February 10, 2020

5G-ACIA develops global dialogue on industrial automation in Coventry, UK

The UK’s 5G and manufacturing sectors recently hosted the international 5G Alliance for Connected Industries and Automation’s (5G-ACIA) quarterly workshop at Coventry.

5G-ACIA understands the possibilities of 5G and shapes its feature set to the requirements of industry, in particular manufacturing.  Andreas Mueller (Bosch), Chairman of 5G-ACIA, opened the event discussing 5G’s role in the transformation of today’s static production lines into highly flexible and versatile manufacturing environments to achieve unprecedented levels of productivity and efficiency. 5G will provide ubiquitous wireless connectivity to future factories and plants and will connect sensors, actuators, mobile devices, and people alike.

“5G is the missing piece for unlocking the full potential of Industry 4.0. It will have a disruptive impact on the manufacturing industry and 5G-ACIA is at the forefront of making this vision become reality. This requires a very close collaboration between the ICT and OT industries on a global level.”

“It was a great pleasure to have our first-ever 5G-ACIA meeting in the UK in Coventry in the West Midlands – the region where more than 200 years ago the first industrial revolution has started. It is impressive to see how many 5G-related activities are already happening in the UK and we were more than happy about the overwhelmingly high interest in our event from relevant stakeholders coming from the UK and around the world.”
Andreas Mueller of Bosch, Chairman of 5G-ACIA

Ian Smith, programme director for the UK’s 5G Testbed and Trials programme spoke about the government funded projects in Worcestershire and the West Midlands which are identifying productivity gains through industrial automation.  As part of this work, West Midlands 5G (WM5G) is setting up a new accelerator where developers and businesses can develop 5G services with support from the WM5G team. The organisation is also collating data on 5G sites and has built a tool which can be used to help plan projects. Their efforts are accelerating the take-up across the West Midlands’ cities and towns.

 “The core of our ambition, of our mission, is to test, to prove and to scale 5G use cases across seven cities, especially in vertical industries… The credit for that is clearly with our partners, the operators, but we have worked relentlessly in making sure it gets easier and faster, and sometimes gets cheaper.”
Igor Leprince, Chair of West Midlands 5G, speaking at the event

An important contributor to the debate was Federico Boccardi, Principal Technology Advisor at Ofcom. Ofcom is fostering 5G development in industry, particularly with enabling spectrum use within non-public networks.  Boccardi explained that it’s important to understand that while a factory might have an IT department with the skills needed to deploy 5G connectivity, not all places do. He also talked about Ofcom’s leadership over 3.8 Ghz to 4.2 GHz which has now seen Japan and America adopting the bands. International co-operation is important to persuade device manufacturers to support the frequencies. The team is now looking to more bandwidth and higher frequencies.

“The second step is needing to engage not only in the UK but internationally to understand what the policy barriers are and what we can do to those barriers for the deployment of these technologies.”
“Very recently, we published some dissertations. One is about new spectrum bands in the 100GHz to 200GHz range. This is more for the future, but this could enable very new services, for example, centimetre positioning: global positioning with accuracy of centimetres or less.”

Federico Boccardi, Principal Technology Advisor at Ofcom, speaking at the event

Leaders from 5G-ACIA working groups presented each group’s focus area and highlighted recent publications contributed by their members. The topics covered in the working groups include use cases and requirements (WG1), spectrum and operator models (WG2), architecture and technology (WG3), liaisons and dissemination (WG4), validation and tests (WG5).
The event organised a series of moderated interactive sessions looking at use cases of Preventative Maintenance, Remote Expert, Virtual teams, Worker Safety, and Supply Chain. They looked at the possibilities and consequences of implementing automation using 5G and covered aspects as varied as allowing those in charge of worker safety to ensure that protective clothing is being worn correctly.

“All these are only possible if there’s a dialogue between operational technology or manufacturing companies and networking IT companies from the technological or communication area. It’s really interesting to see how different the ideas are that we’re seeing short term and long term.”
Michael Bahr of Siemens, Chair of the 5G-ACIA Use Cases and Requirements Working Group, speaking at the event

Sylvia Lu of u-blox, who is a UK5G Advisory Board Member and on the International Working Group, was instrumental in encouraging the 5G-ACIA to visit the UK. She commented on the three days:
“It was fantastic to mark this historic moment as West Midlands hosted the first-ever 5G-ACIA plenary and workshop in the UK. We are overwhelmed by the great interests from both sides to learn, share best practices and address barriers. We look forward to deepening our relationship with 5G-ACIA and continuing collaboration to make 5G a reality in the industrial sector.”
Sylvia Lu, Head of Technology Strategy at u-blox, UK5G Advisory Board Member and Deputy Chair of UK5G International Working Group

Our thanks go to all supporters who helped make this workshop happen, including: UK5G, WM5G, CW (Cambridge Wireless), Worcestershire 5G; as well as u-blox as the key coordinator and Ericsson for providing the venue.
The next 5G-ACIA Plenary will be in Tokyo on 24-25 March.

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