We all understand how important fixed and mobile broadband connectivity is, but are we fully realising the benefits for individuals, communities, businesses, and our planet? Faster broadband is just the start. Lower latency, high reliability and ubiquitous coverage enable so much more.
A crisis can often be a catalyst for innovation, and we seem to be surrounded by crises today – the top three being the cost of living, energy, and our environment and climate. Already, we see innovation being developed and deployed to deliver change which can impact each of these.
Bringing satellite and 5G technology together can enable more complete coverage, as well as providing backup when things go wrong. The Satellites for Digitalisation of Railways (SODOR) project will provide low latency, high reliability connectivity for sensors, which will enable more efficient operation of trains, bringing costs down for individuals and businesses who travel regularly.
Satellite technology can enable real time monitoring where this was not previously possible. For example, tracking the growth of Seagrass, which can consume carbon up to 35 times faster than rainforests, as well as increasing biodiversity and helping the food chain.
Smart Meters have given the opportunity to monitor energy usage. We are now seeing the start of an extended smart grid, where Electric Vehicles form part of the solution in storing energy when production is cheaper (sun shining on Solar arrays, wind turning offshore wind farms). These all rely on reliable communications to provide consumers with choices on how to shift their energy usage.
Inside buildings, coverage can sometimes be challenging. The recent techUK user guide has been developed to highlight the opportunities provided by Private Networks to help provide dense indoor coverage (for example in a factory or university campus) and enable low latency and high bandwidth applications outdoors (for example in ports and logistics facilities, water treatment plants etc). The guide identifies the following opportunities through digital transformation:
Increased productivity and efficiency
Private networks can unlock intelligence for enterprise through sensory networks. Capturing data in real time, an operational model of a factory enables predictive maintenance, identifying fixes to reduce downtime and help reduce costs.
Linking an advanced private network with cloud-based IT/OT infrastructure enables several digital applications and services to be unlocked. These include wide-area mobility for autonomous and remote-controlled operations, from smart manufacturing, the use of drones and autonomous vehicles, AI, machine vision, edge computing and augmented reality.
Internet of Things
Deploying a new ecosystem of connected IoT devices is more viable for businesses. IoT technology enables manufacturers to increase the number of sensors fitted to equipment, collect more data, and measure more variables. This data collection and analysis can enable necessary maintenance to be carried out in a scheduled way, reducing downtime and minimising the impact of repairs on a factory’s performance. IoT sensor technology can be used across multiple industry sectors.
The mobility benefits of dedicated private networks mean increased worker safety, especially in challenging or hazardous environments, including ports, mines, and off-shore facilities. Bespoke connectivity solutions designed to operate in hazardous locations ensure radio and phone communication, help control bandwidth for worker communication and can integrate safety and maintenance apps into operational systems.
So, what are you waiting for? The opportunities for transformation are all around us, and communication is no longer a barrier to what can be achieved. Let’s use our imagination to accelerate connectivity and drive change for good.
Alan Nunn, Senior Consultant and Communications SME, CGI