system and advanced analytics. The combined solutions could help clients detect, locate, diagnose and respond to system anomalies, monitor asset health and help predict failures in near real-time.
IBM and Verizon are also working on potential combined solutions for 5G and MEC-enabled use cases such as near real-time cognitive automation for the industrial environment, tracking devices are in an industrial site and power applications such as remote control robotics, near real-time cognitive video analysis and plant automation.
“It’s called the smart factory and people have been doing it for decades, but people have not implemented it because it was too expensive,” Sampath said. “We are making monitoring scalable for enterprises. When companies try to bring manufacturing stateside, 5G is one of the key components that is going to make it happen.”
The smart factory runway, however, is not expected for another five to seven years, Sampath added. A more immediate step will inlcude the replacing legacy infrastructure that can easily take advantage of 5G wireless communications, such as water meters, electric meters, water pumps, elevators and other technologies that lack telemetry access.
“The operators are basically blind to how these assets are operating,” Sampath said. “Someone needs to complain when there is a breakdown before it is fixed. 5G will positively impact OEM sales of this equipment, which will come with enhanced service agreements to make sure the asset is performing as it should. Think of monitoring food that is being transported over land, monitoring its provenance, condition and freshness in near-real time.”