This blog will focus on a popular 5G application and use case: Industrial IoT (“Internet Of Things”). Consumers use of IoT has exploded in recent years – much to the extent that now, most folks using IoT don’t even realize they are utilizing it. It’s their smartwatch. Their smart meter. Their smart thermostat. All these ‘smart things’ that are saving our planet for future generations are actually part of IoT.
Industrial IoT is much less talked about, because it’s much less seen by the public at large. Yet, it is everywhere around us. It is in roadside monitoring equipment. It is in our power distribution networks. It is in the drilling equipment that produces energy wealth booms for nations. It is in nuclear and hydel-power generation stations. It is in the planes that zip us around the world. It is submarines that let our armies protect us, unbeknownst to the enemy. Industrial IoT devices are everywhere, and they are constantly working to meet the lifestyle demands of the human race.
What is it about 5G and industrial IoT?
The scale and the complexity of existing and future industrial IoT applications is expected to rise significantly. Current connectivity methods are going to be inadequate for future IoT applications. The promise of 5G, with its mMTC (massive machine-type communication), and URLLC (ultra-reliable low-latency communication) network “slices” is seen to hold enormous promise. The network slice architecture will support the scaling of IoT in the future, and deliver IoT services in a reliable and timely manner. It will guarantee the delivery of that power plant status indicator to the central control system. It will guarantee the scale of millions of pollution monitors spread in sensitive natural ecosystems to work with known turnaround times, so that corrective actions can be initiated instantly and automatically.
How will this play out?
The 5G standards are being published as we speak, although equipment vendors have begun creating product implementations, and field-trials (and even a few commercial deployments) are skyrocketing. New IoT devices which can speak 5G are being created. Limitations of the compute (often less than desired), storage (often tiny), and methods for command/control of the devices are being studied & addressed. Software (middleware) layers such as the VMware Pulse platform which are designed to manage the plethora of devices, are being adopted. Companies like Intel are solving important fundamental problems such as how to securely deploy and provision the devices with platforms such as Intel SDO.
When can we expect results from 5G and IoT?
Expect that the IoT capabilities of 5G network equipment, software, and IoT device ecosystems will fully evolve and converge in the next 12-18 months. Initial deployments will be in non-critical applications, soon to be followed by adoption in national critical infrastructure. IoT over 5G is truly a journey and will not happen overnight.
Where will it all be deployed?
Everywhere. Expect it to be mostly invisible. You will see that your local utility company will begin to reap the rewards of the resulting automation and management efficiencies, and pass along those savings to you, the consumer. In the end, we call it the Internet of Things, but it’s really made of things that serve people. And it will be global. The scale of industrial IoT revolution will reduce the cost and time difficult problems for all of mankind, not just the advanced economies of the world.