Industrial automation

Is 5G the Answer to Connectivity for Industrial IoT?

By: Shahzad Nadeem

Head of Smart Cities

10th Sept 2020

4 minute read

Home » sensors

As the first cellular network technology designed to support industrial use cases, 5G is billed to become the basis for the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and enabler for Industry 4.0 technologies, such as VR, AR and AI.

Certainly, the promises of super-fast data 5G rates, ultra-low latency and vastly increased network capacity are essential for the high-quality connectivity demands of the industrial sector. But will 5G live up to expectations? What are the challenges and opportunities? And when can we expect to see widespread adoption of the technology?

What is it good for?
Industrial connectivity use cases for 5G range from smart factories with real-time process automation, to wide-area connected products with lifecycle management. To address these different connectivity requirements, businesses currently have to deploy multiple networks. LAN technologies such as Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Zigbee and Lora are used for in-building connectivity, while a combination of LAN and WAN solutions are used for connectivity between buildings and fibre, cellular and satellite handle remote assets.

Wired or wireless?
Existing wireless technologies do not provide the stringent low latency performance required for industrial automation, hence the heavy reliance on wired technologies for time-critical applications. But the deployment flexibility, reduced cost of manufacturing, installation and maintenance, and long-term reliability compared to wired connections, makes wireless technologies very attractive for industrial markets.

So far, cellular connectivity has typically been used only for those use cases that involve mobile assets, such as fleet management and asset tracking. Research by Analysis Mason suggests this is due to a combination of technical and commercial limitations of existing cellular networks. The current quality of connectivity is not sufficient for mission-critical applications, while the cost of the SIM business model presents a barrier to adoption and the public network model is not always considered suitable for an industrial setting.

Promises, promises
5G promises to address the performance-related issues as well as enabling entirely new use cases. The ability to connect and transfer data from up to 1 million sensors per km2, allowing continuous collection of data from vast numbers of sensors, will enable remote monitoring and predictive maintenance of manufacturing assets. Low latency together with edge cloud capabilities will underpin real-time processes such as collaborative robots for process automation, and high reliability will support mission-critical operations.
These can be delivered via private 5G networks, offering a level of control and security comparable to wired networks. However, the development of the 5G standard is not yet complete, with enhancements enabling ultra-reliable low latency communications (uRLCC) yet to arrive, as well as the upgrades to infrastructure needed to offer standalone 5G.

From power gen to remote surgery
The mMTC (Massive Machine Type Communication) and uRLLC capabilities sit at the core of 5G use cases in industry. Some industrial processes demand extremely tight KPIs for communications between controllers and devices. Use cases like power generation and distribution, process automation, motion control and communication between different controls rely heavily on low latency capability.

But there is a host of other use cases that need 5G. Take tactile communications such as remote surgery, health care monitoring, online gaming and synchronised remote music. Then there are autonomous vehicles, drones and robotic applications like sense-and-avoid, automated overtake, collaborative collision avoidance, HDVP (high-density vehicle platooning) and V2X (Vehicle to everything) communications. And high-density communications like smart wearables, connected stadiums and IoT are all other use cases that need 5G to deliver.

Payback
While the challenges are considerable, the potential added value of running industrial use cases on improved connectivity is substantial. A study by Barclays predicted a potential £2 billion increase in annual UK manufacturing revenues by 2025 as a result of 5G implementation. Another recent McKinsey study predicts improved connectivity in manufacturing and other advanced industries could result in $400-650 billion of global GDP impact by 2030.

But despite these predictions, progress towards implementing 5G has been hampered by several issues. With the technology still evolving and the value potential split across use cases in different domains, there are difficulties in justifying the business case and ROI. There are also cultural barriers, because successful 5G deployment in manufacturing relies on multiple players across an ecosystem, from manufacturing engineers to telecoms providers who need to engage and cooperate. There are also concerns around security and ownership of data, as well as compatibility and interoperability with existing systems.

