5G and Edge Computing: Why Push on Connectivity

In the IoT era, improving data management and communication speed is absolutely crucial. The upcoming landing of the 5G standard, for example, will allow users to benefit from higher download and upload speeds, lower latency and from the ability to run multiple applications at the same time. Just the advent of 5G, together with the implementation of edge computing solutions and the ability to deal with cyber threats more effectively, seems to be one of the keys to an increasingly digitized manufacturing industry.

by Cesare Pizzorno

Data and their growing importance in production management within the manufacturing sector is indeed a very hot topic. However, the debate is perhaps less focused on the technologies required to get, transmit and analyze these data. In the coming years, innovation will push the accelerator from the technological point of view even further, bringing the world of IT closer and closer to the factory. It will therefore be increasingly difficult to make a clear distinction between the two areas.
An important player in the field of telecommunications, Toshiba, has carried out an in-depth analysis on the scenarios that will open in the upcoming years thanks to the advent of innovative technologies. 5G, edge computing, Industrial IoT, cyber security will be, or are already, in many cases, terms that the people involved in production will have to manage on a daily basis.

Improving data management and communication speed
The 5G standard, the new frontier of the ICT, is preparing to land on the market. This will not only affect the “consumer” field, but rather significant economic benefits are expected to deal with all sectors, including that of companies working in engineering. Indeed, in the IoT era, improving data management and communication speed is absolutely essential. According to Toshiba’s “Maximizing Mobility” research results, 40% of IT executives in the engineering sector have pointed to the 5G standard as the driving factor, for example, for the implementation of wearable devices, such as smart glasses, for industrial and professional applications.
On a production line, in fact, smart glasses for the augmented reality can be used by the operators to access and integrate in real time with very detailed specifications or instructions, thus providing greater production precision, reducing errors and ensuring a more efficient process.
“The implementation of 5G in the automotive industry, for example, will make it possible to greatly overcome the limitations of the current WiFi technology”, said Massimo Arioli, Head of B2B Sales & Marketing at Toshiba Client Solutions Italy. “The 5G factories of the future will be able to connect viewers, edge computing devices, automated vehicles and industrial robots up to the possibility of remaining connected even when leaving the factory”.

Investments in IoT solutions are growing
The advent of 5G will allow for faster download and upload speeds, lower latency and the ability to run multiple applications at the same time. All these factors are particularly useful in manufacturing. Here, heavy machinery and complex software solutions currently integrate product development and innovation. The true expected value of the 5G will however be in its capacity to serve as a basis for the greater diffusion of the IoT in production environments.
A recent research, conducted by Zebra, found out that 86% of companies expect to increase their investments in IoT solutions over the next two years. In short, the 5G, combined with the availability of mobile edge computing solutions, is creating an environment featured by data speed and efficiency that greatly increase the dissemination and innovation of the IoT. Together with mobile edge computing, which cuts edge latency and operational pressure on the network core through edge data processing, this new wave of IoT-based solutions may have quite a strong impact on the digital transformation of the manufacturing industry.

The danger of cyber attacks
The rise of the IoT is accompanied by an unprecedented spread of data, but also by an increase in the so-called cyber threats, hence the risks related to security. The 5G will provide better speed than the 4G and LTE technologies, but the threat landscape will widen precisely because cyber criminals will have the opportunity to exploit an increasingly mobile workforce and a growing number of Internet-connected touchpoints, in both cases based on the 5G technology.
The manufacturing industry is on the line of fire: another report, conducted in this case by EEF, found out that 48% of companies were hit by cyber attacks, suffering in half of the cases financial losses or production downtimes. Also in this case, mobile edge computing solutions can play an important role, allowing data communication to be locally encrypted and translated into a communication protocol before being sent to the core of the corporate network through the cloud.
“The development and the advent of the 5G will give the engineering sector greater productivity and connectivity, paving the way for many other opportunities compared to previous technologies, even though IT security will always be a constant concern in the IT landscape”, added Massimo Arioli. “The aim of the 5G is to act as a catalyst for new and future technologies, which will be increasingly important for companies in the upcoming years”.