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If then when? 

The new 5G network is getting a lot of play in the press. The next generation of 5G networks will be 100 times faster than the current 4G networks. 5G networks do not have the latency issues of 4G networks and allow for a large amount of connections. The flexibility of this new technology has given many the hope that it can further support the Fourth Industrial Revolution. 

Follow the money

Sometimes the best judge of potential is to follow the money. Many companies and governments have begun to invest in trials of the 5G technology. Samsung is set to invest $22B in 5G and Al related technology. T-Mobile and Nokia will put up $3.5B. In June of 2019, the UK government announced its plans to invest $50.5M in a study to determine how 5G can increase productivity and output in specifically the manufacturing and logistics sectors. Audi, the German automaker, has made the decision to develop their own 5G Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) network. 

What does it mean?

Manufacturers are already headed down the road of the Fourth Industrial Revolution – connecting the automated machines of the last industrial revolution on to one network. The emphasis is data gathering. A 5G network has the potential to be more reliable than a WiFi network and does not have the connectivity issues of the 4G network. 

Ericsson, a mobile phone company, has shown what can be done with this technology. In a study with the Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology in Germany, sensors were placed on metal milling centers. The milling centers made very large bladed disks for jet engines that could take up to 20 hours to make. The disks had an error rate of up to 25% due to the precision required. The errors could not be detected until the milling was completed. The sensors with 5G connectivity detected faults that caused errors in real time. The sensors reduced the error rate to 15% and saved an average of $4,000 on the production cost of a blade. 

The next step

This technology has the chance to revolutionize the manufacturing industry. Increasingly manufacturers have been under great stress to embrace technology, but have been reluctant to do so due to consistency issues. If a 5G network can live up to the lofty expectations, it may be a solution that manufacturers are looking for. A lot of companies with a lot of money on the line certainly hope so.