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West Midlands 5G at the 5G-ACIA Quarterly Workshop on Industrial Automation in Coventry

  • First-ever 5G-ACIA plenary and workshop in the UK
  • 150 UK and international stakeholders discuss the opportunities 5G offers to industry
  • 5G-ACIA hosted by UK5G and WM5G

The UK’s 5G and manufacturing sectors recently hosted the international 5G Alliance for Connected Industries and Automation’s (5G-ACIA) quarterly workshop in Coventry on February 10th 2020.

5G-ACIA understands the possibilities of 5G and shapes its feature set to the requirements of industry, manufacturing.  Andreas Mueller (Bosch), Chairman of 5G-ACIA, opened the event discussing 5G’s role in the transformation of today’s static production lines into highly flexible and versatile manufacturing environments to achieve unprecedented levels of productivity and efficiency. 5G will provide ubiquitous wireless connectivity to future factories and plants and will connect sensors, actuators, mobile devices, and people alike. Andreas said:

“5G is the missing piece for unlocking the full potential of Industry 4.0. It will have a disruptive impact on the manufacturing industry and 5G-ACIA is at the forefront of making this vision become reality. This requires a very close collaboration between the ICT and OT industries on a global level.”

“It was a great pleasure to have our first-ever 5G-ACIA meeting in the UK in Coventry in the West Midlands – the region where more than 200 years ago the first industrial revolution has started. It is impressive to see how many 5G-related activities are already happening in the UK and we were more than happy about the overwhelmingly high interest in our event from relevant stakeholders coming from the UK and around the world.”

Ian Smith, programme director for the UK’s 5G Testbed and Trials programme spoke about the government funded projects in Worcestershire and the West Midlands which are identifying productivity gains through industrial automation.  As part of this work, West Midlands 5G (WM5G) is setting up a new application accelerator where developers and businesses can develop 5G services with support from the WM5G team. WM5G’s efforts are accelerating the take-up across the West Midlands’ cities and towns.

Speaking at the event, Igor Leprince, Chair of West Midlands 5G said:

“The core of our ambition, of our mission, is to test, to prove and to scale 5G use cases across seven cities, especially in vertical industries… The credit for that is clearly with our partners, the operators, but we have worked relentlessly in making sure it gets easier and faster, and sometimes gets cheaper.”

An important contributor to the debate was Federico Boccardi, Principal Technology Advisor at Ofcom. Ofcom is fostering 5G development in industry, particularly with enabling spectrum use within non-public networks.  Boccardi explained that it’s important to understand that while a factory might have an IT department with the skills needed to deploy 5G connectivity, not all places do. He also talked about Ofcom’s leadership over 3.8 Ghz to 4.2 GHz which has now seen Japan and America adopting the bands. International co-operation is important to persuade device manufacturers to support the frequencies. The team is now looking to more bandwidth and higher frequencies. Federico commented:

“The second step is needing to engage not only in the UK but internationally to understand what the policy barriers are and what we can do to those barriers for the deployment of these technologies.”

Leaders from 5G-ACIA working groups presented each group’s focus area and highlighted recent publications contributed by their members. The topics covered in the working groups include use cases and requirements (WG1), spectrum and operator models (WG2), architecture and technology (WG3), liaisons and dissemination (WG4), validation and tests (WG5).

The event organised a series of moderated interactive sessions looking at use cases of Preventative Maintenance, Remote Expert, Virtual teams, Worker Safety, and Supply Chain. They looked at the possibilities and consequences of implementing automation using 5G and covered aspects as varied as allowing those in charge of worker safety to ensure that protective clothing is being worn correctly.

Michael Bahr of Siemens, Chair of the 5G-ACIA Use Cases and Requirements Working Group said:

“All these are only possible if there’s a dialogue between operational technology or manufacturing companies and networking IT companies from the technological or communication area. It’s really interesting to see how different the ideas are that we’re seeing short term and long term.”

Sylvia Lu of u-blox, who is a UK5G Advisory Board Member and on the International Working Group, was instrumental in facilitating the 5G-ACIA to visit the UK. She commented on the three days:

“It was fantastic to mark this historic moment as West Midlands hosted the first-ever 5G-ACIA plenary and workshop in the UK. We are overwhelmed by the great interests from both sides to learn, share best practices and address barriers. We look forward to deepening our relationship with 5G-ACIA and continuing collaboration to make 5G a reality in the industrial sector.”

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