First in the game

There has been a tug of war between mobile network operators across the world to be the first in launching 5G networks. Oreedo, the Qatari mobile operator, was announced as the first 5G network mainly using eMBB capabilities for FWA and demonstrated the use of low altitude drone with 5G. Telecom Italia announced San Marino to be the first European state to provide state wide 5G coverage, bringing together eMBB and mMTC capabilities in the mmWave band. Vodacom group launched Africa’s first 5G capability in the 3.5GHz band for FWA access. Interestingly the South Korean government forced the main three mobile operators -SK Telecom, KT and LG to launch 5G at the same time. China mobile, China Telecom, NTT Docomo, Kddi and Telstra in Asia, were also the first to do mass 5g trails in different cities. Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-mobile in USA deployed 5G networks in different bands targeting varied market sectors. Vodafone , Telefonica, Orange and Three mobile have deployed their 5G networks in Europe and there is a lot of emphasis on private 5G networks. It’s a busy marketplace, but there is a difference between launch and full deployment.

Be in it to win it
5G has the potential to offer a strong foundation for IIoT technology and to play a key role in driving the future of Industry 4.0. In time, it may even become the standard wireless technology of choice for industrial connectivity. Although the technology is still evolving, for businesses to stay competitive it is essential that they explore the new possibilities presented by 5G. In addition, to steer future development and ensure that their specific industry needs are met, it is increasingly important that they engage and collaborate across the 5G value chain.

As the first cellular network technology designed to support industrial use cases, 5G is billed to become the basis for the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and enabler for Industry 4.0 technologies, such as VR, AR and AI.

Certainly, the promises of super-fast data 5G rates, ultra-low latency and vastly increased network capacity are essential for the high-quality connectivity demands of the industrial sector. But will 5G live up to expectations? What are the challenges and opportunities? And when can we expect to see widespread adoption of the technology?

What is it good for?
Industrial connectivity use cases for 5G range from smart factories with real-time process automation, to wide-area connected products with lifecycle management. To address these different connectivity requirements, businesses currently have to deploy multiple networks. LAN technologies such as Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Zigbee and Lora are used for in-building connectivity, while a combination of LAN and WAN solutions are used for connectivity between buildings and fibre, cellular and satellite handle remote assets.

Wired or wireless?
Existing wireless technologies do not provide the stringent low latency performance required for industrial automation, hence the heavy reliance on wired technologies for time-critical applications. But the deployment flexibility, reduced cost of manufacturing, installation and maintenance, and long-term reliability compared to wired connections, makes wireless technologies very attractive for industrial markets.

So far, cellular connectivity has typically been used only for those use cases that involve mobile assets, such as fleet management and asset tracking. Research by Analysis Mason suggests this is due to a combination of technical and commercial limitations of existing cellular networks. The current quality of connectivity is not sufficient for mission-critical applications, while the cost of the SIM business model presents a barrier to adoption and the public network model is not always considered suitable for an industrial setting.

Promises, promises
5G promises to address the performance-related issues as well as enabling entirely new use cases. The ability to connect and transfer data from up to 1 million sensors per km2, allowing continuous collection of data from vast numbers of sensors, will enable remote monitoring and predictive maintenance of manufacturing assets. Low latency together with edge cloud capabilities will underpin real-time processes such as collaborative robots for process automation, and high reliability will support mission-critical operations.
These can be delivered via private 5G networks, offering a level of control and security comparable to wired networks. However, the development of the 5G standard is not yet complete, with enhancements enabling ultra-reliable low latency communications (uRLCC) yet to arrive, as well as the upgrades to infrastructure needed to offer standalone 5G.

From power gen to remote surgery
The mMTC (Massive Machine Type Communication) and uRLLC capabilities sit at the core of 5G use cases in industry. Some industrial processes demand extremely tight KPIs for communications between controllers and devices. Use cases like power generation and distribution, process automation, motion control and communication between different controls rely heavily on low latency capability.

But there is a host of other use cases that need 5G. Take tactile communications such as remote surgery, health care monitoring, online gaming and synchronised remote music. Then there are autonomous vehicles, drones and robotic applications like sense-and-avoid, automated overtake, collaborative collision avoidance, HDVP (high-density vehicle platooning) and V2X (Vehicle to everything) communications. And high-density communications like smart wearables, connected stadiums and IoT are all other use cases that need 5G to deliver.

