Nokia Survey Reveals Enterprises Are Scaling Private Wireless Networks

It always appeared to me that 5G and other private wireless networks held promise for many applications within industry. This report from Nokia reveals enterprises are scaling private wireless for additional uses cases and industrial sites.

  • 45% of the organizations are leveraging private wireless to support more use cases than planned when first deployed.
  • 100% of enterprises expanded private wireless networks use or deployed them within another location and 78% reported positive ROI in six months.
  • 65% of respondents stated over 10% improvement in worker safety and 79% reported 10% or more reduction in their emissions.
  • 39% of enterprises with a private wireless have since deployed on-premise edge technology, with 52% planning to do so.

This 2024 Industrial Digitalization Report highlights that all 100 interviewed early adopters are using private wireless networks in additional locations or have expanded their use by launching more use cases in existing locations.

The Nokia report and related survey was conducted by GlobalData to gauge industry progress and return on investment (ROI) among private wireless early adopters in the manufacturing, transportation, and energy industries in countries including Australia, France, Japan, UK, and US.

The Report revealed that the top benefits for enterprises deploying private wireless networks include:

  • Increase in private wireless uses and locations: In 2022, many enterprises who had deployed private wireless technology were still at the proof of concept (PoC) or pilot stage, usually in a single location or single use case. In 2024, almost half of the enterprises interviewed (45%) are already taking advantage of private wireless networks with plans to do more than initially expected. 100% of the 100 enterprises interviewed have started to roll out private wireless networks to more locations or expanded their use at the original locations for driving wider industrial transformation.
  • Quickly achieving ROI: 93% of the respondents achieved ROI within 12 months. In fact, 78% reported that they achieved a positive outcome within six months, and 23% hit their ROI target in just one month. Private wireless solutions have helped businesses achieve such returns by fixing broken processes and reducing the overall cost of doing business.
  • Improved worker safety and sustainability: The research found that worker safety is a common challenge private wireless technology is helping to overcome, with 65% stating they realized more than 10% improvement in top use cases to improve worker safety, such as implementing geofencing technology, connected worker and robotics to carry out dangerous work.
  • Furthermore, 79% of organizations experienced a significant improvement in their sustainability efforts reporting a 10%, or more, reduction in their emissions after deploying private wireless networks. The enhanced connectivity increased the ability of those surveyed to connect industrial IoT devices and sensors to better track and monitor their carbon emissions. The use of drone technology reduced the number of truck rolls. This shows how private wireless technology is leading organizational transformation, not simply digital transformation, enabling tracking and analytics to meet global sustainability objectives.
  • Edge technology underpinning advance use cases: Edge technology is playing a foundational role in enabling new and more advanced low latency use cases that stretch beyond connectivity. 39% of the enterprises that deployed private wireless have since implemented an on-premise edge technology or a new selection of industrial devices to power digitalization and support complimentary technologies such as AI and analytics, with a further 52% planning to do so.

Orbbec Cameras Integrated with NVIDIA Isaac Robotics Platform        

One place where technology and integration and partners advances lies in the vision and robotics area. This news concerns Orbbec 3D vision systems integrating with NVIDIA Isaac Perceptor robotics platforms.

In brief: Gemini 330 cameras with built-in depth processing deliver high-precision Depth+RGB vision for NVIDIA  Isaac Perceptor AI-based perception workflow for autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) in indoor and outdoor environments.

Orbbec, an industry leader dedicated to 3D vision systems, announced its Gemini 330 series Stereo Vision 3D cameras are now integrated with NVIDIA Isaac Perceptor, a reference workflow for autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) built on GPU-accelerated Isaac ROS.

These cameras enhance depth quality and provide longer-range sensing in varied lighting conditions, which lets Isaac Perceptor – whose general availability was announced by NVIDIA today at COMPUTEX – output 3D reconstruction and obstacle cost maps of any unstructured environment.

The Gemini 335/335L/336/336L cameras operate in both passive and active laser-illuminated modes to ensure high-quality depth and RGB data output even in challenging lighting conditions. The depth algorithms are processed in the camera by Orbbec’s latest depth engine ASIC and thus eliminates the burden on the NVIDIA Jetson Orin module-based compute for such operations. The cameras include internal IMU and temperature sensors and have a working range of 0.2-10 meters, global shutter image sensors, wide field-of-view lenses, high frame rates, low latency and precise multi-camera synchronization.

