President and CEO at VoltDB Inc.
5G is exciting. It’s the technology on which emerging technologies like the internet of things, artificial intelligence, robotics, advanced analytics and augmented reality will unlock over $4 trillion of value, according to KPMG. Industrial manufacturing alone will benefit to the tune of $600 billion. But, investors aren’t totally convinced that 5G can deliver the necessary ROI it’s promising.
They’re right to be skeptical.
Deploying 5G will not bring new revenues by itself, but industries leveraging 5G connectivity, low latency and high speed will. It provides the connectivity and critical communications support that Industry 4.0 needs to deploy robots and enable wireless control of equipment.
But you need more.
You need a solid plan to transform the shop floor while also extracting value from the network. You need to build the systems (platforms, processes, tools and software) and the skill sets to take autonomous factories from concept to revenue. You also need the right partnerships to get you there.
How To Rethink Industry In The 5G Era
Industry 4.0 is about capturing gains in efficiency and productivity through innovation. It’s about creating efficiencies that could not be conceived with the previous generation of connectivity, speed and latency and, consequently, creating new business models, products and processes previously unthinkable. We’re not talking incremental improvement here; we’re championing a radical rethink of the industrial manufacturing system and the way we use technology to achieve business goals.
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Let’s consider some of the Industry 4.0 possibilities that the 5G ecosystem unlocks:
• Real-time process control systems that collect data from sensors and analyze it in the moment to adjust and optimize live processes not just on the shop floor but organization-wide — and ultimately throughout the supply chain, by integrating back-office processes (IT) and operational technology (OT). This assures near-zero defective workflows and averts expensive reworking.
• Intelligent location tracking that provides the real-time location of your assets (material, equipment or product) down to the individual unit in milliseconds. This ensures glitch-free production, timely shipment and hassle-free supply chain operations.
• Continuous monitoring of environmental factors that impact the production process (such as temperature, pressure and humidity) enables immediate corrective action. This eliminates the risk of spoilage even for the most sensitive products (such as X-ray films or vaccines).
• Computer vision and machine learning models harnessed for quality checks that don’t just turn out immaculate products but also build quality into the production line. We see, for example, the application of drone technology with computer vision revolutionizing agriculture by decreasing crop loss.
• The data, algorithms, and insights that reside within the IoT-enabled shop floor can power predictive maintenance of the manufacturing line and factory equipment. This averts accidents and breakdowns, as well as unproductive downtime.
Real-Time Decisioning Equals ROI
The most critical factor for these — and, to be honest, almost every 5G use case, from smart meters to connected cars — is not just the data being generated but the real-time decisions that utilize the data to drive intelligent actions. Be it intelligent inventory management, predictive maintenance, system-wide process control or AI-enabled quality, success depends on our ability to collect data in real time and take meaningful action before the data loses its value.
So, what capabilities do we need to be able to give ourselves the best shot at unlocking the value and revenue hidden in data?
• First off, we need the agility of cloud-native deployment models that support event-driven monetization (such as API calls) and rapid provisioning for new partners, features and services.
• We also need the flexibility of modern business and operational systems that enable B2B2X revenue models.
• We need the ability to take in data from several feeds/streams to aggregate and measure key performance indicators (KPIs) to make in-event decisions about anomalies and trigger corrective actions instantly.
• We need more virtualized options for multi-cloud control, third-party access, edge computing and robotic automation.
• We need the insights unearthed by machine learning models that learn from every bit of data in the system and contextually evolve the decisions.
• And to power all of this, we need a fast data platform that ingests, stores, accesses, analyzes and acts on data with unprecedented speed, scale and precision.
The Journey Ahead
There’s no debating that 5G networking is the first step for Industry 4.0. But it’s just that — a step toward the end goal of enhanced efficiency, increased productivity and improved ROI.
How you use 5G for fast access to telemetry data and then use that data to automate tasks and operationalize decisions determines how much value you can extract from the network. And, this can’t be done without proper planning to reinvent the business processes.
The wise Lao Tzu famously said, “Do the difficult things while they are easy and do the great things while they are small. A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” We would be smart to pay heed and begin the journey toward 5G monetization without any delay.