Payback
While the challenges are considerable, the potential added value of running industrial use cases on improved connectivity is substantial. A study by Barclays predicted a potential £2 billion increase in annual UK manufacturing revenues by 2025 as a result of 5G implementation. Another recent McKinsey study predicts improved connectivity in manufacturing and other advanced industries could result in $400-650 billion of global GDP impact by 2030.

But despite these predictions, progress towards implementing 5G has been hampered by several issues. With the technology still evolving and the value potential split across use cases in different domains, there are difficulties in justifying the business case and ROI. There are also cultural barriers, because successful 5G deployment in manufacturing relies on multiple players across an ecosystem, from manufacturing engineers to telecoms providers who need to engage and cooperate. There are also concerns around security and ownership of data, as well as compatibility and interoperability with existing systems.

First in the game

There has been a tug of war between mobile network operators across the world to be the first in launching 5G networks. Oreedo, the Qatari mobile operator, was announced as the first 5G network mainly using eMBB capabilities for FWA and demonstrated the use of low altitude drone with 5G. Telecom Italia announced San Marino to be the first European state to provide state wide 5G coverage, bringing together eMBB and mMTC capabilities in the mmWave band. Vodacom group launched Africa’s first 5G capability in the 3.5GHz band for FWA access. Interestingly the South Korean government forced the main three mobile operators -SK Telecom, KT and LG to launch 5G at the same time. China mobile, China Telecom, NTT Docomo, Kddi and Telstra in Asia, were also the first to do mass 5g trails in different cities. Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-mobile in USA deployed 5G networks in different bands targeting varied market sectors. Vodafone , Telefonica, Orange and Three mobile have deployed their 5G networks in Europe and there is a lot of emphasis on private 5G networks. It’s a busy marketplace, but there is a difference between launch and full deployment.

Be in it to win it
5G has the potential to offer a strong foundation for IIoT technology and to play a key role in driving the future of Industry 4.0. In time, it may even become the standard wireless technology of choice for industrial connectivity. Although the technology is still evolving, for businesses to stay competitive it is essential that they explore the new possibilities presented by 5G. In addition, to steer future development and ensure that their specific industry needs are met, it is increasingly important that they engage and collaborate across the 5G value chain.

If you have any questions about how 5G can enhance your technology roadmap, please get in touch for an initial chat.

Technology development, gary numan, robots

Are Friends Electric? Our Future Lives with Robots

By: Nigel Whittle

Head of Medical & Healthcare

26th August 2020

5 minute read

Home » sensors

The Czech writer Karel Čapek set his play ‘Rossum’s Universal Robots’ in the year 2000, and in his timeline, robots became cheap and widely available, allowing products to be made at one fifth the previous cost[1]. In our universe, robots have become, if not commonplace, at least an accepted feature of the working environment. From the first examples of automated production lines (perhaps most famously in the Nissan car factory) through to robots designed for delicate surgery, we are becoming accustomed to robots having an increasingly prominent role.

Industrial Robotics

There are clearly tasks for which robots, with their strength and their capability for repetitive exact movements, are much better suited than humans, who may be more suited for skilled tasks or tasks that are non-repetitive. For many years, industrial robots were large-scale production systems operating in isolation, carrying out specific actions, without variation and to a high degree of accuracy, determined by software that specified the exact parameters of movement. These traditional industrial robots were anything but user-friendly – despite being fenced off to keep human workers safe, their inflexibility has resulted in occasional industrial accidents, including the death of workers[2].

Recent advances in technology have allowed robotic systems to be scaled down in size and cost, allowing smaller robotic systems to play a more integrated role in environments such as laboratories and other industrial settings. Totally automated solutions, with little human interaction, are still inherently inflexible and can be very expensive. With safety in mind, a preferred option has therefore been isolated islands of automation, perhaps functioning as a specific workstation, operating independently but which can interact to a limited extent with nearby workers.

