How 5G can transform the factory floor

The next generation in wireless technology is poised to kickstart a Fourth Industrial Revolution.


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Aerial view of a factory

By 2020, the number of connected devices is expected to reach 20.4 billion. The thermostat that’s controllable from a phone; the refrigerator that sends alerts when the milk carton is low; the camera drone that sends footage to a motion graphics studio—they’re amazing, but they’re also just the tip of the spear.

Perhaps no greater frontier exists for the budding Internet of Things than manufacturing. Industry watchers and analysts say that smart manufacturing represents the largest revenue opportunity for IoT-related industries in the near term. But for truly massive IoT to take root—one that optimizes factories, streamlines processes and wholly reinvents the production of goods—a revolution is needed on the network side, too.

And when they have a lightning-fast, super-reliable 5G network—like Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband network—machines will learn how to talk shop.

The impact of 5G on the factory floor

Robotics and automated systems are familiar to anyone who’s watched a car roll off a modern assembly line, but even these technologies are largely hamstrung by wired connectivity. With 5G, the network apparatus gets “lighter,” allowing industrial processes to be monitored and controlled with unparalleled precision.

In a 5G-driven smart factory, thousands of sensors at floor level can send a continuous stream of data to the cloud. Meanwhile, wireless transmitters called small cells sit close to, or even on the factory site, ensuring superior coverage and signal penetration. This robust network ecosystem can in turn help managers better monitor quality, increase speed, respond to supply fluctuations and simplify workflows.

Throughout this 5G-linked factory, devices from all stages of production can communicate simultaneously. When they do, systems can detect quality issues and prevent defects before products reach market, increasing public safety and saving manufacturers money—and potentially their reputations.

Over 5G, machinery will also perform predictive and preventive maintenance, minimizing delays from shutdowns, safeguarding employees and decreasing energy consumption. And contrary to the opinion that robots will replace technicians, automation is expected to create more jobs than it eliminates—better paying ones on average, at that—and maximize opportunities to leverage both human wisdom and artificial intelligence.

Smart jobs, smart machines and the bottom line

Bringing the power of 5G to bear on manufacturing is expected to have a suitably massive economic impact. By some estimates, the transition to 5G is predicted to boost global GDP growth by $3 trillion and produce over 22 million jobs by 2035—roughly the equivalent of adding an economy the size of India to the world. By the time 5G’s full impact is realized, a range of industries will produce up to $12.3 trillion of global economic output.

That’s why Ronan Dunne, Verizon’s executive vice president and group president of Verizon Wireless, sees 5G as the key ingredient to kickstarting a Fourth Industrial Revolution. “Think about innovations like the printing press, the steam engine, railroads, electricity, the internet,” he says. “5G has the potential to be one of these indispensable technologies, with the potential to create growth and spur innovation on a truly global scale.”

And like those indispensable technologies, Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband network will be providing a launchpad for unlimited applications. New industries will arise, economies will thrive and 5G will be viewed less as a technology connecting people to information, and more as a unified fabric connecting people to everything.

To put it another way: The future of manufacturing is working smarter, and 5G is helping streamline the process from concept to customer. With Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband network, the sky’s the limit on the factory floor.

Learn more about Verizon’s plans for bringing 5G technology to our customers

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