Automation, the Internet of Things (IoT), and real-time, end-to-end supply chain monitoring: These are the issues that will shape the logistics of the future. What they all have in common is their reliance on high-performance mobile broadband connectivity for fast, efficient transfer of large data volumes over long distances.
But there’s a hitch. Today’s 4G cellular networks lack the speed, bandwidth, and agility needed to support innovative solutions in these key areas. Enter 5G: the latest generation of mobile broadband. This month, we’ll look at the potential benefits of the technology for logistics players – and what you can do today to shape up for the 5G world of tomorrow.
How 4G Puts a Damper on Innovation
Automation is one of the hottest topic in logistics. Whether in warehouses or on the move, vast volumes of data have to be exchanged at ultra-high speeds to make automation a business reality. But 4G simply can’t deliver the high bandwidth and low latency required – especially when it comes to safety-critical applications like autonomous driving, where vehicles have to be able to communicate in real time with the powerful central processors that provide their intelligence.
This problem is also reflected by the fact that, while the transport and logistics sector has been the fastest to embrace IoT – with an adoption rate of 45% – lack of bandwidth means it is impossible to harness the full potential of the technology.
Similarly, the shortcomings of 4G hamper 360-degree supply-chain visibility, particularly in international transit. In a recent survey, logistics and shipping providers admitted that as much as 50% of their supply chain is currently off the radar. And 90% of respondents rated this lack of visibility as one of the greatest challenges they now face.
Low Latency: How 5G Enables Autonomous Driving
Thanks to their ultra-low latency, rapid, high-volume data transfer, plus their capacity for connecting larger numbers of smart (IoT) devices, 5G broadband networks resolve these issues by taking connectivity to the next level. These networks can transmit with a time lag of just one millisecond, making 5G a key enabler of automation – particularly in the form of autonomous trucks.
Because 5G is up to 120 times faster than 4G, it supports direct communication between autonomous vehicles and enables them to share their perceptions of the road with each other, greatly enhancing safety. And if that sounds like sci-fi, the tech has already been put through its paces in real-world conditions. A recent pilot by Ericsson, Einride, and Telia demonstrated how 5G can power an autonomous, all-electric transport ecosystem that delivers cost efficiencies and improves safety while contributing to a sustainable future.
More Connected Devices for Seamless Processes Integration and 360-Degree Supply Chain Visibility
5G’s significantly faster data transmission rates and high bandwidth also provide invaluable support for logistics’ companies IoT initiatives and investments, enabling more smart devices to be integrated into the supply chain and opening the door to seamless process integration, streamlined logistical movement, and innovative new use cases.
When it comes to increasing supply-chain visibility, 5G also promises major improvements. Large-capacity data transmission, coupled with high numbers of connected trackers, will greatly enhance tracking and monitoring capabilities – for real-time insight into the location and condition of goods across the entire supply chain, boosting visibility and reducing risks.
One striking example of 5G in action in the transport sector is the data transmission system used by China Railway Corp to record and analyze data aboard some of its locomotives. The solution enables simultaneous ultra-high definition video streaming and conferencing between the driver’s cab and the control center, allowing sizeable data volumes to be exchanged in next to no time.
With the global market for 5G chipsets expected to be worth some USD 2.1 billion by 2020 – and to skyrocket to just under USD 23 billion by 2026 – there can be little doubt that 5G heralds a paradigm shift for a whole host of industries – including logistics and transport providers.
But while around two thirds of organizations intend to deploy 5G solutions by 2020, and some 1.2 billion 5G connections are forecast by 2025, much has still to be done to smooth the way for the new tech. One key concern here is security. To ensure information flows securely through 5G networks, all stakeholders – from logistics companies to network providers, right through to countries – will have to work hand in hand.
For technical reasons, 5G requires more antennas than 4G, so this is an area where mobile operators will have to step up investment. Likewise, logistics players will have to ramp up their spending on the vehicles, (IoT) equipment, and machinery required to make their 5G visions reality. And that will entail forging new relationships with the comparatively small number of suppliers in the 5G space.
Start Charting Your Course to 5G Today
So how can you prepare to make the most of the opportunities offered by 5G? A good place to start is by gaining a sound understanding of the devices that can be deployed in the new networks. Armed with this knowledge, you can start drawing up a 5G strategy for leveraging enhanced connectivity and ensuring a lean, secure, and effective operations environment. A well-thought-out strategy of this kind will give you a rock-solid foundation not only for business-critical investments in the right tech, but also for selecting the 5G supplier that is right for you.
The Power of 5G at a Glance
Data rate: up to 10Gbps (10 to 100 times more than 4G and 4.5G)
Latency: one millisecond
Bandwidth per unit area: 1,000 times that of 4G
Connected devices per unit area: up to 100 times the number supported by 4G LTE
Network energy use: 90% reduction compared to 4G
To dig deeper into the technical specs of 5G, check out this useful site.