In some areas, most notably the pharma sector, widespread adoption of automation has been limited due to concerns over safety when staff are interfacing with robotic systems. This has resulted in most automation systems being housed in large protective enclosures that are costly and take-up valuable laboratory space.

Working hand-in-gripper

But imagine a world in which humans and robots collaborate on a specific project, working together within a shared space, building a device together, or conducting complex operations together. This represents a real step-change in the use of robotic systems, as they begin to perform tasks not normally associated with robots, including customer service, construction, cleaning, cooking, or hospitality.

Such robotic systems, commonly referred to as cobots, are being designed to operate in proximity to humans, collaborate with them, and move around independently in their shared workspace. They are still robots but freed from their constraints, and thanks to their small size and mobility, cobots can be deployed in a range of environments.

Apart from the technical issues of developing such a robot, the biggest challenges lie in ensuring the robot interacts effectively with the human, is aware of the actions being undertaken by its partner and operates at a high level of safety. Cobots must be equipped with safety sensors and software, and are often constructed of lightweight materials, with rounded edges, and with limitations on movement range, speed, and force. Ideally, they slow down when a human worker is close to them, and if they bump into somebody, they stop immediately.

As cobots become more collaborative and more interactive, they will require highly reliable proximity and warning systems, that allow them to sense the presence of a human colleague in their immediate proximity and adjust to avoid collisions. This will result from the addition of sensors and enhanced processing power to make cobots smarter. Our Life Science Partnership is already starting to develop simple robotic systems that use complex integrated sensors to detect and interact with nearby workers, enhancing safety and allowing improved co-working.

Further developments are likely to include improved user interfaces to allow for clear-cut interaction, and perhaps user-ID systems to allow interaction with specified individuals.

Machines Like Me

Such systems will be easy to train in new tasks, thanks to machine learning processes whereby the cobot learns to complete a task through repeated interaction within a dynamic environment. This exploration generates data, which can be used by the cobot to identify the best means to complete a task without recourse to human intervention. As the technology develops then AI systems could be introduced to predict actions and suggest improvements in procedures.

There is no doubt that many of the repetitive jobs performed by humans today will be done by robots tomorrow. But, collaborative robotics demonstrates that such tasks can include highly interactive processes that provide a route to combining the skill that humans can bring with the capabilities of robots. This will allow activities to be conducted more effectively whilst creating more challenging and rewarding jobs in the process.


[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R.U.R.

[2] https://nypost.com/2015/07/02/robot-kills-man-at-volkswagen-plant/

The Czech writer Karel Čapek set his play ‘Rossum’s Universal Robots’ in the year 2000, and in his timeline, robots became cheap and widely available, allowing products to be made at one fifth the previous cost[1]. In our universe, robots have become, if not commonplace, at least an accepted feature of the working environment. From the first examples of automated production lines (perhaps most famously in the Nissan car factory) through to robots designed for delicate surgery, we are becoming accustomed to robots having an increasingly prominent role.

Industrial Robotics

There are clearly tasks for which robots, with their strength and their capability for repetitive exact movements, are much better suited than humans, who may be more suited for skilled tasks or tasks that are non-repetitive. For many years, industrial robots were large-scale production systems operating in isolation, carrying out specific actions, without variation and to a high degree of accuracy, determined by software that specified the exact parameters of movement. These traditional industrial robots were anything but user-friendly – despite being fenced off to keep human workers safe, their inflexibility has resulted in occasional industrial accidents, including the death of workers[2].

Recent advances in technology have allowed robotic systems to be scaled down in size and cost, allowing smaller robotic systems to play a more integrated role in environments such as laboratories and other industrial settings. Totally automated solutions, with little human interaction, are still inherently inflexible and can be very expensive. With safety in mind, a preferred option has therefore been isolated islands of automation, perhaps functioning as a specific workstation, operating independently but which can interact to a limited extent with nearby workers.

