5G, which stands for the “fifth-generation” of wireless technology, is expected to change the face of connectivity as we know it, offering faster downloads and better network reliability, which translate into improved efficiency; lower operating costs; and fewer risks, especially in the heavy off-road equipment industry.
For devices and applications that demand real-time connections, such as those geared towards Internet of Things (IoT), the capabilities and benefits of 5G are vastly promising. The current network, 4G, is inadequate for handling the data load from the ever-increasing number of sensors and connected devices coming online, limiting what IoT is truly capable of achieving. The combined momentum of 5G and IoT will cause the number of internet-connected devices to accelerate even more rapidly in coming years than in the past. For instance, 5G network speeds are anticipated to be as high as 10-20GB/S, allowing for rapid transmission of data between connected devices. 5G also utilizes a multi-band spectrum approach that leverages both high-, mid-, and low-bands, which provides greater coverage in both urban and rural communities.
It’s not clear if many of the IoT applications that are coming in the short term need the higher bandwidth offered by 5G. However, we do know that an IoT enabled piece of equipment transfers very large files to the cloud for processing, and it takes time for uploading through the different layers of IoT structure. However, it is clear that 5G data speeds will reduce the amount of time in data transfer and result in more timely decision making.
In conjunction with increased speed, 5G will enhance mission-critical IoT applications that require maximum reliability and responsiveness due to the reduced latency. For applications where low latency and ultra-fast download speeds are not necessary, 5G will still provide needed support in areas with high energy efficiency requirements and lower power consumption goals, such as smart cities. For off-road equipment or mobile equipment, the low latency in 5G connections could allow new technologies to be used by off-road equipment transmitting braking or directional information to one another such as in the mining industry. In a truck platoon or other similar automated vehicle connection, it could improve the reliability and speed of the exchange of information between two or more vehicles. Because the data is transferred faster, the systems controlling the vehicle can react sooner - braking if needed or turning - to ensure safe operations.
OEMs and fleet managers of heavy off-road equipment are increasingly seeking to digitalize and automate their operations to increase productivity, enhance operator safety and reduce cost. 5G furthers the conceptual ideas of using IoT solutions to remotely operate machines from a control room and collect machine performance data to optimize the use of the equipment, for example. This creates a need for reliable, high-capacity wireless connectivity in order to support multiple applications and services simultaneously. 5G will provide much more network capacity by expanding into new spectrums, such as millimeter wave (mmWave), which have not yet been used for commercial broadband traffic prior to the deployment of 5G.
There is a lot we don’t know about the impact of 5G. However, there is much debate about whether or not autonomous mobile equipment will over-rely on telecoms networks. Autonomous vehicles rely on detailed maps and sensors, lidar and optical radar that together creates a detailed picture that they then look for anomalies and take whatever action is necessary. To achieve this, a lot of high-performance processing will be carried out on the vehicle.
The 5G discussion centers around the amount of data usage. It has been estimated that autonomous equipment will generate up to 4 terabytes of data a day, but only a tiny fraction of that information (maybe as little as 0.1%) will need to be shared with the network. Because of this, self-driving equipment may depend more on on-board processing than the cloud. Therefore, some believe that real-time connectivity will be beneficial but not essential. Telecoms networks will be used for non-real time updates to and from the equipment, but bandwidth requirements for these services is expected to be relatively low. Autonomous machines is definitely an area that needs to be explored a bit more before we make a clear connection between the two technologies.
Within the next 10 years, IoT networks will face prominent challenges because the networks will become denser, more complex and heavily loaded than today. 5G implementation can be one of the technological upgrades to overcome these issues. The future connectivity standards will focus on improvement in connection density to handle the massive number of IoT devices, pervasive coverage to reaching challenging locations, low-power consumption and reducing network complexity. Parker is at the forefront of this ever-evolving technology, so click here for more information about our mobile IoT solutions for off-road equipment.
Article contributed by Clint Quanstrom, IoT general manager, Motion Systems Group, and Kyri McDonough, marketing communications manager, Parker Hannifin Corporation.