Return of the Large Trade Show

IMTS / Hannover Messe invaded Chicago this week. I drove down a couple of days. It was huge. Booths populated all four halls. I did not see everything. Or even half.

Hannover Messe (in Chicago) has co-located for the past three or four events. As in the past, the automation / Hannover Messe part encompassed a few aisles in the East hall.

I’ll have more news items in the next post.

Best of what I saw:

Nokia. What?! I was approached for an appointment. I said yes figuring on a 5G private network discussion. I was partly right.

Let me back up for context.

  • Enterprises crave data to feed their information systems.
  • Data from industrial / manufacturing operations were bottled in isolated, siloed systems
  • Networking became robust
  • Interoperable protocols grew
  • The Internet of Things (IoT) became a thing
  • Suddenly data could go where and when needed

Solutions.

  • Automation vendors claimed connectivity to enterprise but that fell short
  • IT suppliers, supporters of the enterprise, tried to enter the market with gateways, networking, partnerships and ecosystems to get the data.
  • They couldn’t find the formula to sell to manufacturing (known as OT)
  • We have gateways, databases, networking, but still no enterprise solution

Nokia.

  • Builds off networking technology which has progressed to 5G Private Networks
  • Has added edge compute devices
  • Partnership with PTC (Kepware / Thingworx) for software connectivity
  • Attacking this open market from a new perspective–both the enterprise IT side and the operations OT side

I am not predicting success. I never do. What I love about trade shows is finding this nugget of original thinking cloaked in the mundane. They have the foundation. Can they sell?

Check out this page on the Nokia site.

5G Marketing Failures

5G has potential for industrial and manufacturing applications, but when have we heard that much about it? Analyst firm Global Data’s recent study says mobile operators are failing to come up with a strong marketing story.

The study by GlobalData Technology, which involved a July 2022 audit of around 30  standalone 5G  commercial deployments worldwide, concluded that although operators are keen to flag the adoption of standalone 5G in general marketing messages—largely focusing on the improved network quality and capabilities for enterprises—the number of standalone 5G references within consumer 5G service portfolios are few and far between.

Emma Mohr-McClune, Service Director at GlobalData, comments: “The lack of effective standalone 5G promotion is a real problem for the future of 5G monetization. Standalone 5G will be a vital requirement for a lot of the more exciting 5G use cases, from autonomous devices to commercial augmented and virtual reality.”

Mohr-McClune continues: “The few exceptional cases—in Singapore, but also in Germany and elsewhere—make for fascinating study. In the future, we could see more operators position standalone 5G as greener, safer, and more reliable than future generations of wireless technology, but the current industry is still waiting for signature use cases to give the upgrade meaning to consumers. In the meantime, we believe that most operators will focus on marketing the technology to the business sector, where there are more immediate and distinctive use cases emerging.

“In the Enterprise sector, it’s an entirely different story. Standalone 5G enables enterprises to set up their own, closed Private 5G networks, to better manage connectivity in ultra-connected working set-ups, such as ports and mines–or even ‘slice’ the network for prioritized levels of service for mission-critical operations. The benefits, use cases, and return on investment (ROI) are far clearer. However, in selling standalone 5G to consumers, operators are going to have to make sure they don’t repeat the same promises they spun out for non-standalone 5G, or risk appearing to contradict themselves.”

Qualcomm Unleashes A Raft of New Products for WiFi and Autonomous Robots

Qualcomm has been quite busy releasing new products and devoting time to conversations. Networking advances are intriguing. Qualcomm has news beyond WiFi 6 that others are touting with news of a WiFi 7 platform. Other news includes an AR chip set and technology for mobile robotics.

Let’s take a tour through Qualcomm news:

Qualcomm Debuts Wi-Fi 7 Networking Pro Series, a Scalable Commercial Wi-Fi 7 Platform

Highlights:

  • Qualcomm Technologies is currently sampling the world’s most scalable Wi-Fi 7 networking platform portfolio commercially available, with offerings ranging from 6 to 16 streams, for next-generation enterprise access points, high performance routers, and carrier gateways
  • Third-generation Qualcomm Networking Pro Series platforms bring key Wi-Fi 7 features like 320MHz channel support establishing new performance benchmarks in wireless networking of up to 33 Gbps wireless interface capacity and peak throughputs over 10 Gbps.
  • These Qualcomm Networking Pro Series platforms continue the legacy of innovative, custom architectural design optimized for multi-user environments, to power the collaboration, telepresence, XR, metaverse, and immersive gaming applications of today and tomorrow’s home and enterprise environments.
  • Qualcomm Networking Pro Series platforms are supported by Qualcomm Technologies’ turnkey service for Automated Frequency Control (AFC) to enable the highest performance possible in the 6GHz spectrum band.

Qualcomm Technologies announced its Wi-Fi 7 capable Qualcomm Networking Pro Series Gen 3 family of platforms. Now sampling and available to global development partners, the Qualcomm Networking Pro Series, Gen3 is the world’s highest performance Wi-Fi 7 network infrastructure platform portfolio commercially available. Building upon the multi-generation legacy of the Qualcomm Networking Pro Series platforms, the products combine Wi-Fi 7 features with Qualcomm Technologies’ intelligent multi-channel management technologies to improve speeds, lower latency, and enhance network utilization for users of Wi-Fi 6/6E devices while offering game-changing throughput and incredibly low latency for the next generation of Wi-Fi 7 client devices.

