IIoT to enter a new phase with the spread of 5G
5G is the next-generation communication standard and has features such as ultra-high-speed and high-capacity communication, ultra-low latency, and multiple simultaneous connections compared to the current mainstream 4G (4th generation). 5G has a theoretical maximum communication speed of 20 Gigabits (Giga = 1 billion) per second, which is around 20 times that of 4G (according to research by nikkei4946.com). 5G has a data transmission and reception latency of 1/1,000 sec even over long distances, which enables the exchange of data in near real time. It also enables simultaneous connections of up to 1 million devices per square kilometer, which is 10 times that of 4G.
Highlighted merits of 5G include instant downloading of large-volume content such as movies and uses such as simultaneous distribution of sports videos from multiple cameras in multiple directions to provide an enhanced sense of presence. However, 5G also provides notable advantages for Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) networks that require advanced information processing using numerous and diverse devices such as sensors and robots. As such, the rapid evolution of IIoT is expected with the spread of 5G.
Particularly in the manufacturing industry, more advanced Smart Factory initiatives are attracting attention. 5G is utilized to improve production efficiency such as by instantly collecting information from various factory equipment and coordinating equipment operation. For example, by taking advantage of the characteristics of high-speed, high-capacity communication, 5G can be used for real-time coaching based on analysis of worker movements and to coordinate work between humans and robots. Furthermore, ultra-low latency enables remote work in hazardous environments by smooth operations. Multiple simultaneous connections also enable wireless connection and centralized management of all equipment and sensors in factories and facilities.
5G IIoT market trends and prospects in various countries
As an advanced 5G country, China is actively promoting the introduction of 5G technology to IIoT. The Chinese government has long regarded IIoT as an "important means of transforming the manufacturing industry model," and announced the "Industrial Internet Innovation and Development Action Plan (2021-2023)" in January 2021. This plan set forth the strategic goal of significantly raising the overall strength of the manufacturing industry in three years. The plan calls for the establishment of 30–50 smart manufacturing sites fully connected by 5G communication infrastructure in 10 key industries and the development of comprehensive IIoT platforms in three to five locations.
Meanwhile, initiatives that anticipate future use for IIoT are also gathering steam in Japan, where the spread of 5G appears to have been lagging. A leading Japanese manufacturer began large-scale testing of 5G-based IIoT solutions for industry in the U.S. in September 2020. This manufacturer constructed a dedicated 5G network at its Silicon Valley research facility and is demonstrating the value of Digital Transformation (DX) by 5G and IIoT for various industries.
According to U.S. market research firm Report Ocean, the global 5G IIoT market will see annual growth of around 27% from 2020 to 2030, reaching about $310 billion by 2030. Furthermore, shipments of 5G IIoT devices are expected to reach some 190 million units in 2030. Introduction of "Local 5G" is also expected to hit full stride in the future as DX accelerates especially in the manufacturing industry. Local 5G refers to 5G networks that can be used individually by companies, local governments, and other entities in accordance with local and industrial needs. These entities can build and operate 5G networks in specific areas such as their own premises.
What paradigm shift will rapidly evolving 5G and the growing 5G IIoT market bring to the manufacturing industry? Keep an eye on it in the future.