Report: COVID-19 Is Accelerating 5G Adoption for Industry 4.0 Operators

By Perry Cohen

Associate Editor

Embedded Computing Design

April 09, 2021

Story

Report: COVID-19 Is Accelerating 5G Adoption for Industry 4.0 Operators
(Image courtesy of Pixabay.com)

A recent report conducted by the Arc Advisory Group and Wind River entitled, “Industry 4.0 & 5G in the COVID Pandemic,” analyzed how industrial manufacturers are using advanced technologies to deliver on critical business requirements.

The analysis, which compiled information from approximately 500 interviews with industrial leaders across the U.S., UK, Germany, and Spain, aimed to understand current objectives with Industry 4.0 and 5G technology, the initiatives being pursued, and where improvements were needed.

Despite indications from previous reports that manufacturers were hesitant to cut the cord and use wireless technology pervasively across their infrastructure, the respondents to this survey overwhelmingly indicated that they will eventually adopt 5G technology, and a decent majority stated that they will do so sooner than later.

“We found out that 50% of the respondents are expected to adopt 5G within the next year,”said head of Telco Solutions at Wind River, Nermin Mohammed. “60% expect to adopt 5G in the next two years and 81% expect to adopt 5G within the next five years. This is actually a huge percentage to be adopted in this next year.”

Mohammed believes the quick rollouts are in part due to the high expectations for 5G technologies.

“The survey showed that people are very eager to include the use of technologies such as analytics, artificial intelligence, autonomous collaborative robotics, machine equipment diagnostics, and cloud computing,” she explained. “And of course, all this is going to be enabled by 5G's capability in providing high bandwidth, high coverage, high reliability, and ultra-low latency.”

The Pandemic’s Place in 5G Adoption

Indeed, the responses support Mohammed’s presumption. When asked to rank key process improvement initiatives, survey takers provided the following order as their top five:

  1. Optimized supply chain

  2. Innovation

  3. Enhanced time-critical control

  4. Remote control operation

  5. Optimizing time-critical control

Mohammed believes there’s a bit of a misnomer here, in that “the pandemic has completely disrupted so many supply chains in 2020 and exposed many vulnerabilities that still need to be evaluated and addressed across the market. So, to me, it's no surprise after the pandemic that supply chain is number one.”

After that, however, everything falls right in line with the capabilities of 5G. Numbers three through five are all hallmarks of 5G technology in industrial use cases, and serve as enablers for number two, innovation.

“We see that the pandemic has actually accelerated 5G deployment, especially in China,” she said. “If you look at the two hospitals in Wuhan, once the pandemic started, what happened? They needed to support telehealth.”

Industry 4.0 Plus 5G: Push, Pull, or Forced?

If all of this has you under the impression that Industry 4.0 operators are being somewhat pushed, or even forced, into adopting 5G technology, you’re probably not wrong.

Transitioning to a new network, be it from a wired connection or private LTE, is a big change for industrial technology organizations who epitomize the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality. And given the legacy installed base of critical systems, the need for these older platforms to coexist with new technologies, and the technical skills gap that must be filled, they accurately want to make any transition a step-by-step process that minimizes risk.

But nevertheless, risks must be taken, Mohammed said. And while there is uncertainty surrounding the ROI of 5G Industry 4.0, investments do need to be made so that organizations can learn what works and what doesn’t.

In an industrial technology landscape that’s ripe for innovation, the potential rewards often outweigh the risks.

To download the Arc Advisory Group and Wind River’s “Industry 4.0 & 5G in the COVID Pandemic” report, visit www.windriver.com.

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Perry Cohen, associate editor for Embedded Computing Design, is responsible for web content editing and creation, podcast production, and social media efforts. Perry has been published on both local and national news platforms including KTAR.com (Phoenix), ArizonaSports.com (Phoenix), AZFamily.com, Cronkite News, and MLB/MiLB among others. Perry received a BA in Journalism from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications at Arizona State university.

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