This third generation of the Qualcomm Networking Pro Series sets new industry benchmarks for networking platform performance. The family enables systems with peak aggregate wireless capacity of 33 Gbps and point-to-point connections exceeding 10 Gbps. With advanced features for interference detection and multilink operation, the Wi-Fi 7 Network Pro Series enables deterministic low latency across challenging shared wireless environments, enabling application performance rivaling private spectrum. The products can support high speed low latency wireless backhaul for home mesh Wi-Fi and enterprise infrastructure with reliable performance even in the presence of neighboring interference. When combined with high performance internet access such as 5G fixed-wireless access or 10G PON fiber, customers can experience immersive connected experiences including high resolution videoconferencing, AR/VR, and high-performance cloud gaming.  

Wireless AR Smart Viewer Reference Design Powered by the Snapdragon XR2 Platform

The Wireless AR Smart Viewer eliminates the cord between an AR glass and a compatible smartphone, Windows PC, or processing puck and still achieves virtually lag-free AR experiences using a fully integrated Qualcomm FastConnect 6900 System combined with the new FastConnect XR Software Suite.

The reference design, which is being sampled to select OEMs, boasts a 40% thinner profile and a more balanced weight distribution2 .

Qualcomm Technologies announced another milestone in making extended reality (XR) the next computing platform with the Wireless AR Smart Viewer Reference Design, powered by the Snapdragon® XR2 Platform. The cord-free reference design helps OEMs and ODMs more seamlessly and cost-efficiently prototype and bring to market lightweight, premium AR glasses to enable immersive experiences that unlock the metaverse. 

Greater Performance, Sleeker Device: The purpose-built, premium Snapdragon XR2 Platform now packs powerful performance into a slim, smaller AR glass form factor. The AR reference design hardware, developed by Goertek, has a 40% thinner profile and a more ergonomically balanced weight distribution3 for increased comfort. SeeYA provides the dual micro-OLED binocular display enabling 1920 x 1080 per eye and frame rates up to 90Hz and a no-motion-blur feature to deliver a seamless AR experience. Dual monochrome cameras and one RGB camera on the smart viewer enable six-degrees of freedom (6DoF) head tracking and hand tracking with gesture recognition to achieve AR precision.

Qualcomm Advances Development of Smarter and Safer Autonomous Robots

Highlights:

• As 5G advances beyond the smartphone, 5G and premium AI-enabled robotics, drones and intelligent machine solutions will empower more productive, intelligent, and advanced robots, unlocking new possibilities with critical intelligence and maximum efficiency.

• Qualcomm Robotics RB6 Platform and the Qualcomm RB5 AMR Reference Design – bring enhanced AI and 5G together to power next-generation robotics, drones and intelligent machines including autonomous mobile robots (AMRs), delivery robots, highly automated manufacturing robots, urban air mobility (UAM) aircrafts, autonomous defense solutions, and beyond.

• Latest solutions unleash innovative possibilities for industries looking to adopt robots and realize the benefits of the solutions at the connected intelligent edge.

The Qualcomm Robotics RB6 Platform and the Qualcomm RB5 AMR Reference Design will support evolving applications for OEMs and robot manufacturers looking to integrate ground robots in industrial use cases across sectors including government service applications, logistics, healthcare, retail, warehousing, agriculture, construction, utilities, and more. The new solutions will accelerate the digital transformation of industries and serve as a key enabler for Industry 4.0.

Wireless IoT Sensors Lose the Batteries

In the beginning of wireless IoT sensors on the supplier side was the concept of inexpensive wireless sensors beaming process and environmental data to the enterprise. In the beginning on the user side was the fear of sending maintenance technician on annual rounds with pockets full of batteries sort of like the annual reminder to change the batteries in your household smoke detectors.

These thoughts were soon followed by engineers tinkering with a variety of methods for generating electricity from the process or perhaps the inherent machine vibration thus eliminating batteries.

Recently I learned of a company called Everactive that has released a wireless sensor product suite that eliminates batteries. They use energy harvesting for power, their own wireless network in which each sensor reports back to the gateway. Some impressive use cases.

The publicist’s pitch related to sustainability (and Earth Day). Some examples:

With tools like Everactive’s real-time Steam Trap Monitoring, a single sensor’s impact = avoiding $1,000 in energy costs, 10+ tons in annual excess CO2 emissions, and 1,800+ therms of energy.  That’s the equivalent of removing 2 passenger cars from the road for a single year or making 5 US homes energy net-zero for a full year.  When you consider that an average manufacturing facility has hundreds to thousands of traps and there are tens of millions of these throughout industry, the impact multiplies rapidly.

With real-time Machine Health Monitoring, B2B customers are able run machinery much more efficiently and avoid extremely costly downtime events.

In general, there are hundreds of B2B IoT applications where wireless IoT devices can be put to work in the service of far more impactful uses — to curb energy usage, reduce waste, lower emissions, improve air quality, and do it using renewable energy.