In some areas, most notably the pharma sector, widespread adoption of automation has been limited due to concerns over safety when staff are interfacing with robotic systems. This has resulted in most automation systems being housed in large protective enclosures that are costly and take-up valuable laboratory space.

Working hand-in-gripper

But imagine a world in which humans and robots collaborate on a specific project, working together within a shared space, building a device together, or conducting complex operations together. This represents a real step-change in the use of robotic systems, as they begin to perform tasks not normally associated with robots, including customer service, construction, cleaning, cooking, or hospitality.

Such robotic systems, commonly referred to as cobots, are being designed to operate in proximity to humans, collaborate with them, and move around independently in their shared workspace. They are still robots but freed from their constraints, and thanks to their small size and mobility, cobots can be deployed in a range of environments.

Apart from the technical issues of developing such a robot, the biggest challenges lie in ensuring the robot interacts effectively with the human, is aware of the actions being undertaken by its partner and operates at a high level of safety. Cobots must be equipped with safety sensors and software, and are often constructed of lightweight materials, with rounded edges, and with limitations on movement range, speed, and force. Ideally, they slow down when a human worker is close to them, and if they bump into somebody, they stop immediately.

As cobots become more collaborative and more interactive, they will require highly reliable proximity and warning systems, that allow them to sense the presence of a human colleague in their immediate proximity and adjust to avoid collisions. This will result from the addition of sensors and enhanced processing power to make cobots smarter. Our Life Science Partnership is already starting to develop simple robotic systems that use complex integrated sensors to detect and interact with nearby workers, enhancing safety and allowing improved co-working.

Further developments are likely to include improved user interfaces to allow for clear-cut interaction, and perhaps user-ID systems to allow interaction with specified individuals.

Machines Like Me

Such systems will be easy to train in new tasks, thanks to machine learning processes whereby the cobot learns to complete a task through repeated interaction within a dynamic environment. This exploration generates data, which can be used by the cobot to identify the best means to complete a task without recourse to human intervention. As the technology develops then AI systems could be introduced to predict actions and suggest improvements in procedures.

There is no doubt that many of the repetitive jobs performed by humans today will be done by robots tomorrow. But, collaborative robotics demonstrates that such tasks can include highly interactive processes that provide a route to combining the skill that humans can bring with the capabilities of robots. This will allow activities to be conducted more effectively whilst creating more challenging and rewarding jobs in the process.


[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R.U.R.

[2] https://nypost.com/2015/07/02/robot-kills-man-at-volkswagen-plant/

Supporting the next generation of engineers through COVID.

Supporting the Next Generation of Engineers Through COVID

Nicholas Hill, Plextek

By: Nicholas Hill

CEO

28th July 2020

3 minute read

Home » sensors

When history of the UK’s response to coronavirus is written I’m confident that the cancellation of exams will be seen as a precipitate, unwise decision that had far reaching, negative consequences for a great number of young people. For A-level students in particular, exam results can be critical to realising career ambitions. With stiff competition for places at the best universities, achieving your target grades means getting onto the course you really want, or not. One exam grade either way might mean getting a good start into your career of choice, or not. Assembling a collection of students in a large hall for an exam, spaced a little further apart than normal, doesn’t seem like one of the harder problems organisations have had to solve for during this crisis. And yet the cancellation of all exams was one of the first announcements when the lockdown started. The consequence of this – having grades assessed by teachers – was always going to be unfair to many students despite the best efforts of those teachers.

Undergraduates have had a very rough time of it too, with campuses closed, exams either cancelled or open book and online tuition and assignments patchily delivered. Given that the summer term is all about the lead up to exams, the whole thrust of the term has been somewhat lost in those universities where exams have not taken place.

Many students will have arranged summer placements or internships over the summer. These can be invaluable in helping students learn how their skills might be applied to real-world jobs. They will have the opportunity to deliver a project and experience team working. For engineering students, they will be learning hands-on skills that they won’t experience at a university. They will also be finding out whether a particular sector or organisation is likely to enthuse them.

