The 5G mobile internet standard should be available to the German economy from 2020. Its technical capabilities are revolutionary. The speed of 5G in uploading and downloading data is impressive, there is talk of real time. Future technologies such as the Internet of Things or autonomous driving are not possible without 5G. An interview with Poldi Heidrich, Market Segment Manager Automotive at KUKA.
Autonomous driving or telemedicine are two applications that are repeatedly mentioned when talking about 5G. But 5G is also of great importance for the industry. It is about the exchange of mechanical mass data. The foundation for the industrial Internet of Things. What will 5G bring?
Poldi Heidrich: Flexible production equipment forms the basis for flexible production systems. These include industrial robots, driverless transport systems and flexible communication. 5G makes it possible for intelligent production components to communicate ad-hoc with each other – without having to install fieldbus cables and configure the communication participants. This allows significantly more flexible production concepts to be implemented and existing production systems to be reconfigured more quickly. If we look at edge computing, the 5G wireless high performance network enables functions that were previously located at the control level to be moved to the edge level. This makes controllers leaner. For mobile robots, lower-performance controllers will suffice. This in turn has a positive effect on battery life and the controller takes up less space. Concepts such as cabinet-less control for process components such as industrial robots are also getting one step closer.
What improvements will 5G bring to production and primarily to the end customer?
Poldi Heidrich: In the production environment, 5G will improve wireless communication between driverless transport systems and fixed components. The installation effort for fieldbus communication will be reduced – both for initial installations and for subsequent production rebuilds. The amount of cabling required on the robot arm can be reduced, and with it the replacement of cables on robots due to wear and tear. If one also thinks of flexible, versatile production concepts such as matrix production for body-in-white in the automotive industry, 5G would significantly simplify the flexible communication between transport systems and robot cells required for this. End customers would probably benefit primarily from the speed – which would be noticeable when streaming audio or video files. But also in the area of mobility. The key word here would be “connected cars” – digital value-added services in cars, but also communication between cars to avoid accidents or traffic jams.
Are there hurdles to be overcome before the successful establishment of 5G?
Poldi Heidrich: The Federal Network Agency has created a pioneering situation for Germany in which the German industry currently has the opportunity to apply for private frequencies and use them accordingly. This is not possible in other countries. For Germany, this is a locational advantage, but at the same time brings with it challenges that new technologies require worldwide standardization in order to establish themselves successfully. It will be exciting to see the availability of the networks and how the legal framework conditions are clarified. Who is liable, for example, if the network breaks down and production comes to a standstill? Of course, IT security is at the top of the list of issues to be clarified in wireless communication. It is also important to standardize communication across manufacturers and countries. Last but not least, the self-configuration of devices should also be mentioned in this context so that new devices can be integrated directly into the communication network – for example after a device exchange or after an expansion of production – without having to intervene manually.