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The search for reliable, predictable, and secure wireless technology ultimately led OT engineers to use cellular, 4G/LTE, and 5G technologies.
FREMONT, CA: Over the last couple of years, a number of technological trends have come together that will reshape today's industrial society and bring a high level of automation to people's processes. Robotics, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and Cloud, Machine Learning (ML), and Digital Twins are entering the era of Industry 4.0. Asset-intensive industries are moving faster to reap the advantage of these technologies, including manufacturing, mines, utilities, ports, rail, airports, smart highways, logistics, and smart cities. The list is long and fast-growing.
Industrial-strength wireless connectivity or "private wireless" is a frequently overlooked ingredient in making all of this possible. The key industry 4.0 technologies that are mostly discussed are AI/ML, which will allow the automation of highly complex processes and Internet of Things (IoT) sensor technology. IoT technology will enable one to obtain data from many physical processes that can be modeled to create digital twins for AI-driven optimization. Distributed cloud technologies, like multi-edge computing (MEC), will give the processing power needed by AI/ML to process the enormous amount of data generated by IoT. But connecting all of this together will require a very robust and secure wireless connection.
Wi-Fi, too, has its limitations. IT technology is mostly designed to provide best-in-class connectivity in offices. It can perform well in ideal situations, especially the latest Wi-Fi 6 standard. However, most of the industrial settings are less than ideal. Whether it's a factory, a mine or a seaport, there are a lot of metal surfaces that cause radio interference, and the environment is changing rapidly.
The search for reliable, predictable, and secure wireless technology ultimately led OT engineers to use cellular, 4G/LTE, and 5G technologies. Designed to provide mobile connectivity for masses of people, cars, and even high-speed trains, the handling of mobile applications in industrial settings was not a matter of concern. In addition, the cellular was built to handle the kind of intense radio interference that takes place between skyscrapers in dense urban cores, where there are a lot of new construction, metal moving objects, and shifting user populations. It was also designed from the ground up to be extremely secure, requiring all systems to have SIM cards for network access and to use end-to-end encryption.
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