5G technology provides companies with massive opportunities to create better products, find new business models and save resources in their processes. From development to production and logistics to sales, potential applications can be found almost anywhere. Here is a closer look at the individual economic sectors.
Even traditionally oriented firms in the trades are under increased competitive pressure as a result of digitalisation. Customers’ wishes are changing: some want to customise their furniture themselves by configuring it online and adding it to a 3D model of their own living room. Here, 5G provides the basic technical preconditions for the field of mobile applications. Using augmented reality, digital objects can be positioned in an analogue space – making any customer consultation more vivid than ever before.
For the company, this need not be an expensive luxury. Indeed, it can even save costs. Digital support eliminates the need for customer visits and for conventional methods of measuring the parts that need to be produced. And thanks to the swift transmission of large data packages with 5G technology, structural designs for individual parts or spare parts can be sent digitally and produced with a 3D printer. As it does for every branch of industry, 5G also makes it possible to reorganise companies within the trades: using robots, production processes can be fully automated, with just one person required to control these across a number of sites.
This inter-site control via 5G networks also plays a major role in the construction industry. On a digitalised construction site, interlinked cranes, excavators and many other types of construction machinery all interact intelligently and are, if necessary, controlled by just one person. Self-learning cameras and sensors monitor the whole process. As a result, entirely new construction processes become possible, reducing construction time and, not least, improving work safety thanks to the smaller number of people on the site. It is also conceivable that drones could be deployed as back-up support for human beings, monitoring building sites, applying insulation or spraying facades.
The tablet supplants the tractor: for today’s farmer, the most important work tool might not necessarily have four wheels. Digital innovations have been finding their way into the agricultural sector for some years now. Over half of all agricultural companies are already using digital solutions such as machines capable of driving themselves semi-autonomously. Until now, however, development was frequently inhibited by a sluggish pace in upgrading the broadband network. 5G technology is now helping agricultural and forestry companies to take the next step in digitalisation. Whether it is field work, animal husbandry, food processing, trading or customer support, each of these is influenced, directly or indirectly, by the expansion of the 5G network.
So-called precision farming can, if applied correctly, save costs while having a positive impact on the environment. The same technology can also be used for fertilisation, with sensors analysing the plants’ requirements. A manure trailer, digitally networked thanks to 5G (possibly through direct analysis of the nutrients in the manure) can help improve the nutrient efficiency of the fertilising process and reduce the risk of nutrient exports.
5G technology will impact considerably on plant and machinery engineering. And the key difference here is frequently a matter of milliseconds. Whether it concerns precision targeting by the pick-and-place machine, accurate support from autonomous robots or driverless transport systems reacting to obstacles rapidly, it all comes down to the quality of the Internet connection. But this is exactly where the problems start: in a survey by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, 68 percent of the companies asked cited an unavailable or inadequate broadband network as the greatest digitalisation obstacle. In many areas, data transmission has until now been too slow and availability (resilience) has been too low.
Likewise, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the processing industry will be able to save a great deal of resources through 5G, such as power and materials. Improved digital control can also cut down errors in production and save storage space through optimised planning. Companies themselves estimate the potential savings at up to 25 percent.
As well as offering fast data exchange and low latency, to the delight of users everywhere, 5G also makes real-time traffic management technology possible. This can provide instant warnings of traffic jams or hazards along the route. After all, not only are delays in communication annoying, they are also dangerous – and in the event of a hard tailback, they are life-threatening.
For the HGV and logistics sector, so-called platooning is of interest. This involves multiple HGVs, all networked together, driving close to each other in a convoy of around 5 to 6 vehicles with the aid of a control system. Fuel consumption is reduced, as is the strain on the driver. This is one way 5G technology can help improve the flow of traffic while allowing people to use the existing infrastructure and the various mobility options more effectively and efficiently. Finding a parking space can be made easier and car- and bike-sharing offerings can be improved.
Campus networks are small private 5G networks that are only available locally. They allow companies and other institutions to benefit from 5G technology without the risk of sensitive data leaking out. Campus networks are of particular interest to medium-sized to large companies. They have the money and the personnel needed to set up their own network on their premises.
However, smaller companies are not being excluded. They have the option of turning to service providers who can guarantee a certain level of coverage and quality in their network – in storage and logistics centres, for example. Very small businesses in particular will be able to make use of private 5G networks. These run on the infrastructure belonging to the service provider, but they are separated virtually from the remainder of the network and configured to suit the requirements of the user.
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