Meet SIMULIA‘s Director of Industry Process Solutions for the High Tech Industry, Jonathan Oakley. Jonathan discusses how 5G technology provides a multitude of advancements; but amidst the COVID-19 pandemic people will most immediately benefit from more instant internet connectivity for conference calls and work from home processes. Jonathan goes on to talk about advancements that 5G technology enables and what we can expect to see in the future – such as smart factories, remotely connected and guided vehicles, tele-surgery and autonomous driving with connection to other vehicles and structures.
Q: In your own words, can you tell me what’s going on in the world right now?
Jonathan Oakley: Well clearly we’re in the middle of a pandemic, which is affecting every industry, and company, and obviously people personally as well, so that’s top of mind for everybody. It’s causing a lot of anxiety amongst people and companies, and obviously a lot of financial headaches. I hope by the end of the year that there’s a vaccine or more therapeutics so that situation can start to be resolved.
Q: How do you think technology is going to help us progress through this moment in history?
Jonathan Oakley: I believe that technology can help in a number of ways…and has already has helped. If you imagine this situation happening even only 15 years ago, it would’ve been a much more difficult scenario. How would people have worked at home without all of the tools that we have for remote working, including videoconferencing and high speed internet? It would’ve been a very different situation, and a much more difficult situation to work through. We are fortunate now that we have all these tools. It is certainly easier for some segments of the corporate population to work remotely and work from home. But there are things in the future that can improve even further as we decide to work from home on a more continuous basis. We can adapt our tools and our working situation even better to that reality.
Q: In your own words, what is 5G technology?
Jonathan Oakley: 5G technology is really the next step in the evolution of cellular communications — and it’s a major step. But each of the major generations, all the way from 1G through to 4G were also major steps. The generational gap is about 10 years in cellular technology. If you think about the change in technology between 3G and 4G LTE, that was also a very major change. I still recall using 3G quite a lot on my personal devices and you couldn’t really do a lot of data work with that. Streaming wasn’t really possible, videoconferencing was pretty sketchy…so it was pretty limited.
But then when 4G LTE came along, it was a huge step, change. You could stream high-quality video, high-quality music, we could do things like this interview remotely over the internet. But 5G may be even bigger than that. 5G brings a lot of benefits to the industrial and manufacturing world, in terms of its KPIs and promised new metrics.
It brings benefits to both the consumer and the corporate and industrial world, but probably the benefits are even bigger to the industrial world than they would be to the consumer side.
Q: So is it safe to say that you think that 5G technology is going to help us see our way into the future, whatever it is going to be?
Jonathan Oakley: 5G is going to play a big part in the future of communications in general. Particularly as we think about the pandemic, there are certain benefits that 5G is going to bring. If you think about the the autonomous factory, for example.
The way a private 5G network could be set up inside that factory is quite significant in terms of the number of people that you may need to run that facility. For example, you could set up a private 5G network to run all of your machines where each of those machines has some kind of Internet of Things or Industrial Internet of Things device attached to it. So in other words, a bunch of sensors could be set up on all the different moving machines or the autonomous guided vehicles in the factory — which all connect through that network. Even precision tools could be connected to that network.
And, ultimately, that may result in fewer people required in that facility. So as you increase the amount of automation, and as 5G enables that increased automation, you may require fewer and fewer people to operate that facility.
Q: Why is that an advantage?
Jonathan Oakley: The fact that you can set up a private 5G network, it really competes with wired networks. So if we think about the factory example again, the traditional approach to connecting that up would be through an ethernet type wired network.
That’s fine, it’s obviously high speed, it is generally very reliable. But there are limitations to it in terms of the flexibility of the network. You can’t easily reconfigure your production line for new products, you can’t easily move machines around. So that’s kind of a restriction of that type of network.
What 5G brings to the table is much more flexibility in terms of the setup, and perhaps tailored products can also be considered. For example, there’s an automotive plant in Germany that’s currently under construction. What they envision is a 5G wireless network running this factory where each vehicle, as it goes through the factory, it’ll be configured individually. So rather than a sort of linear production line which is fixed in place, each vehicle will go to a different part of the factory to have certain features or components added to it, per the specification, perhaps from the specification of the buyer of that vehicle.
Watch the full interview:
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