This year, sadly, it has been evident that many companies have cancelled their summer placements entirely, perhaps understandably given the battles that many are fighting just to stay in business. Others, with offices temporarily closed to staff, have replaced what would have been an eight-week placement in an office or lab with a short internet-based experience, providing short talks and assignments. This can only add to the feeling of disappointment many will be feeling.

Summer Placements at Plextek: The Practicalities

As CEO, I feel quite keenly the responsibility to keep our staff both physically and mentally healthy – this is a balance that needs to be re-evaluated on a weekly, if not sometimes daily basis at the moment. Given the negative impact that undergraduates had already experienced this year, I was very eager to ensure that we did not let down the half dozen students that we were planning to host over the summer, and provide them with something like a normal experience. Each of our students typically gets a self-contained project to work on over an eight-week period. They are deliberately quite challenging, to get them thinking and stretch their ability. The projects are almost always hands-on and practical in nature, so access to our labs and workshops are essential, as is guidance and mentoring from permanent staff. However, given that most of our staff had been working from home since late March, it wasn’t immediately obvious how we could arrange this.

As it turned out we were able to align the students’ arrival for the summer with a partial opening up of our premises. The latter followed implementation of the government guidelines for safe working in offices and labs, which resulted in a host of changes to the office layout and new working practices, including an electronic booking-in system to limit the numbers in the office on any given day.

Our HR team were busy making sure that everything was in place for the day that the students were welcomed onto our premises. To ensure that support and advice was always available to the students, we organised a rota system so that a small number of senior staff would always be present each day. Student supervisors and mentors agreed to come into the office during the students’ first week to introduce them to the company and get their projects started.

With typically about a third of our staff now in the building at any time there is plenty of space for everyone to social distance but there is a lively feel that has been absent since March. The students have settled in and are in their second week of exploring the problems we have set. I’m hoping to provide further progress reports as the summer holiday proceeds, including some news on the students’ progress, but it’s already gratifying to see the positive impact of this modest return to normality in an astonishingly disrupted year.

When history of the UK’s response to coronavirus is written I’m confident that the cancellation of exams will be seen as a precipitate, unwise decision that had far reaching, negative consequences for a great number of young people.  For A-level students in particular, exam results can be critical to realising career ambitions.  With stiff competition for places at the best universities, achieving your target grades means getting onto the course you really want, or not.  One exam grade either way might mean getting a good start into your career of choice, or not.  Assembling a collection of students in a large hall for an exam, spaced a little further apart than normal, doesn’t seem like one of the harder problems organisations have had to solve for during this crisis.  And yet the cancellation of all exams was one of the first announcements when the lockdown started.  The consequence of this – having grades assessed by teachers – was always going to be unfair to many students despite the best efforts of those teachers.

Undergraduates have had a very rough time of it too, with campuses closed, exams either cancelled or open book and online tuition and assignments patchily delivered.  Given that the summer term is all about the lead up to exams, the whole thrust of the term has been somewhat lost in those universities where exams have not taken place.

Many students will have arranged summer placements or internships over the summer.  These can be invaluable in helping students learn how their skills might be applied to real-world jobs.  They will have the opportunity to deliver a project and experience team working.  For engineering students, they will be learning hands-on skills that they won’t experience at a university. They will also be finding out whether a particular sector or organisation is likely to enthuse them.

This year, sadly, it has been evident that many companies have cancelled their summer placements entirely, perhaps understandably given the battles that many are fighting just to stay in business.  Others, with offices temporarily closed to staff, have replaced what would have been an eight-week placement in an office or lab with a short internet-based experience, providing short talks and assignments.  This can only add to the feeling of disappointment many will be feeling.

Summer Placements at Plextek: The Practicalities

As CEO, I feel quite keenly the responsibility to keep our staff both physically and mentally healthy – this is a balance that needs to be re-evaluated on a weekly, if not sometimes daily basis at the moment.  Given the negative impact that undergraduates had already experienced this year, I was very eager to ensure that we did not let down the half dozen students that we were planning to host over the summer, and provide them with something like a normal experience.  Each of our students typically gets a self-contained project to work on over an eight-week period.  They are deliberately quite challenging, to get them thinking and stretch their ability.  The projects are almost always hands-on and practical in nature, so access to our labs and workshops are essential, as is guidance and mentoring from permanent staff.  However, given that most of our staff had been working from home since late March, it wasn’t immediately obvious how we could arrange this.

