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Smart Facilities and Industrial IOT in the Era of 5G

Implementing 5G will bring real-time optimization to manufacturing and distribution facilities.

Q2 2020
For manufacturing and distribution facilities, the introduction of 5G — the next generation of cellular wireless — could be a game-changer down the line.

Consider: 5G will hasten the rise of the smart factory/warehouse, where tracking and distribution will improve exponentially, thanks to industrial IOT sensors. Monitoring will happen continuously in real time as the 5G network takes a triple approach to improving mobility — speed (ultra-fast data rates), interactivity (ultra-low lag with no buffering), and connectivity (more capacity, devices, and data).

But this panacea of improved efficiency and productivity can only happen once facility owners and operators begin evaluating their properties’ infrastructure and readiness. With that in mind, follow the five-step road map in this article to prepare for 5G.

The introduction of 5G — the next generation of cellular wireless — could be a game-changer down the line. Roadblocks to Consider
Before rolling out the 5G red carpet, it’s important to remember that there may still be a few roadblocks in the way. When these roadblocks exist, occupants will feel like they’re walking at a snail’s pace in the facility but teleporting the minute they step outside.
  • Where reliable 4G service is a current concern, 5G service most likely won’t even be available. Don’t expect 5G to solve 4G problems.
  • Most carriers are targeting a much higher frequency spectrum than current 4G networks, which will not travel as far or penetrate materials well, like glass and walls. For this reason, tenants who have good 4G coverage today could still experience poor 5G coverage tomorrow. Target issue areas within your facility if this applies.
  • Some existing coaxial-based Distributed Antenna System (DAS) installations may not be able to migrate to 5G and transmit at the required higher frequencies or have cost-effective 5G scalability. Work with your facility’s DAS consultant and solution providers for relief.
With 5G, real-time optimization will come to manufacturing and distribution facilities. Take the five steps above and soon you will be giving high fives to everyone on your team.

Step 1:

Conduct an assessment.
• Facility owners/operators:
Assess the building's existing cellular enhancement system/DAS, infrastructure, and distribution if any, including pathways and risers. If there’s no system in place, identify spaces required for additional anticipated equipment, risers, and pathways.
• Facility tenants:
Consider lease evaluations and conduct building property assessments before negotiating a contract. Enterprise tenants relying heavily on mobility and BYOD will want to make sure they have the necessary coverage and infrastructure in place ahead of 5G rollout.

Step 2:

Benchmark building frequency.
Commission a study of the radio frequency environment of the property and identify state of coverage, signal strength, quality, and service limitations. This will require walking routes inside and outside and utilize scanners to collect signal data at various frequencies for each service provider and cellular technology. Because service providers operate on different frequencies, test all relevant channels and desired services. Benchmark study results to be captured as a map superimposed atop building floor plans, with the state of coverage on every floor and in every location.

Step 3:

Get a design on paper.
• Facility owners/operators:
The best thing to keep in mind from a design perspective is to have a flexible infrastructure. Think: How do I create a fiber distribution throughout my facility that is most flexible? Also, plan for pathways. In certain cities, cabling has to be enclosed in pathways and go through conduit piping. Make sure to check local codes. Finally, expect to see more and more ceiling antennas that are focused for 5G — something to keep in mind in your design and coordination.

Step 4:

Evaluate and select solution providers. Using your concept design and simulated model, gather competitive bids from solution providers. Select the most appropriate solution to meet facility requirements. Use a credible solution provider to engage in negotiations with carriers and to enhance the facility’s cellular service.

Step 5:

Time to implement.
At this final stage, infrastructure, hardware modifications, system installations, and functional testing will be completed. Once the system is integrated and tied in with the cellular network effectively, perform final commissioning, data collection, and share live numbers with carriers. Resist the urge to just install and roll out! Testing and commissioning the system post-implementation is critical.

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