Some industries are rethinking offshore manufacturing because of the pandemic and the corresponding material and product shortages. Local manufacturing has the benefit of reducing the dependence on other countries and simplifying the supply chain. In countries where costs are high, however, it may only make sense to manufacture locally by taking advantage of capabilities provided by the Internet of Things. Broadly labeled smart manufacturing, this type of industrial IoT falls into a continuum from automation that has been happening for years to the “dark factory” of the future where lights can remain off and energy saved because no humans are present.
In the past it would be unthinkable to connect robots in the factory through anything but wired connections due to reliability and latency demands. These limitations are addressed to a large extent with 5G, private networks, and edge computing. 5G will offer ultra-reliable low-latency communication over a cellular connection. Private cellular networks can now be deployed inside buildings that restrict the traffic to only allowed devices, while at the same time affording coverage that would otherwise be a challenge to provide by outdoor macro-cellular networks. Edge computing brings processing power closer to where it is needed than ever before. As 5G matures and economies of scale begin to drive down the cost of 5G IoT devices, smart manufacturing has the potential to dramatically change the way businesses operate.
Cameron K. Coursey is the author of the Practitioner’s Guide to Cellular IoT. For more information or to buy, click here.