Dec 17, 2019
Qualcomm products mentioned within this post are offered by Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. and/or its subsidiaries.
Just two weeks ago, I attended the 2019 Smart Production Solutions (SPS) exhibition — an international tradeshow focused on industrial automation — in Nuremberg, Germany. What made SPS especially exciting this year was the arrival of 5G, with the anticipation that it can transform industrial automation as part of the Industry 4.0 revolution. My colleagues and I from the Qualcomm Research team have been working closely with two of the leaders in the industrial automation sector — Bosch Rexroth and Siemens — and I was excited to see the culminated outcome from these 5G Industrial IoT research collaborations during this year’s SPS, where we demonstrated how 5G technologies are applied to industrial IoT use cases.
Earlier this year, we announced our research collaboration with Bosch Rexroth, which at the time included a joint study of radio signal propagation in challenging industrial environments. Continuing on this ongoing collaboration, we announced at the 2019 SPS a proof-of-concept demonstration that showcased two highly time-synchronized industrial devices operating over a live 5G OTA (over-the-air) network at the Bosch Rexroth booth (see the diagram below).
The two industrial devices in this proof-of-concept were running a protocol called “Time Sensitive Networking (TSN)”, which allowed them to operate in a time-synchronized fashion (see the video above). TSN is a set of standards defined by IEEE that enable industrial automation devices to support real-time applications that require time synchronization and deterministic packet transport via wired Ethernet. At Qualcomm Technologies, we are working on adding native TSN support to 5G in the next 5G standards release — 3GPP Release 16, and this proof-of-concept is providing an early taste of the huge potential when TSN is supported wirelessly using 5G.
We also showcased our research collaboration with Siemens. At the show, we announced the first 5G standalone private network in an industrial environment using the 3.7-3.8 GHz band. For this collaboration, Qualcomm Technologies and Siemens worked together to install a 5G private network in Siemens’ automotive test center in Nuremberg. The first proof-of-concept that we implemented was a use case with automated guided vehicles (AGVs) wirelessly controlled over 5G using an industrial communication protocol called OPC UA, see picture. The OPC UA protocol operates over industrial Ethernet protocols such as Profinet or TSN.
Spectrum is an essential piece to deploy 5G networks for industrial IoT. Both aforementioned proof-of-concepts use a 5G private network operating in the 3.7-3.8 GHz band. In Germany, this band was recently allocated for local and dedicated networks and similar arrangement exist in other regions as well (third bullet below). To deploy 5G networks for industrial IoT, we now have multiple spectrum options:
- Licensed spectrum in which a mobile network operator can either provide 5G service for industrial IoT or sub-lease portion of their spectrum.
- Unlicensed spectrum such as 5 and 6 GHz where anyone can deploy a 5G private network for industrial IoT using a new 5G capability in 3GPP Release 16 called NR-U (NR in unlicensed spectrum).
- Dedicated shared spectrum such as the 3.7-3.8 GHz in Germany, but there are many other countries that have, or are considering, spectrum for 5G private networks including: U.S., U.K., Sweden, Finland, Netherlands, France, Australia, Hong Kong, and Japan.
Mobile Word Congress 2020
This is just the beginning of the expansion of 5G into the industrial verticals. At Qualcomm Technologies, we have been working for quite some time on the next 5G standard release — 3GPP Release 16, which is scheduled to be finalized in March 2020. As I mentioned, one of the exciting new 5G functionalities in this new release is the introduction of native TSN support. In addition, Rel-16 will also provide other important foundational enhancements for industrial IoT applications such as enhanced ultra-reliability low-latency communication (eURLLC), 5G NR operating in unlicensed spectrum (NR-U), expanded support for 5G private networks, 5G positioning services, and more. Of course, 3GPP Release 17 is just around the corner that will continue to enhance the capabilities and efficiencies of 5G industrial IoT (see blog by my colleague for more info).
Watch this space as we have more to come. If you want to see it live, we will be demonstrating some of these new functionalities at our Mobile World Congress (MWC) booth in February 2020.