Mobile Devices

European telecom Orange begins 5G trials for industrial use

29 September 2020
Schneider Electric's Le Vaudreuil factory will begin testing 5G for augmented reality in smart factories for easier maintenance and increased productivity. Source: Orange

Orange and Schneider Electric have deployed indoor 5G in an industrial sector in France as part of a trial to modernize the industrial environment.

The trial is taking place at Schneider’s Le Vaudreuil factory and the companies aim to build a reliable, scalable and sustainable connectivity for future industrial needs. The indoor 5G trials will support two use cases: augmented reality for maintenance; and the implementation of telepresence robots for remote visits.

Nokia’s AirScale radio and core equipment has been selected and the experimental frequencies have been allocated by the French regulatory authority. Five indoor 5G antennas were installed inside the factory covering about 2,000 square meters of production space with download speeds beyond 1 Gpbs on an experimental network architecture, allowing local data processing with edge computing technologies.

Testing

During testing, the companies connected tablets to 5G using Schneider’s augmented reality application called EcoStruxure Augmented Operator Advisor (AOA). This was used to allow operators to superimpose real-time data and virtual objects onto a machine or the entire plant.

5G provided the bandwidth needed for the responsiveness of the AR application to access information about the status and future maintenance of the machines and plant in real time. Orange said this helps reduce machine downtime and streamline maintenance operations while mitigating human error.

The second use case tested was the AXYN mobile telepresence robot using 5G to arrange remote visits at the Le Vaudreuil factory. 5G made it possible for high-quality video to be used with minimal lag time in virtual interactions between visitors and guides at the factory that accompanied the robot through the factory. This helps to minimize travel time and costs as well as reduce the carbon footprint and minimize human-to-human interactions, something that has become increasingly important in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The trials are the first for these companies in determining how best to build and operate an indoor 5G network in an industrial setting. Orange plans to further develop and test technologies with 5G including artificial intelligence in the future.

“5G is a breakthrough technology for businesses that will bring numerous industrial applications, such as predictive maintenance, real-time video processing, augmented reality and telepresence,” said Stéphane Richard, chairman and CEO of Orange. “These use cases are powerful and competitive levers that will enable the full potential of Industry 4.0. To make the most of this new mobile network, operators, industrial players, public authorities and companies will have to work together.”

To contact the author of this article, email PBrown@globalspec.com


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