Orbbec also announces the Gemini 336/336L variants for improved performance in indoor environments by adding NIR bandpass filters. This reduces the potential of “holes” in a depth map due to glare from shiny floors and other reflective surfaces and “ghost” images from repetitive patterns in the environment.

In addition to AMRs, the Gemini 330 series cameras are well suited for robot arm applications that utilize AI vision for bin-picking, palletization, scanning and sorting applications, especially where reduction in glare and resulting holes from glossy surfaces are important.

Mitsubishi Electric Corporation Leads Series B Investment in Realtime Robotics

Investments seldom interest me. This one in the robotics area should be noticed when we consider the usual lifecycle path of a start up technology company.

Realtime Robotics, the leader in collision-free autonomous motion planning for industrial robots, today announced that it has secured a strategic investment from Mitsubishi Electric Corporation. This is the lead investment in Realtime Robotics’ recently opened Series B round. Mitsubishi Electric was also a participant in the Series A round, and will be adding a senior representative to Realtime’s Board of Directors.

Realtime Robotics’ unique and innovative collision-free path planning technology provides solutions across the lifecycle of robotic workcells. In iterative design stages, the award-winning multirobot optimization software rapidly generates and evaluates hundreds of thousands of possible solutions to identify the shortest cycle time. Deployment and production are further simplified by runtime control, enabling multiple robots to work closer together, while simultaneously reacting to dynamic changes. Finally, when the workcell needs to be retooled, the complex robot control is effortlessly reprogrammed for optimal cycle time from the first iteration. 

Why is Mitsubishi interested?

By increasing its stake, Mitsubishi Electric plans to further integrate Realtime’s motion planning technology into 3D simulators and other software to optimize manufacturing through the power of digital twins. Later, Mitsubishi Electric expects to incorporate Realtime’s technology into factory automation (FA) control system devices, such as programmable logic controllers (PLCs), servo motors and computer numerical controllers (CNCs), to ensure uninterrupted plant operations by responding to needs for expanded automation capabilities, streamlined plant operations for improved efficiency, and fast responses to unexpected events.

FieldComm Group Acquires FDT/DTM Technology

Ah, so go markets. Bitter enemies at the start many years ago. A gradual coming together. And now one big happy organization. FieldComm Group completes acquisition of FDT Group technologies. It all had to happen. I’m sure the member companies did not want to continue paying dues to multiple organizations. It’s a win all the way around. As well, they kept Steve Biegacki on to head up Strategic Integration—something for which he should be good.

From the press release. FieldComm Group, a leading figure in global industrial automation standards, today (June 10, 2024) announces that is has completed the acquisition of FDT Group’s assets including the FDT/DTM technology standards. This significant transaction underscores FieldComm Group’s dedication to addressing industrial device management challenges across the entire industrial automation market, ultimately enhancing operational efficiency for vendors and end users.

With a comprehensive suite of technologies including Information Models, the Field Device Integration (FDI) standard, and well-established communication protocols like HART, HART-IP, WirelessHART, and Foundation Fieldbus, FieldComm Group’s market offerings serve the entire process automation sector. The addition of FDT/DTM technology, a widely deployed device integration standard across process and factory automation markets, adds new technologies to the portfolio, completely addressing the industrial automation hierarchy.

The obligatory comment by the CEO:

“As digitalization transforms the automation industry by breaking down barriers between operation technology and information technology, the integration of factory and process automation devices becomes both more important and more difficult. Our aim as a standards organization is to add intelligence to the device integration process, with an ultimate goal of making it simpler,” stated Ted Masters, President and CEO of FIeldComm Group. “Ends users and suppliers will benefit greatly from this acquisition by having a single standards development organization responsible for the full spectrum of device integration from the simplest sensor to the most complex field instrument.”

