A consortium of organisations in Worcestershire (England) have today switched-on Britain’s first factory trial of future 5G mobile technology, which is being funded by a grant of £4.8m from the UK government and will examine how the technology can help “smart factories” to become more productive.
The Worcestershire 5G Consortium, led by the Worcestershire Local Enterprise Partnership, is comprised of global experts and partners including: 5GIC at the University of Surrey, AWTG, Huawei, O2, BT, Heart of Worcestershire and the University of Worcestershire.
Broadly speaking the trial itself will look at how 5G based robotics, big data analytics and Augmented Reality (AR) can help to improve the way factories work, such as in terms of reconfiguration and real-time analysis, factory floor production and steering a machine’s movements from a remote location.
For example, Worcester Bosch will use 5G to improve factory output (e.g. exploring preventative maintenance utilising IoT sensors and data analytics to predict failure) and Yamazaki Mazak will adopt it for managing troubleshooting applications (e.g. remotely guiding onsite engineers through machine maintenance).
Finally, defence company QinetiQ will be working to ensure that related systems are implementing a “security by design” approach to their 5G and IoT technology.
Mark Stansfeld, Chair of the Worcestershire 5G Testbed & Trials, said:
“Going live with the UK’s first 5G factory trials marks a monumental step in delivering the vision of the Worcestershire 5G Testbed to bring a productivity increase to the manufacturing sector and the UK economy. We are proud of the collaboration between all consortium members in making this happen and will be working closely to deliver the expected results from the live 5G trials.”
Margot James MP, UK Minister of State for DCMS, said:
“Our 5G testbeds are being rolled out across the country and it’s great to see that the Worcestershire trial is now underway. This project proves that 5G technology can be applied to support industry and underlines our ambitions to be a world leader in this area.”
Many of the use cases being highlighted above could have been done with existing 4G networks too, although the lower latency times and Gigabit class broadband speeds offered by 5G do offer a benefit, particularly for remote control and big data analytics where even short delays can be problematic.
In that sense the trials will also test end-to-end application performance, taking initial measures of both 5G speeds and latency.