5G

Discover the benefits of 5G in the industrial and automotive space

4th July 2022
Paige West

Apart from the obvious advantages it will have for mobile telephony, 5G will bring improvements to a range of other applications.

This article originally appeared in the June'22 magazine issue of Electronic Specifier Design – see ES's Magazine Archives for more featured publications.

Higher data rates will reduce the delay when downloading information from the web, but they will have a much greater impact on emerging industrial and automotive applications. Mark Patrick, Mouser Electronics explores these developments and considers some ways in which you can harness the benefits of 5G for future designs.

What will 5G mean for industrial processes?

Wired Fieldbus networks like Profinet, CANBus and Industrial Ethernet provide the digital communications backbone in many of today’s factories. One of the drawbacks of wired communications is the fact that making changes to an industrial process is not straightforward: it requires a technician to physically move cables either at the sensor, actuator, or the controller.

While the speed of wireless telecommunications has increased as each new generation is rolled out, the data rates provided by the most recent fully deployed generation (4G/LTE) are still insufficient to deliver the near-zero latency required by real-time industrial processes. Another challenge to the use of wireless tele-communications in industry is the fact that factory environments experience significant levels of electrical noise which can interfere Discover the benefits of 5G in the industrial and automotive space with wireless signals.

5G will provide a range of features that will help to overcome these limitations, reducing latency while also making industrial processes more efficient and flexible.

Having the ability to monitor the status of an automated process is an essential requirement for production managers in modern factories. 5G will enable the massive machine-type communications (mMTC) required for the operation of wireless sensor networks (WSN). Lower power 5G radios also promise to improve efficiency by maximising the operational life of battery-powered sensors, meaning they require less maintenance by technical personnel.

Wired Industrial Ethernet has traditionally provided the time-sensitive networking (TSN) required by real-time applications like robotics and motion control in industrial processes.

However, the ultra-reliable low-latency communication (URLLC) offered by 5G makes it a suitable wireless alternative that will also make possible the concept of cloud-controlled robots.

5G promises to accelerate the deployment of factory-floor edge devices and to increase the use of virtual reality, augmented reality & artificial intelligence (VR/AR/AI). These will be possible because 5G will enable low latency, high-speed communications directly with the cloud, thereby reducing the cost and complexity of field-side devices.

Challenges and opportunities of implementing 5G

For the foreseeable future, 5G applications will be required to work alongside, instead of fully replacing existing wired and wireless network technologies. This will be challenging because mobile network operators (MNOs) have never placed a high degree of importance on the quality of indoor signal coverage. For this reason, the idea of deploying a private 5G network (also known as non-public network), on production sites will appeal to many industrial manufacturers. Open-RAN technologies can help to reduce the cost of ownership of 5G radio access networks (5G RAN), making this a viable approach.

5G and the era of the connected car

The automotive sector is projected to be a major beneficiary of 5G deployment. While it may be some time before fully autonomous vehicles appear on our roads, these web-enabled vehicles will include self-managing telematics, cellular vehicle-to-everything (C-V2X) sensors, and sophisticated infotainment features.

Fully connected cars will generate huge volumes of data (as much as four Terabytes of data) every day. C-V2X communications systems are already using this data in several ways.

In recent years, the functionality of C-V2X has been keeping pace with developments in cellular networking technology . This is being driven by the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP). This body provides a complete system description for mobile telecommunications, and release sixteenth of this project addresses further enhancements to advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS).

The bandwidth available from 4G/LTE networks simply cannot cope with the ever-increasing volumes of data. For safety-critical systems to respond to real-time events, they require near-zero latency – and 4G/LTE cannot provide this. As a result, it is quickly becoming clear that without 5G, fully autonomous vehicles will not become a reality.

Conclusion

Wireless factory communications and fully autonomous vehicles will only be possible once the network improvements offered by 5G are fully available. While the early-stage roll-out of 5G has been slow due to the impact of the COVID lockdowns, the second and later stages in the roll-out are likely to accelerate demand for this service, which is certain to be the enabler for many innovative applications in the future.

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