5G to enable next gen of industrial IoT
Latest wireless telecom advancement provides faster future Metal Tech News Weekly Edition – April 15, 2020
Last updated 6/27/2020 at 5:50am
Internet of Things (IoT) devices, machine learning and automated equipment being implemented to facilitate smooth operations in mining and other industrial sectors will see new ease of use with the latest network advancements in wireless connectivity.
The next generation has begun to roll out with 5G and with it a more integrated system of development.
To preface, a common misconception with the name of telecommunication technology starts simply with the letter G, as they are not named for their speed or a frequency but simply for their generation.
As the name suggests, 1G was the first generation of mobile networks. This was basically radio signals of an 'analog' format and was capable of little more than text messages and phone calls.
From 2G to 3G there was a shift to a digital format that allowed users to access data like a computer, improving quality of calls and reducing the complexity of data transmission.
It was this capability of internet access through handheld devices that popularized the mobile shift for consumers.
This meant networks allowed for more data transmission and therefore enabled voice and video calling, file transmission, internet surfing, online television programming, high definition videos, games and much more.
It was through 3G that mobile phones became the door to a world of interconnectivity.
With the arrival of smartphones, it became apparent, however, 3G networks would be overwhelmed by the growth of bandwidth-intensive applications.
Consequently, the industry began looking towards data-optimized fourth generation technologies, with the promise of speed improvements up to 10-fold over 3G.
One of the main ways in which 4G differed technologically from 3G was in the elimination of circuit switching, the traditional means of connecting two phones over a dedicated connection, instead employing an all-internet protocol network. This meant that 4G ushered in a treatment of voice calls like any other type of streaming audio media.
The first two commercially available technologies billed as 4G were the WiMAX standard (offered in the U.S. by Sprint) and the LTE (Long Term Evolution) standard, first offered in Scandinavia by TeliaSonera.
The name of one of these technologies may immediately spark recognition as the development of 4G LTE ultimately won out with all major networks in the U.S. currently offering LTE connections.
With towers already being built for the next generation of wireless technology, an important stepping-stone toward 5G must be understood.
Currently, LTE Advanced is the most recent incarnation of 4G technology. Often abbreviated as LTE-A, it uses what is called carrier aggregation – the ability to combine two or more carriers into one data channel to enhance the data capacity – to function.
Unlike a typical 4G LTE phone, which downloads data from a single radio frequency band, carrier aggregation would allow LTE-A optimized devices to download data through multiple bands.
Carrier aggregation is the key to successfully implementing 5G and is critical to the coexistence with current 4G LTE networks.
With 5G, one would purportedly see exponentially faster download and upload speeds, and the latency, the time it takes devices to communicate with wireless networks, will also drastically decrease.
To accomplish this, 5G networks will use something referred to as 5G spectrum. This spectrum is a series of radio frequencies within a certain range, not unlike typical LTE devices, yet the 5G spectrum includes much higher frequencies.
5G technology operates on the same band as LTE as well as higher frequency bands. With 5G there are three different frequency bands, or three different spectrums. This can easily be described as low-band, mid-band and high-band frequency spectrums.
The low-band spectrum is the primary band used by carriers in the U.S. for LTE, with bandwidth being nearly depleted.
While low-band spectrum offers great coverage area and wall penetration, there is a large drawback-peak data speeds top out around 100 megabytes per second.
This lower frequency band, while slower, travels further as network connectivity is reliant on towers, hence poor signal in a location far from a cell tower.
The mid-band spectrum can reach peak speeds of up to 1 gigabyte per second, about 10 times faster than low-band, but fails to penetrate buildings and other obstacles as effectively.
The high-band spectrum is what delivers the highest performance for 5G, but with major weaknesses. While the high-band spectrum can offer peak speeds up to 10Gbps and has extremely low latency, it has a small coverage area and building penetration is poor.
So, companies that want to capitalize on the increase of speed and reduced latency may have to prepare to install their own towers for direct connections.
A future with 5G on a jobsite or in a facility may see unique workarounds to the limitations it currently presents, or perhaps it will generate a push for a new generation of auxiliary devices to boost and proliferate the signal among all connected devices.
More speed, productivity
With 5G on the horizon, mining and other industrial sectors have begun actively seeking to keep ahead of the curve.
Automation and digitalization are increasingly used in almost every major industry to improve efficiency.
Thanks to rapid advances in artificial intelligence and robotics, automated equipment, predictive maintenance and a wide range of IoT technologies being implemented by the mining sector, it is expected that productivity will only be optimized further once 5G is established.
A team of experts in Sweden's Boliden Kankberg mine have spearheaded this process by establishing a European Union-funded SIMS (Sustainable Intelligent Mining Systems) project for developing a 5G radio network.
This ongoing project was launched to develop, test and demonstrate new technologies for the mining industry.
So, it was a prime structure to test the benefits of a 5G network in tandem with the numerous other technologies tested under SIMS.
A smart mine project has an incredible amount of data to transmit, so 5G could almost be said to be a necessity for any future mine, converting to autonomy.
The value of 5G to the industrial sector would revolutionize industrial control with the network latency alone.
Currently, alternating current is the foundation of industrial control. The application of 5G networks in industrial control will facilitate quicker controls of a system.
Additionally, as network speed accelerates, many industrial internet use cases will change. As the industrial internet places high demands on latency, many remote detection and remote-control scenarios were only possible with wired networks.
Professionals in 5G communications have been concerned with how 5G can help the industrial sector take a leading position. The answer is industrial internet standards. Currently, the industrial sector has standards for wired internet only.
Now that companies are beginning to forge ahead with 5G, standards in wireless communications systems will guide industrial internet.
Such industrial internet standards will be a big push for worldwide growth of technologies such as AI and intelligent manufacturing.
As technology continues to develop, the delay between communication is reduced to near zero and the transmission of vast quantities of data becomes faster, a system of efficient productivity can only be ushered into something akin to a new industrial age.