The industrial internet is a term that can easily sound misleading. For most, it is industry plus the internet. However, the fact is that the traditional internet as an instrument cannot meet the high requirements of industries. The massive amount of data processing needed for the smooth functioning of various company-related operations cannot afford a lag in connectivity at any cost. New technologies such as IoT, edge computing, machine learning and AI, which are incorporated into industrial operations, generate a high volume of unstructured data that needs efficient sorting to derive genuine value from it. Thus, the industrial internet provides a breakthrough option for new development in the industry sector.
The industrial internet is a network of advanced tools and instruments in an intricate web of smart communication technologies. It powers smarter and faster business decision-making for industrial companies. It is set to be key for businesses going through digital transformation. IP technologies, such as 5G, F5G and intelligent cloud networks, are seen as important elements in the evolution of next-gen information technologies, opening up various new business opportunities. However, the technology of traditional industries is complicated with unique standards and procedures, resulting in information silos. The whole process of digitalization is to integrate data into the entire industry as a factor of production, from R&D to design to intelligent manufacturing to service and maintenance, etc. The industrial internet can offer key support for the Fourth Industrial Revolution by synergizing with ICT capabilities.
According to the Huawei-backed white paper, "connected devices and IP networks" will enable the flexible, end-to-end networking of IT and OT, creating a network base for a fully connected industrial internet, which will increase available data and computing power crucial for the industrial internet to develop rapidly.
Path to Industrial Digitalization
Just like roads connect and give access to various interlinked areas, internet connectivity provides access to various connected entities in the industry setting.
In the industrial internet ecosystem, networks are the foundation, platforms are the core, data is a key element, and security provides assurance. Strengthening network infrastructure is the first and most important task in industrial internet development.
Many industrial businesses face constraints such as technological lag, weak data infrastructure and cybersecurity issues, among others. When a company decides to undergo a digital transformation by successfully applying the industrial internet, experts recommend the following:
- Traditional industrial wired networks and Wi-Fi networks can create challenges in terms of reliability and synchronization. 5G-era factories will benefit from high-speed and low-latency 5G connections that can drive the digital transformation of production lines.
- Gigabit optical networks based on 10G PON and Wi-Fi 6 provide strong support for various new applications in industrial internet settings.
- For the provision of deterministic latency for key services, the industry recommends IPv6+ (SRv6) for constructing industrial extranets. As an intelligent IP network technology for the cloud era, IPv6+ meets requirements for flexible networking, fast service provisioning, intelligent route selection, simplified network O&M and differentiated assurance.
The Need for Industrial Internet
With the improvement of internet technology and the further development of information technology and digital technology, the industrial internet has achieved great results. Industries are the key drivers of economic growth and prosperity, and the industrial internet will be the growth engine for the digital economy. It will help businesses improve their efficiency, lower costs, provide better services to customers and become more competitive.
The UAE’s Ministry of Industry and Advanced Technology (MoIAT) has announced the Fourth Industrial Revolution Programme, called “UAE Industry 4.0,” to help encourage innovations in 4IR technologies, placing the UAE at the heart of the global Fourth Industrial Revolution. The MoIAT will be collaborating with 12 industrial entities that will form the Champions 4.0 Network and the Departments of Economic Development of Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Ajman to accelerate UAE Industry 4.0.
Moreover, rapid industry automation has led to the trend of “Lights Out” factories that enable production with minimal or zero human intervention, resulting in efficient utilization of human capital and saving operational costs. The successful operation of these factories will require synchronization among multiple manufacturing assets to effectively process the production deliveries. This change is set to reverse the role of humans in factories to be better geared for quality control, planning, maintenance and logistics.
The agenda to speed up the transition from dirty to clean energy is gaining massive momentum. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), under current policy trends, one-third of the rising energy needs in emerging and developing nations over the next decade will be met by burning fossil fuels, the main driver of global warming. More than 90% of the increase in clean energy since the Paris Agreement in 2015 comes from advanced economies and China, and only 10% from emerging and developing countries. As such, these emerging and developing economies will face tremendous challenges in living up to the expectations of climate change action goals. And the operation of energy-efficient industries will figure in the priorities of all these nations.
Some Areas of Concern
With the massive amount of data collection and analysis at play to run today’s industry operations, the capacity of current semiconductors may not be sufficient to process the data explosion that is expected from digital transformation. From imaging devices in cell phones to high-speed CPUs in data centers, the datasphere is highly dependent on advances in semiconductor technology and capacity.
Another bottleneck in the development of industrial internet use, according to experts, is that the majority of potential customers do not know exactly what to expect from the technology. The need for collaboration with the customer segment to review the design phase and bring the services and products to market can be taxing and tedious given the volatility of supply chains.
To that end, innovative companies are focused on the rapidly evolving digital transformation of the industry sector. For example, Ericsson has developed a new 5G radio access network (RAN) software solution whereby CSPs can offer more connectivity options for diverse consumer and enterprise use cases and in industrial settings on the Frequency Division Duplex (FDD) and Time Division Duplex (TDD) spectrums. Ericsson RedCap will support devices with reduced complexity, such as low-end augmented reality (AR) wearables, video surveillance equipment, industrial sensors and smart grids. The company claims the new solution is more energy-efficient than existing LTE categories.
Similarly, by the end of 2022, Nokia had deployed mission-critical networks to more than 2,600 leading enterprise customers in the transport, energy, large enterprise, manufacturing, webscale and public sector segments around the globe. It also boasts over 560 private wireless customers worldwide across industrial sectors and has been cited by industry analysts as the leading provider of private wireless networking worldwide.
Furthermore, the country’s two telecom operators, e& and du, have consistently played their role in accelerating digital transformation to explore how 5G with focus on 4IR technologies such as artificial intelligence, cloud computing and the Internet of Things to facilitate innovation for the manufacturing sector, strengthen global supply chain networks, promote sustainable economic growth and contribute to the UAE’s industrial strategy
As ICT and industrial application know-how develop, Huawei’s observations on future industrial internet evolution will comprise the following:
- Constant upgradation of ICT technical standards and solutions
- Further integration of new technologies such as 5G, AI and cloud into industrial settings
- Lowering the cost of industrial modules with the increase in industry size
- Government-backed promotion by large companies to continually enrich industrial applications
- Industry sector promotion for the development of industrial internet applications
Though some concerns and misgivings persist, the path is clear. The industrial internet will fuel the digital transformation of industry moving forward. Its future is now.
Also read: Unraveling the Next-Gen Internet Ecosystem