Get your enterprise ready: 5G is on the horizon

1st July 2020
Lanna Deamer

In August 2006, Google’s then-CEO Eric Schmidt first used the phrase 'cloud computing'. Even those immersed in enterprise IT for years were taken aback by what this revolutionary approach could mean for business as usual. Needless to say, this transformative way of storing, analysing, and accessing data and applications changed the face of business.

By Martin Walder, Vice President of Industrial Automation at Schneider Electric.

Thanks to cloud computing, anyone can collaborate on projects in real time, gather at any moment in one virtual room for web conferences, serve customers better, and process huge volumes of data to rapidly access relevant insights. Now, we’re facing another technological sea-change: 5G.

Although 5G’s long term role - or 'killer app' - is yet to be determined, the potential implications of the 'massive IoT', connectivity, ultra high reliability, and low latency are very promising. The difference between this transformation and the cloud one, though, is that enterprises have the benefit of knowing what’s on the horizon. We don’t have to scramble to adapt. So, what can we do now to get ready for widespread 5G integration in the coming decade?

Preparing for 5G rollout

There are various aspects to bear in mind when widespread 5G adoption occurs. The integration of 5G will require a collaborative effort between enterprise IT, those who manage operations networks, product research and development and lines of business (to ensure connected offers are 5G compatible), cyber security teams, mobile providers, and strategic partners for the network backbone.

Not only this, but companies must not forget to get their regulatory team on board to help navigate various regional regulatory environments and their implications on the 5G value chain. Although the 5G landscape varies widely by country, the common thread is that 5G rollout takes a village for sure. It will not be as simple as first thought but will provide widespread benefits in the long term. The key is to get it right from the start, ensuring all teams and networks are up to date to ensure its success.

What company doesn’t want to jump at the chance to have reliable and fast connectivity anywhere in their office? Along with speed and dependability, the impact isn’t just about enhanced efficiency. Imagine serving customers better as pockets of 5G availability start to connect into a pervasive network that delivers instantaneous and seamless communication and interaction with web, apps, digital tools, customer-facing platforms, and more.

And this is just a slice of the bigger picture from the outside looking into the enterprise layer. How can 5G change your supply chain, essentially transforming the industry as we know it?

What does 5G integration for the industry look like?

A great example of how 5G will impact the industry and shop floors across a variety of businesses, is looking at Le Vaudreuil, one of Schneider Electric’s motor control manufacturing plants in Normandy. It is recognised by the World Economic Forum as one of the world’s top nine advanced 'lighthouse' sites that embed the technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution into production.

This factory is co-innovating with Orange, a global operator and carrier-grade integrator, to simplify IT operations, improve support to manufacturing, and accelerate factory digitisation. One pilot 5G integration project with Orange is testing Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure Augmented Operator Advisor application. 5G will take the current Augmented Reality applications to another level. Operators will have improved experiences seeing and interacting with contextual and real time information on mobile devices for both production and maintenance applications.

With 5G deployment, both within and outside the factory, there will be better quality and noticeably faster response time, thanks to low latency. Not only this, but there will also be coverage outdoors as well. In fact, this is one area - bringing high bandwidth connectivity to mobile applications in areas that have spotty or no reception - where 5G is expected to be truly transformative to the services industry. Customers will be able to use applications in outdoor and/or remote locations such as electrical installations, water plants, or solar installations, where they will be able to improve both day-to-day operations and field service visits.

The benefits don’t stop there. Once 5G is rolled out, the potential of device-to-device communications will have the ability to improve both system performance and support new services. In the long term, it will help a variety of industries, in particular those who use proximity-based devices and will produce extended coverage and reduced latency.

A new digital landscape

The arrival of 5G will bring faster downloads and faster responses from applications as a result of lower latency. Sensors will become even more widespread and responsive, and businesses will be able to react to information in real time. Among the possible applications are preventative maintenance and controlling machines remotely.

The many promised benefits that 5G will have are obvious, both for accelerating digital transformation through heightened efficiency while unleashing massive opportunities for seizing IoT’s business value. Just as cloud computing forever changed the digital landscape, so, too, will 5G. To avoid falling off the bandwagon and keeping pace with the competition, manufacturers need to embrace smart technologies like 5G and adapt to what the future has to offer.

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