Five advantages of 5G in IIoT applications

Author: Matt Lundberg
Five advantages of 5G in IIoT applications
The term '5G', like its predecessors, is a term simply used to describe a set of common standards and technologies in the cellular world. Where most of us have been using 3G and 4G for a number of years in a commercial environment, through phones and tablets, it's the Industrial IoT space which will perhaps benefit the most from the step up in cellular technology that 5G will bring, as IIoT devices become more complex and more prevalent in industrial applications.

Although 5G began rolling out back in 2019 it is still in its infancy, but once the main cellular providers adopt the technology in full, pushing it out into the mainstream, we can expect some good numbers when it comes to speed and latency, along with a huge leap in the number of connected devices the network can handle. This leap in provisioning will be especially pertinent to the advance in Smart Cities, due to the sheer number of connected devices needed to make modern, complex Industrial IoT systems operate to their full extent.

Here we look at five advantages 5G will bring to Industrial IoT applications:

1. Faster network speed

With every upgrade in communication standards, an increase in throughput or network speed is expected. Even in its infancy 5G is already roughly ten times faster than 4G, and as it is further adopted and rolled out by the major ISPs, expectation is that speeds will reach nearer 10Gps. This boost in speed means more than just an increase in performance for systems already using cellular connections — it is set to transform the way Industrial IoT applications are designed and operated. With the reduced time 5G cellular connections take to transmit data to and from the cloud, along with the ease of integration and flexibility it provides to multi-vendor systems, 5G is set to put cellular connectivity at the forefront of system integrators’ connectivity considerations.  

2. Lower latency

Latency is the measure of the amount of time that elapses between sending an instruction over a network, and its actual execution. With initial latency expectations for 5G set at around one millisecond, which is roughly fifty times more responsive than 4G, Industrial IoT and Industry 4.0 is set to capitalise quickly on these improvements, especially in applications needing near-real-time feedback. For example, remote security systems will be able to stream 4K video over cellular connection with just a one millisecond delay, allowing operators to make decisions in real-time and take more timely action. Augmented Reality (AR) is also an area that could benefit from the reduced latency of 5G cellular connectivity. Long been limited by 4G’s fifty millisecond latency, 5G could open the door to using AR for remote surgery, robotics, and even military operations or scenrios requiring a human touch, but deemed too dangerous for direct human interaction.

3. Enhanced provisioning for devices

If you've ever been to a big sporting event or a large exhibition, you have likely struggled with connectivity, even through your cellular connection. This is nothing to do with bandwidth – it is due to the sheer number of connected devices within a small radius of the area you are in. There is an actual limit on the number of devices that can access a 4G connection at any one time — 4000 devices per square kilometre — which is a limitation of the technology, not something imposed by an ISP. 5G also has a limit, but this is now one million connected devices per square kilometre — a 25000% increase over 4G, meaning load spikes could be a thing of the past at major events and gatherings.
Outside of sporting events and exhibitions, system integrators designing networks for hotels and high-rise buildings could also benefit from adopting 5G. The Royal National Hotel in London has over 1600 rooms and over 3,000 sqm of meeting space in over 30 different rooms. Add 2 people in each room, plus conferencing, plus restaurants and other activities, and that 4000-connection limit is soon reached. And that’s just for the hotel alone – the limit is 4000 per square kilometre, remember. 5G removes this issue completely, while also lowering costs through less networking infrastructure requirements. Maintenance needs are also lessened compared to that of a traditional network with critical security considerations and multiple access points.
4. Network Slicing

4. Network Slicing

Network Slicing is a new feature with 5G, which acts as a means of separating parts of the network into zones, which are self-contained and independently secured. Essentially, depending on the service to which your device is subscribed, it will assign a specific level of network capabilities. Speed and latency can be controlled between zones, allowing network administrators of 5G Industrial IoT systems to take bandwidth from non-critical systems and redistribute it to more data-intensive areas of the network.

For instance, Industrial IoT infrastructure systems like fleet management could be deemed as non-critical. With data generally being limited to location and driver behaviour details, being transmitted from vehicles to control centres on an interval basis, fleet management systems don’t require a lot of bandwidth, network speed, nor a low ping. On the flip-side, companies who adopt autonomous driving systems which use cellular data to get hyper-accurate location details and vehicle telemetry, would require a faster, more reliable connection. ISPs can allocate this boost in connectivity, at a price of course.

This Network Slicing technology will ensure that critical systems remain the priority, and networks don't get overloaded with devices that could compromise the flow of data between these critical IoT devices.

5. Lower power consumption

A study in 2020 by Nokia and Telefonica showed that 5G networks were, on average, up to 90% more energy-efficient than legacy networks. With the continued pressure for factories to reduce their carbon footprint and improve energy-efficiency, this improvement in data transmitted per watt will be key in minimising carbon emissions as the 5G network grows. Furthermore, this reduction in power consumption will enable the implementation of huge numbers of low powered endpoints leveraging 5G's future capability to support NB-IoT, enabling M2M in many new applications.

In summary

5G networks offer high security, high-speed, low latency communication, and along with its increased provisioning it is set to be a competitive choice for industrial IoT applications in areas where 4G LTE was previously not a viable option. Whilst it may still be very much dependant on the application, we expect 5G to play a leading role in the growth of industrial IoT and Industry 4.0 over the coming years.

We design, build and support industrial IoT solutions

Networks and networking industrial IoT devices across existing IT/OT infrastructure is a crucial component of any industrial computing solution with the power to transform operational success and even disrupt business models. That’s why Impulse engineers and specialists take an uncompromising approach to fully understanding your project before recommending technologies, creating a logical network topology, and providing optional accessories. Our service also includes essential technical documentation and free lifetime technical support.

For more details regarding our Industrial IoT capabilities please click here.
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