Coffey’s view on… Scotland’s fourth industrial revolution

| Paul Coffey

For the past half-decade, there’s been a great deal of excitement around the concept of the fourth industrial revolution – the adoption of robotics, artificial intelligence, and the Internet of Things (IoT) among other technologies in manufacturing processes.

Perhaps less discussed is the crucial role connectivity will play – the ability to deliver the necessary infrastructure and quickly process the vast amounts of data involved is almost treated as a given. In that respect, the roll-out of 5G will underpin the delivery of the next industrial revolution, providing the architecture on which the future of Scottish manufacturing can be built.

That’s the topic we will be addressing at our latest virtual event on August 25th, highlighting the opportunities the next generation of connectivity will unlock and its transformative potential for one of Scotland’s most important sectors.

Although still in its formative stages, deploying 5G in Scotland will be critical for industrial automation and a range of new concepts in manufacturing. These may include the live streaming of engineering instructions to machines, machine-to-machine communication, and the overall implementation of the Industrial IoT.

Shared spectrum and private networks

Indeed, the opening up of ‘shared spectrum’, which allows individuals and organisations to create their own private mobile networks, will help bring state-of-the-art connectivity to everyone – regardless of where they are located. This should help manufacturers across the country to trial new business models, technologies, and concepts, by connecting equipment, monitoring data in real-time, and supporting the application of machine-learning algorithms.

To that end, we are working with the University of Strathclyde and the National Manufacturing Institute Scotland (NMIS), which is operated by Strathclyde – to develop a private 5G network at the NMIS specialist technology centres, the Advanced Forming Research Centre (AFRC) and Lightweight Manufacturing Centre (LMC).

This infrastructure will be used to trial the use of 5G in a manufacturing context and act as an exemplar for others to follow. Once use cases are proven, we hope and expect that they will be adopted by manufacturers across Scotland by creating their own pop-up private networks.

Creating a meta-network

Combined, a network of networks – whether they are Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, or LoRaWan – can help manufacturers securely integrate their existing technologies to link millions of devices, which will give them much better visibility of their processes and equipment. Access to regular information, without relying on third parties, can also help them track assets to drive efficiencies in the production cycle, support health and safety for staff, and securely store data on site.

But the potential benefits extend far beyond individual factories. With interaction between public and private networks, manufacturers can understand the provenance of all the parts of the process and materials they use, supporting efficient methods of production and develop a much closer understanding of their supply chains.

A first step towards revolution

Developing a private 5G network at NMIS facilities is an important first step towards the wider adoption of the next generation of connectivity in Scottish manufacturing. It will provide the testing ground for the ultra-low latency, high-bandwidth telecommunications that will underpin 5G IoT and define the next industrial revolution.

This use of 5G technology underlines how very different it will be to 4G and its previous iterations, and Scotland has the opportunity to be at the forefront of the seismic changes that it will sweep through manufacturing and other sectors in the years ahead.

The Scotland 5G Centre is here to accelerate the deployment and adoption of 5G infrastructure and services, realising its economic and societal potential for Scotland and enabling all types of businesses to reap the benefits of this new technology. We urge anyone with an interest in 5G to join us on that journey.

Join the conversation

To learn more about 5G and the manufacturing sector, register for our virtual event – 5G and Manufacturing – a state of readiness – on 25 August 2020 at 9.30am. Register here.

The webinar will explore the possibilities opened up for Scottish manufacturers by 5G, how they can undertake their own 5G use cases, and the development of private networks.

Also sign up for our Connecting Scotland event on 17 September 2020 to hear about the next stage in the Scottish Government’s 5G strategy, how the Scotland 5G Centre will be delivering it and how you can get involved.

Tags: economy use cases innovation
Paul Coffey is the CEO of the Scotland 5G Centre. He has a track record of taking a vision and making it reality through strategic development. Paul is passionate about mobile telecommunications and delivering socio-economic benefit to a broad range of stakeholders enabling digital connectivity.