There has been a lot of talk about the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Verizon and AT&T, among others, are beginning to do the walk.
Verizon has installed a 5G system in Corning’s fiber optic cable manufacturing facility in Hickory, North Carolina to test how 5G can enhance factory automation and quality assurance.
The companies are also working together on 5G-enabled solutions to test everything from product inspection to autonomous guided vehicles.
“We have been in talks with them to see if we could help them with 5G to improve their manufacturing processes,” Alexander Smith, principal member of Verizon’s technology development team, told AGL eDigest
In places where Corning uses ethernet for their connectivity, Verizon is deploying low-latency 5G, such as moving their sensors from wired connections over to wireless.
“It’s a long-term partnership at the Hickory facility as a test bed. It’s showing that we can take existing system and at least be at parity with what they had wired in an industrial environment,” Smith said. “We are starting with the easier use cases, looking at what is tethered in the factory today that we can make wireless.”
Engineers from Verizon and Corning will explore how 5G can increase data collection speeds, allow machines to communicate with each other in near real time, and wirelessly track and inspect inventory using 5G-connected cameras, because checking the quality of a certain part demands 4K-quality imaging.
“With computer vision, they want to have the highest resolution images possible so that the machine learning algorithms to get a better sense of what they are seeing,” Smith said. “High-definition imaging demands high-capacity throughput that you can only get with 5G.”
Additionally, 5G will be tested to improve the function of autonomous guided vehicles (AGVs) by helping them move more efficiently around the factory floor. Smith has confidence that the wireless technology will meet the test.
“The millimeter band been very good in propagating in the indoor factory environment,” Smith said. “Bringing the millimeter wave signal into a production environment with a lot of machinery and a lot of different angles is a lot different versus transmitting outdoors in the streets.”
Spreading 5G Across Multiple Verticals
Meanwhile, Verizon’s 5G service is now live at Newport News Shipbuilding (NNS), the nation’s largest military shipbuilding company and its Newport News Shipbuilding division turned to Verizon to explore how 5G can enhance the shipbuilding process.
“We are working on proof-of-concept trials to incorporate into the manufacturing space. We are trying to develop use cases for all verticals,” Smith said. “Beyond wireless consumers, we want to create solutions for any wireless customer. We have been hosting 5G challenges and one of them was the 5G robotics challenge, which slots really well into the factory.”
NNS plans to test how 5G can drive manufacturing efficiencies that will transform business operations with increased automation, advanced robotics, 3D holographic design and real-time analytics. 5G could enable the company to connect hundreds of IoT sensors to provide real-time status of processing, machines, alarms, etc. to helping them make better decisions in near real-time.
Verizon’s reach goes well beyond manufacturing. To prepare for the 103rd running of the Indy 500, Team Penske used Verizon’s 5G to analyze the performance of cars on the 2.5-mile speedway. During the Houston Texans/New England Patriots football game at NRG Stadium on Dec. 1, 2019, a test proved that 5G-connected cameras can be used for live sports broadcasts. University of Michigan’s autonomous vehicle track in Ann Arbor, Michigan, is using Verizon’s 5G to increase pedestrian safety and avoid car accidents.
AT&T Taking IoT to the Factory Floor, Too
AT&T and Nokia announced in November that they implementing a studio in Munich to allow companies to see how IoT solutions can solve global business problems.
The studio will show off how technology can improve asset management and tracking, as well as offer predictive maintenance for equipment and connected fleets. Customers can also learn about the latest in connected car innovation, alongside an interactive experience augmented reality. As well as providing demos, the studio will be a place where businesses can meet with experts and collaborate on solutions to business challenges.
The studio is being promoted as a hub for the next generation of innovators, developing ties with schools, universities and the wider European technology ecosystem to generate ideas for future IoT applications across multiple industries and sectors.
Before that, in July, AT&T became a member of the MxD Manufacturing Research Institute, which is a non-profit that brings hundreds of partners together to advance the future of the U.S. manufacturing industry. The carrier plans to install 5G and Edge Compute in MxD Institute in Chicago to develop and test applications with U.S. manufacturing companies.
The 5G millimeter wave technology system, covering parts of MxD’s 22,000 square foot factory floor, will be used to bring industry-related technologies, applications, and new collaborations to the research space to test manufacturing-related 5G use cases, such as industrial IoT, predictive maintenance, remote machine monitoring, autonomous robots, mixed reality training and spatial computing.
NetworkWorld tells the story about when interference disrupted the Wi-Fi guidance for driverless vehicles in the Whirlpool factory in Ohio bringing the vehicles, and its assembly line, to a halt. Then 5G came to the rescue.
“It’s a cascading effect. I’m not only late with that delivery but with everything stacked up behind it,” Whirlpool’s Douglas Barnes was quoted as saying.
In response, the manufacturer is transitioning to from Wi-Fi to 5G with the help of AT&T and Seegrid, the maker of the self-driving vehicles. Currently, 100 vehicles inhabit the 200,000 square foot floor, and Whirlpool plans to automate 80 percent of them.