A refrigerator that alerts us when we are running out of milk, a kitchen that brews coffee by itself every morning – we are fast hurtling towards a world interconnected by intelligent gadgets aimed at making our daily lives convenient. A very exciting, practical aspect of IoT is one of its most prominent subsets: the use of IoT in automating processes in industries, the Industrial Internet of Things or IIoT. We are on the verge of what could very well be the fourth industrial revolution. For 2020, the installed base of the Internet of Things devices is forecast to grow to almost 31 billion worldwide. This era in industrial production aims at significantly improving the flexibility, usability, versatility, and efficiency of future smart factories. The innovations in this field aim at integrating the Internet of Things (IoT) and processes in industrial manufacturing across all layers of automation.

Connectivity Requirements of the Factories of Future

Manufacturing of complex products needs the continuous operation of challenging process workflows. The primary requirement in achieving this is ubiquitous, seamless connectivity and real-time communication between machines in the industrial environment.

The industrial domain is characterized by a large number of different use cases and applications, with sometimes very diverse requirements. On one end of the spectrum, we have the motion control or mobile robotics, which have very stringent latency requirements of < 2 ms and ultra-high reliability. On the other, we have the massive wireless sensor networks (WSN), targeting the monitoring of a process and the corresponding parameters in an industrial environment, which are characterized by low power requirements, high density, and low data rates. The third typical use case is the use of augmented reality or virtual reality in the manufacturing processes which typically need a very high bandwidth network.

Towards these goals, 5G defines three basic service types targeting the diverse reliability, latency, power and data rate requirements:

  • Ultra-Reliable Low Latency Communication (uRLLC) – this service type targets the ultra-reliable, low latency networks required in mobile robotics and motion control. It provides a latency of < 1 ms and ultra-reliable networks with the outage of lesser than 10-5.
  • Massive Machine Type Communication (mMTC) – mMTC defines the new Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) with optimized signaling and transmission procedures. For mMTC usage, 5G will provide connection densities far exceeding the requirement of 1,000,000 devices per square km.
  • Enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB) – broadband network configured with the primary intention of providing the highest possible bandwidth to the user, for use-cases like AR/VR. For eMBB, 5G will support data rates of up to 20 Gbps in the downlink and 10 Gbps in the uplink.

Ultra-Flexible Networks Courtesy 5G

As we can see, 5G caters to all the IIoT connectivity requirements required in various use-cases. In addition to catering to the availability, power, latency and reliability aspects, 5G also offers maximum flexibility with respect to the configuration of the network through network slicing.

A network “slice” of one of the services types (eMBB/uRLLC/mMTC) can be defined to meet the connectivity requirements of a specific class of devices in the same network. It is also possible to map several different network slices to different data sessions of a single device. Besides meeting the performance requirements, network slicing could also resolve the functional requirements of other manufacturing requirements such as safety and security. For instance, a network slice can be designed with more advanced and customized security to protect sensitive data.

Another interesting feature is the support of Fog Computing or Multi-Access Edge Computing. Fog computing involves the processing of the data at the edge rather than in a centralized cloud. This helps to keep sensitive data in a fabrication site and also ensures the automated process is independent of an internet connection.

Collaboration between Industries 4.0 and 5G

The Industrial IoT and manufacturing sectors are one of the significant driving verticals for the projection and advancement of 5G networks. This requires the different industry verticals to work in sync with the 5G standardization bodies. Towards this end, the 5G Alliance for Connected Industries and Automation (5G-ACIA) has been established to align requirements from different companies and sectors.

Sasken is helping deliver diverse requirements with regards to data rates, availability, high-accuracy positioning and latency with regards to communication for automation in vertical domains. From ADSL to 5G, Sasken has been making significant contributions in the communication space. We stay dedicated to delivering seamless horizontal and vertical integration down the value chain.