Kathrin Geisler on driving 5G innovation for hazardous industry environments
As in all other industrial sectors, the focus in the oil and gas industry is on improving efficiency and flexibility of business processes. The basis for surviving in international competition is above all the digital and automated workflow. For the final expansion of digitalisation, the wireless networking of production sites through the expansion of mobile infrastructure – so-called campus networks – is currently at the top of the industry agenda.
The 5G technology required for this offers campus networks of all sizes extremely high bandwidth, short latency times and improved availability. These exclusive, private LTE networks defined for a local company area are tailored to the needs of the companies and fulfil requirements from the industrial internet of things (IIoT). The advantages of a campus network arise from the fact that resources do not have to be shared, as is the case in a public network, and enables a closed, very reliable campus network for strong data security, fast data transmission with low latency, guaranteed high bandwidth with a defined data throughput and, lastly, low energy requirements.
Access to the campus network is not possible from the public network, but the private campus network is connected to the public network so that companies can communicate outwards. This combination of both networks is called network slicing. 4G campus networks via WLAN already exist, of course, and this is still adequate for most current applications. However, since the networking of machines and applications is constantly increasing, the more powerful 5G mobile network and correspondingly the appropriate 5G hardware, such as smartphones and tablets, are necessary. However, for scenarios with autonomous vehicles, for example mobile robots moving independently on company premises, WLAN is not suitable, so seamless 5G cells are necessary, since in WLAN the vehicle stops when changing from one WLAN cell to the next and establishes a new connection.
5G LTE with the corresponding 5G end devices will enable the future-proof use of more complex applications in industrial environments, such as augmented reality applications for service and maintenance technicians and virtual reality applications – these quickly reach their limits with the current networks.
With its current developments of 5G Ex-devices (ATEX and IECEx approved) and solutions, the R&D team of i.safe Mobile supports a unified 5G standard to enable cross-industry connection and to improve future production efficiency. High-performance processors and seamless integration are important factors in the device development process.
One of the most important areas to guarantee an optimised digital process within the production site is predictive maintenance. Companies gain deep insights into plant behaviour by digitally networking all areas and analysing data in real time – downtimes due to malfunctions will be a thing of the past. To be able to carry out these highly complex digital processes, i.safe Mobile develops extremely robust, high-performance mobile devices with the highest explosion protection and cooperates with various partners for solutions that are tailored to the respective area and requirements of each customer.
Kathrin Geisler is with i-safe Mobile