1. Please can you tell UK5G about your business.
I look after a business unit, within Siemens, called Digital Connectivity and Power. It focuses on a product portfolio of around 4000 products covering switches, routers, firewalls, gateways, and communication equipment for offshore wind farms, stadiums, in addition to traditional manufacturing environments.
2. How important is digital connectivity for the work you do with the manufacturing sector?
Oh, massive! The foundation for digitalisation is a good communication network, built for the future. It needs to be fully resilient, reliable and redundant. In today’s rapidly evolving world, you can’t exist without it. Trust me, I’ve been in the industrial communications sector for… knocking on 20 years and the need for OT (Operational Technology) Networks to support modern manufacturing has never been greater.
3. Have you trialled 5G yet?
We’ve launched what we believe is the world’s first industrialised, ruggedised 5G gateway. We first tested it in Manchester, where we got to 350 megabytes per second download. Now, we have a huge amount of people interested in something as basic as that. High-speed internet access is really helpful for a lot of customers. Then, we started looking at real short, medium and long term applications. Essentially, where might 5G be suitable?
There are lots of people saying that you can’t do digitalisation without 5G and that isn’t necessarily true. But 5G does make manufacturing more efficient and smarter. It will be a very important part of the future of communication. We’ll still have copper and fibre but there are equally lots of innovative projects that will benefit greatly from 5G.
ENCODE, which is based in Bristol, was running on 4G but now they’re on a 5G release. They have a very open, holistic approach to how they’re going to use cellular technology for smart manufacturing, which is really interesting. On the other side of this, you have people who are interested in using 5G to get very, very, very high-speed internet access so they can provide secure remote connections into facilities for fault-finding, triage and diagnostics.
4. What have been your initial observations?
The reality is that we need a high-speed network with ultra-low latency for manufacturing.
There are lots of things that we can already do with 4G but 5G will be far more effective and efficient. There’s been a huge amount of interest in our piece of equipment being evaluated in aggressive, harsh environments and passing safety protocols with applications that require 5G’s eventual low latency.
The next step is looking to understand the scope of what businesses are trying to do with 5G. Once we see what customers are trying to do, we can help them to deliver. But 5G will definitely be a fundamental part of future communication technology for operational technology, without a shadow of a doubt.
5. How important do you think 5G is going to be for the manufacturing industry?
Critically important! Definitely. The benefit of using 5G technology is the ability to make manufacturing smarter. It creates flexibility. People also now want real-time monitoring of the manufacturing process; traceability is increasingly becoming a requirement throughout the supply chain—so we know what is being built and where it is in the delivery cycle. 5G will give you the ability to connect to individual sensors and indeed, the individual devices in the field. Other positives include its speed, ultra-low latency and the density of connections.