Many communications service providers (CSPs) recognize that the opportunity for strong revenue growth lies in providing new services to large enterprises. New TM Forum's research report Enterprise verticals: Placing the right bets looks at some of the typical use cases for each of the industry verticals and examines the services and technologies required for the most promising new business opportunities emerging for CSPs.
Agriculture is an industry on the brink of a digital revolution; automation in the methodology of farming promises to transform the sector for the 21st century. This vertical has been the focus of much telco attention because of the opportunity to transform a mechanized but still very manual industry into a modern automated one, extolling the value of IoT service models along the way.
Many of the 5G-centric use cases expected to become more commonplace in the next 2-3 years will require RAN infrastructure in rural settings. This currently does not exist, so there is a capex bill attached to these opportunities. The issue of low rural connectivity coverage is currently being assessed by many MNOs, and their current return on investment modeling includes an assessment of the agricultural IoT business in their plans to push more network infrastructure into rural geographies.
However, several CSPs have targeted agriculture as a large IoT opportunity and have been developing solutions for several years using specialized existing technologies. A good example of this in Australia – a country with a large farming industry – is Telstra, which has formed a strategic partnership with the National Farmers Federation to help drive digital transformation and build advocacy on behalf of regional areas.
IoT can give farming an entirely new level of control over the use of resources and workforces in agricultural production worldwide. Much of this IoT activity is based around sensor arrays, something that CSPs are very familiar with in their IoT lines of business, making them the go-to contractor for such deployments. Soil sensors are able to take daily measurements and automatically activate pumps to deliver precise quantities of water or fertilizers to maximize growth and minimize waste. These activities don’t just need simple connectivity and device solutions, but rather an industry-specific application suite that can be created in-house by CSPs, procured as commercial off-the-shelf software or acquired through partnerships with specialist software vendors.
Transformation in the automotive industry is based around delivering a car that has improved safety, enhanced diagnostics and provides on-the-go entertainment. Features and possibilities for the
connected car market include:
- Diagnostics – modern cars generate thousands of data points per minute, much of which the owner never sees. Manufacturers, auto dealers and insurers can use this information to run detailed fault analysis. In the past this information was offline, stored in onboard systems, but now it is available remotely.
- Telematics – automated crash notification, stolen vehicle tracking and roadside assistance services are being made available to owners of connected vehicles. It is possible to provide granular tracking data with LTE networks, but the growing complexity of these systems may soon require large, robust data connections using 5G.
- Global vehicle updates – manufacturers are able to push out vehicle updates of firmware and software without mass phased updates via a hard connection at a dealership.
- Remote control services – owners controlling their connected vehicle from their smartphone can locate it in a car park, preload GPS directions, and in cold climates start the engine to warm it up.
- Entertainment media and infotainment – passengers can purchase and download audio and video directly to the vehicle without using a mobile device as an intermediary platform.
- Tracking young family members – safety thresholds can be set for new and young drivers.
The transformation of factories worldwide is a big opportunity, partly because of the scale, with conservative estimates citing around ten million factories worldwide. In the initial stages of their transformational
journey, manufacturers are using connected equipment and systems to get critical insights about their operations, often for optimization or fault mitigation reasons. In providing these insights, telcos have significant
opportunities to support manufacturers with connectivity, cloud services, IT applications, security enhancements, IoT arrays, and new wireless systems in high interference environments where previously only wired ethernet style connectivity was possible.
5G in manufacturing
A recent TM Forum Catalyst proof of concept project, 5G enhanced manufacturing, demonstrates how 5G can improve automotive manufacturing and operations. The Catalyst demonstrates three 5G-enabled applications for automotive manufacturing carried out by Ford.
The first is changing machine configurations on the production line in real-time in response to changes in the environment, which is monitored and measured by sensors connected via a Vodafone mobile private network. The monitored process is laser welding for hairpin joining and battery busbar joining. High data throughput is critical because, for example, Ford will check 192 welds per part at least three times per cycle, and hundreds of welds are carried out per second, producing large volumes of data. If conditions change, Ford needs to be able to alter machine settings within milliseconds and understand the impact on other machinery.
Manufacturers need standards so that equipment can be designed to be plug and play across the automotive and adjacent sectors. TM Forum is leading the standards work in the 5G Enabled Manufacturing project (5GEM), and the Catalyst shows the Forum’s IoT standards and Open APIs in action. Standards also ensure the 5GEM solutions can be deployed in factories worldwide, even when Ford is working with different partners and suppliers.
The second application involves predictive maintenance to prevent downtime. Automobile manufacturing processes involve many expensive machines with complicated maintenance schedules. Predictive maintenance
uses data from sensors attached to machinery, together with AI algorithms deployed on edge compute devices, to raise alerts when machines need servicing, thereby reducing downtime by avoiding breakdowns and
unnecessary maintenance. This use case requires secure, high-throughput connections to access large quantities of data from the machines on the factory floor.
The third application demonstrated in the Catalyst is the remote maintenance of factory equipment, using real-time augmented reality and virtual reality (AR/VR) to diagnose and fix problems quickly and minimize
downtime. An engineer can wear a 5G-connected AR headset to receive support from experts anywhere in the world, which is much cheaper and quicker than sending them to the site.
These are just a few possible use case scenarios in various verticals. If you would like to review the analysis of other most promising new business opportunities emerging for CSPs, download the fill report here.