Examples of Everactive’s Customers/Technology Impact on CSR

Anheuser Busch reduced its CO 2 emissions by an estimated 7,561tons of CO 2 per year using the Everactive always-on solution, which is equivalent to taking 1,644 passenger vehicles off the road each year.

Hershey Since implementing the STM (Steam Trap Monitoring), the Hershey’s plant has already saved several thousand dollars in steam system savings. The maintenance team are now piloting Everactive’s new solution for Machine Health Monitoring (MHM).

Colgate-Palmolive During the first several months of using 230 Everactive steam trap sensors in Colgate-Palmolive’s Ohio and Indiana manufacturing facilities, on-site managers received email alerts about four critical steam trap failures. Teams were able to quickly replace the malfunctioning traps. Everactive says that Colgate-Palmolive recouped its subscription-based fees for service (including installation of the sensors and use of Everactive’s web data  platform) in just three months. Everactive also estimates that as a result of the sensor-based monitoring, Colgate-Palmolive is saving 20,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions yearly.

Merck For this customer, the advantages have been manifold. Everactive delivers steam trap insights second-by-second, rather than once every six months, and does so conveniently, with intelligent notifications and easy to navigate mobile and desktop interfaces.”I was able to get on my phone real quick and read what the condensate temperature was, so we could determine if there was live steam going into [the trap],” notes the plant’s Facilities Engineer. “[That was] pretty neat.”

End of General Purpose Wireless for IoT

Stacey Higgenbotham writes in her weekly Stacey on IoT newsletter about the proliferation of IoT networks. I’ve been noting advances in 5G and WiFi6 and occasionally about advances in Bluetooth, but she puts it all together here.

But as we have added more devices and more types of networks, wireless connectivity has become a lot more complicated. We have personal area networks for wearables and headsets that use Bluetooth. We have some devices on Wi-Fi 5 networks and others on Wi-Fi 6 or even Wi-Fi 6E. Smart homes might have Zigbee, Z-Wave, or Thread. Corporate offices might have a proprietary OT network and variations on 4G or 5G cellular.

Then it comes to the crucial point.

And someone has to manage all of this. Welcome to the end of the general purpose wireless network. Today, it’s all about special purpose connectivity.

On the one hand, corporate IT must pick up new skills.

So how will corporate IT departments manage the provisioning and acquisition of connectivity across multiple types of networks? Wi-Fi gear that handles Wi-Fi and Bluetooth that gets managed by the IT department has already come onto the market. But while the IT department might help manage the cellular network bills, with private LTE or private 5G it’s unclear how that gear and management will converge.

And, of course, changes also mean new opportunities for entrepreneurs to enter.

As general purpose wireless networks fade, enterprises will need help. The only question is: Who will win the race to provide it? 

5G Industrial Wireless Private Network Installed in Croatia

We are beginning to see more installations proving the value of 5G private cellular networks for industrial applications. This should be almost commonplace by the beginning of 2023. This is the third Nokia application I’ve seen in a bit over six months.

Nokia announced it is partnering with OIV, a leading provider of national strategic communications infrastructure in Croatia, to deliver a 5G private wireless network solution that will enhance operational efficiency and enable new capabilities at AD Plastik’s automotive component manufacturing facility in Croatia.

Nokia Digital Automation Cloud (DAC) application platform will enable low latency and secure, reliable 5G wireless connectivity for equipment, machinery, and a set of applications at AD Plastik’s manufacturing campus in Zagreb, Croatia. It will replace and overcome the limitations of the existing Wi-Fi infrastructure to allow AD Plastik to implement new Industry 4.0 use-cases and enhance operational efficiency.

Marinko Došen, President of AD Plastik Group, said: “Further digitalization and automation of business in our industry is simply a necessity. Just as your chances on the market are significantly reduced if you produce vehicles that cannot be connected, so you have to keep up with trends in the production of automotive components. Industry 4.0 is our reality, and we must be ready to continue its implementation. 5G technology, in addition to being a hundred times faster than the existing one, allows us to simultaneously connect smart and digital devices that we use every day in our production, and which will be even more represented in the future. Simply put, at the moment it is the basis for connecting devices that will help us in the production and delivery processes, and for the future we create the preconditions for building a modern, digital and promising company.”

Andrej Skenderović Project Manager at OIV Digital Signals and Networks, said: “OIV as a modern digital company is constantly looking for new solutions for existing and future clients. We see the Private 5G network as a key technology for further development in the next decade. That is why we launched this project with the aim of expanding the range of our services. In this technology, which is characterized not only by a large capacity of the network, but also by many other possibilities, we see the potential to start the recovery and further development of the industry. We hope that with this project we will continue to be the leading provider of innovative services in our country.”

Michael Siegel, Director Nokia Enterprise South-East Europe, said: “By implementing the Nokia DAC, AD Plastik will benefit from the highest reliability and lowest latency connectivity for all their operations, allowing the company to accelerate its digitalisation and industry 4.0 transformation for greater efficiency and flexibility while maintaining quality and safety in its manufacturing facility in Croatia”