The World Economic Forum is inviting other industrial companies to study nine world-leading smart factories they have identified as having the latest in automation technology.

Not surprisingly, these ‘manufacturing lighthouses' as the WEF call them, utilize the Industrial Internet of Things, and in their opinion show the most promise in Fourth Industrial Revolution implementation.

WEF are helping build seven more to join the other nine already in existence.

Factories are becoming far more automated with communications and networking technologies that can integrate with modern day smartphones and remote technologies. The world has witnessed the advent of 4G in the last few years, which transformed the speed of access to the internet and created interconnected networks within factories.

But 4G's successor is here, and it is unsurprisingly called 5G. The technology is boasting more bandwidth and faster speeds.

However, rolling it out across the world is going to take the building of some new infrastructure.

Nonetheless, many novel applications for 5G have been touted in the media. These include connecting all vehicles on the road to an autonomous driving telecommunications server, hosting entire virtual reality worlds that users can log in into, speedy mobile internet infrastructure, and industrial automation.

Now, countries are racing to be the first to implement the new technology. Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE appear to be frontrunners in the testing of 5G technologies. Qualcomm is one of the American companies making progress designing modems and technology to process the signals broadcasted by 5G antennas.

Ericsson, a company also dedicated to shaping the future of mobile broadband internet communications, says that before 5G is used on products like smartphones and home-based internet, it will go to the factories. They write: 

“In our market research we have identified the most crucial manufacturing use case categories that 5G will enable operators to address. These include industrial control and automation systems, planning and design systems, and field devices.”

Ericsson is confident that 5G technology will create the smart factory of the future, made more efficient by the Industrial Internet of Things, powered by 5G internet speeds. 3G and 4G technologies have been classified unable to meet the demands of the cyber-physical manufacturing systems (CMPS) that manufacturers are eager to employ in their factories.


Engineering a technology war

5G is also quickly becoming a bone of contention in geopolitics.

The United States Air Force Brigadier General Robert Spalding told Bloomberg that China's progress on 5G was something the US should be aware of. He said: 

“The more connected we are, and 5G will make us the most connected by far, the more vulnerable we become.”

Soon after, the Chief Financial Officer of Huawei, Meng Wanzhou, who is also the daughter of the company's founder, was detained in Canada on request of the US.

Then came the announcements that Huawei would be banned from operating 5G technologies in the US, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and most recently, Norway. The United Kingdom is currently debating whether to rip out Huawei infrastructure as well.

The US claims that Huawei was not cooperating with an investigation into Huawei's relationship with the Chinese government and the Chinese Communist Party.

Countries who are banning China's no-doubt impressive 5G technologies must figure out how to implement 5G networks by themselves, for now.

The US is particularly worried about what access the Chinese government will have to the data generated by running mobile internet infrastructure in other countries. They claim security vulnerabilities and the supposed connections Huawei has to the Chinese military is enough reason to discourage the use of their technology.

Huawei did, however, hit back after the arrest of their CFO, and said customers can make their own decisions in this technology war — and said they would push on with 5G technology implementation in countries who would work with them.

Consequently, we may have to wait a little longer for the 5G revolution. Until then, the World Economic Forum will be showing off what's possible in their ‘manufacturing lighthouses' and trying to push the fourth industrial revolution that much further.


Works Cited

“5G For Manufacturing and Industrial Automation Technology.” Ericsson.com, 5 June 2018, www.ericsson.com/en/networks/trending/insights-and-reports/5g-for-manufacturing.

Leurent, Helena, et al. “The Fourth Industrial Revolution and the Factories of the Future.” World Economic Forum, www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/08/3-lessons-from-the-lighthouses-beaming-the-way-for-the-4ir/.

Santo, Brian. “5G And Autonomous Vehicles Might Not Go Hand-in-Hand.” EDN, www.edn.com/electronics-blogs/5g-waves/4461460/5G-and-autonomous-vehicles-might-not-go-hand-in-hand.

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