Main Author(s): John Favaro
Additional authors: Stephanie Parker, Andrea Schillacci

Focus Area: 

Selected Topic: Digitizing Industry

Who stands to benefit and how: 

All those involved in a number of key industrial sectors, especially automotive, agribusiness, and smart cities, who need to understand the impact that the fifth generation (5G) wireless technology will have on the digitisation of their sector.

Position Paper: 

Fifth Generation (5G) wireless network technologies are destined to play a transformative role in our daily lives, bringing us myriad new services on our smartphones, tablets, and televisions. But the truly transformative effect of 5G will happen through its role in digitizing industry. The ultra-fast, reliable connectivity of 5G is an essential enabler of Industry 4.0, providing the capacity to handle the Big Data and Cloud computing that is at the core of its vision. Its wireless nature will enable cost-effective connection of thousands of devices, changing the way that (for example) sensors are utilized in factories. The concept of “sensors everywhere” is no longer a fantasy, and will lead to a complete rethinking of manufacturing architectures and processes. 5G-enabled “sensors everywhere” will also revolutionize the automotive vertical sector.

The modern car’s onboard sensors will soon be flanked by hundreds, even thousands of connected sensors not only in the vehicle itself but all along “corridors” of 5G-equipped road infrastructure. These sensors will utilize 5G’s high-bandwidth, low-latency communication features to enable a quantum leap in “situational awareness” both for human drivers and self-driving cars: vehicles will be able to warn each other about their own actions (e.g. warning the car behind you that an Automatic Emergency Braking action has just been initiated), and the road infrastructure will be able to warn vehicles that a vulnerable pedestrian has suddenly come into range. But at the recent conference EUCNC 2018 in Ljubljana, the 5GCAR project noted that such a collaboration can only occur if all stakeholders are involved, from automobile manufacturers through infrastructure operators and technical equipment suppliers. In their recent (February 2018) White Paper, the 5G Automotive Working Group clarified this complex web of relationships among the various stakeholders and analyzed their potential contributions to successful 5G deployment for automotive use cases, both in societal and economic terms. Many will be surprised to learn, however, that the transition to fully automated driving will most likely not occur in the automotive sector at all, but rather in agribusiness (think “simpler traffic context”).

In fact, agribusiness may well stand to profit even more from 5G than the automotive business, with full connectivity opening the door to Big Data analytics for crop planning, energy savings, monitoring of soil and weather conditions, and improved predictive maintenance. Agricultural vertical use cases have top priority in European and Brazilian strategic planning. There is an urgent need for a uniform testbed / platform to provide common technologies, share expertise, and leverage experience as it is gathered by the verticals. Maximum use of industry-leading and open source technologies helps to contain potentially prohibitive experimentation costs. 5GINFIRE, with both European and Brazilian partners, is building an open and extensible ecosystem of experimental facilities (and has an ongoing open call for more open source developers and facility providers). 5GINFIRE includes an IT-AV Automotive Environment for supporting use cases including assisted driving using Virtual Network Functions. Although the 5GINFIRE smart city safety testbed is still in its early stages, the 5GCity project is well underway with its activities for creating the hyperconnected city. Cities give rise to delicate ecosystems pitting social and commercial needs against each other, and mistaken decisions, policies, and technologies can cause these ecosystems to wilt as quickly as they arose. The concept of “neutral hosting” by public entities of critical 5G infrastructure that commercial stakeholders can utilize is a good example of the balancing act between public and private value creation that 5GCity is experimenting in the municipalities of Barcelona, Bristol, and Lucca. Here, too, the “sensors everywhere” concept enabled by 5G is making possible entirely new use cases being experimented by 5GCity such as waste dumping prevention in urban areas.

But experts agree that one potential stumbling block for all 5G vertical sectors – whether they be automotive, agricultural, smart cities, or others – is the so-called “Jetson effect”. This popular television cartoon series projected a family into the future with next-century technologies (including flying cars) –while retaining 1960s societal and cultural norms (such as hazardous woman drivers and the fact of even having human drivers at all). To avoid the Jetson effect, vertical industries must envision a future not only of 5G-enabled technological innovation, but of innovation at 360 degrees, including new business and payment models, new forms of ownership, and new types of public / private collaboration.

Related Demos at Cloudscape Brazil 2018: FarmCloud, SME agribusiness, |