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From robots to factories, Industrie 4.0 meets 5G

Huawei and Kuka

© Huawei

  • Huawei X Labs collaborates with KUKA Robotics
  • Synchronised robots with ultra-low latency and high reliability
  • Infineon leads out on the ALESSIO security project
  • Developing secure element-based solutions for long-life IoT devices

As was evidenced from last week’s Mobile World Congress event, telcos and their vendors are stepping up their activities to provide connected solutions to manufacturing verticals. The Germany-led Industrie 4.0 is already with us, and IoT solutions are making their way today into smart factories, but there is plenty more still to come.

During MWC, Huawei X Labs and intelligent automation systems company KUKA unveiled prototypes for future collaborative robots connected via 5G cellular. The two robot arms operate in precise synchronisation using 5G-enabled wireless rather than cable for real-time control. The demonstration reportedly achieved latency as low as 1ms with 1 micro second clock synchronization and “five nines” reliability.

“5G cellular wireless technology will enable KUKA to provide robot-based production systems with even more outstanding flexibility through wireless M2M and machine-to-cloud communication”, said Stefan Lampa, CEO of KUKA Robotics.

The two companies have been conducting joint research and testing since March last year, to see how cellular technology can enable smart manufacturing and accelerate the so-called Industrie 4.0 transformation. According to the Huawei X Labs prediction, there will be over 10 billion industrial connections in Smart Manufacturing by 2025.

“Industrial robots with cellular communication technology is one of the four research areas for Huawei X Labs in 2017,” said Ying Weimin, President of Huawei R&D Wireless Networks. “The cellular connectivity will play an important role for the smart manufacturing. Huawei X Labs will continually cooperate with more partners to explore together and innovate together for future mobile application scenarios.”

X Labs is a new platform from Huawei designed to bring together telcos, vendors and partners from vertical sectors to explore future mobile application scenarios and build an open ecosystem. X Labs has already established three laboratories, which aim to explore people-to-people connectivity, applications for vertical sectors and applications in domestic households.

Security for Industrie 4.0

Underscoring the importance of Industrie 4.0, Infineon Technologies has announced details of the Munich-based ALESSIO research project, which it is leading in partnership with the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied and Integrated Security, Giesecke & Devrient, Siemens, the Technical University of Munich and WIBU-SYSTEMS.

The objective of the ALESSIO research project is to develop and assess the security mechanisms required of smart manufacturing and industry, as well as autonomous vehicles and connected home solutions. The €3.9 million project is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research and runs until the end of 2019.

Security for IoT devices and data is a major concern, which is why Infineon and its partners are advocating a combination of software and hardware for protection for safety-critical information. Merely having a hardware-based security chip is fine for a short period of time, but what if operating data and instruction sets need to be update? In industrial IoT applications, these devices could be in place for many years and will only be re-configurable via software updates.

Within the next three years, the ALESSIO partners aim to develop updatable security solutions for such embedded systems, developing prototypes that feature different implementations of “secure elements” with updatable software and programmable logic devices.

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