Strategic Integration:

As part of the acquisition, FieldComm Group announces the formation of a Strategic Integration Committee (SIC), under the leadership of industry expert Steve Biegacki, former Managing Director of the FDT Group. The SIC will drive advancement of integration standards, including FDT/DTM and FDI, ensuring proactive management and maintenance of these technologies. The committee will initially be composed of FieldComm Group Board-level company representatives, with planned expansion to include representatives from other Standards Development Organizations (SDOs). The SIC aims to collaboratively work to preserve the existing installed base and chart a standardization roadmap for a unified device management platform, ensuring interoperability across existing protocols as well as future technology evolution, including OPC UA FX.

Our focus is on unified device configuration and a migration path to the future,” said Steve Biegacki. “At FieldComm Group, we are committed to seamless integration and enhanced operational efficiency for the entire automation industry.”

Integrated Robot Control

Once motion control systems, robot systems, and logic control systems existed as if on two different planets. Technology developers slowly began integrating motion control into their PLC platforms until today no one would acquire a PLC that cannot integrate motion.

Several years ago Rockwell Automation announced a robot control platform integrated into its control platform. And ABB/B+R and several others. Many robot applications readily lend themselves to integration into overall machine control.

Samantha Mou writes for Interact Analysis, one of the few analyst firms I find interesting. Based in China, she has written a good piece about Siemens’ announcements around Hannover Messe.

Just before Hanover Messe, Siemens announced its cooperation with two collaborative robot vendors, UR and JAKA. This will enable Siemens PLCs to control robots from UR and JAKA through the TIA Portal using the ‘Standard Robot Command Interface (SRCI)’ function. Prior to this, Siemens was already working in cooperation with Comau, Stäubli, Kawasaki and Yaskawa in integrated robot control via SRCI. A series of other leading robot brands, such as ABB, KUKA, FANUC, Epson and Techman, are also scheduled to come on board, and some other well-known Japanese and Chinese suppliers are pending, including Yamaha and Estun.

This will mean that the most influential industrial robot and collaborative robot brands on the market will support integrated robot control, allowing their robots to be controlled by automation systems.

Currently, the integration of industrial or collaborative robots and machines generally uses communication networks. The robot and the machine utilize independent control platforms, and robot controllers are connected to the machine PLC via communication protocols to facilitate machine-robot coordination.

So, how do companies integrate the two?

The concept of machine-integrated robot control emerged in a bid to unify control of machines and robots. There are two main ways of doing this. One is to retain the robot-specific controller hardware. For example, Siemens’ method employs a PLC that supports SRCI functions to translate and merge the robots’ control instructions into the TIA Portal. This enables engineers to use Siemens’ development environment to control robots without using robot programming languages.

Another integration method is to eliminate the robot controller hardware and use an automation controller with motion control functions instead. Robot axes are regarded as components of the machine and can be controlled directly by the machine controller. Notable solutions using this method include Rockwell’s Unified Robot Control, B&R’s Machine-Centric Robotics, Schneider’s PacDrive, and Omron’s NJ501-R controller. In addition to robot mechanics coming from robot manufacturers, there are also many cases where machine builders or integrators build robot mechanics themselves.

Another example of labor shortage.

With the increasing adoption of robots and the continued shortage of experienced engineers, there is strong growth in the market’s interest in integrated robot control. Different types of relevant market players are trying to seize the opportunities and benefits offered by this technology.

You can read her complete analysis here.

ABB Launches Upgraded DCS ABB Ability System 800xA

While on the smaller, more flexible Process Control theme, let’s take a look at ABB. That company brought a new editor who came from industry up to the Cleveland suburbs to learn all about their newly designed process control system, the 800xA.

ABB says that as plants keep growing in complexity, the number of tags, and the diversity of field devices and instrumentation. The latest update, version 6.2, is said to reduce the complexity and cost of automation projects.

The design is said to enhance connectivity through improvements in OPC UA support, native Ethernet APL device integration, and the increased quantity of supported PROFINET devices to meet the growing number of network centric I/O and field devices.

Further, native, direct connectivity to PROFIsafe devices increases safety while reducing engineering, installation, and maintenance costs for SIS (Safety Instrumented System) installations.

The new Ethernet I/O marshalling tool makes it easier to distribute individual channels and modules between controllers for projects utilizing network I/O solutions such as Select I/O and S800 on Ethernet.

System 800xA 6.2 now supports the use of Microsoft Defender Antivirus to enhance cyber security while reducing the cost of automation system ownership.

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