As it turned out we were able to align the students’ arrival for the summer with a partial opening up of our premises.  The latter followed implementation of the government guidelines for safe working in offices and labs, which resulted in a host of changes to the office layout and new working practices, including an electronic booking-in system to limit the numbers in the office on any given day.

Our HR team were busy making sure that everything was in place for the day that the students were welcomed onto our premises.  To ensure that support and advice was always available to the students, we organised a rota system so that a small number of senior staff would always be present each day.  Student supervisors and mentors agreed to come into the office during the students’ first week to introduce them to the company and get their projects started.

With typically about a third of our staff now in the building at any time there is plenty of space for everyone to social distance but there is a lively feel that has been absent since March.  The students have settled in and are in their second week of exploring the problems we have set.  I’m hoping to provide further progress reports as the summer holiday proceeds, including some news on the students’ progress, but it’s already gratifying to see the positive impact of this modest return to normality in an astonishingly disrupted year.

safe cities, smart cities, automation,drones, surveillance

How Do We Keep Our Cities Safe in Times of Crisis?

By: Nick Koiza

Head of Security Business

17th July 2020

5 minute read

Home » sensors

It is no surprise that in times of crisis there is an increase in crime.  We are already seeing higher levels of criminality during the Covid19 pandemic, from high tech cyber-crime, down to basic fly tipping. Where people find financial pressure or greater opportunity, there will be security related issues. Yes we want smart cities, but we also want safe cities. In this blog, I give my opinions of the problems and some of the solutions to help keep densely populated areas safer as we move from the current crisis towards our ‘new-normal’.

Background to the urbanisation of the human population

The UN has forecast that 68% of the global population will live in cities by 2050 and in many countries that figure could be much higher. You can see the current rates on Wikipedia:  Urbanisation by Country. Our cities are growing and along with that should be a focus on safety planning and crime prevention.

Smart city planners internationally have been working on how to get a balance between a high density of people and healthy living spaces. Where there are healthy spaces and enough food for the population, there is resultingly less crime.  Vertical farming and sustainable design are becoming more commonplace and architects are becoming more practiced at integrating  ‘green architecture’. One of the latest examples is from Italian firm Luca Curci Architects’ ‘The Link’ project, which houses 20,000 people in four towers with two million plants. These kinds of initiatives are not possible without the use of technology to enable sustainable living and  healthy living spaces. Sustainable environments  with integrated security technology, I believe, is the key to safe, smart cities.

Which technologies underpin successful urban civilisations?

Technologies used to support humans in an urban environment fit into these main areas:

  1. Food and water security
  2. Healthcare
  3. Economy/business
  4. Recreation
  5. Security and Protection
  6. Transportation
  7. Education
  8. Physical Spaces

There is a huge amount of technology needed to underpin urban living, from IoT, data communications, telecoms and hardware devices. Incorporating  all of these makes a healthy ecosystem.

What changes may happen to the planning of smart cities due to the Covid-19 pandemic and future global recession?

Below are some areas that security and  IoT professionals need to consider to  support  future populations:

How do you manage a higher density of people in mega smart cities when physical connections are a vulnerability in the future?

We have more people needing more space between them, in a densely populated area. The use of sensors to detect and communicate pressure points could be useful.

How can you make supply chains more localised without impacting the global economy?

Balancing supply and demand with volatile supply chains is not easy. With easy access to food and other amenities, we alleviate pressures on security. The use of drones and other autonomous vehicles for ‘last mile supplies’ could be key to keeping large scale dense operations agile.

Will there be a move to more homeworking/flexi working and a desire for less distance in travelling for work/services?

Single use buildings with ‘dark’ times suffer from more break-ins, and office blocks that are underutilised while more people are homeworking are vulnerable. Perhaps more mixed-use buildings will be key not only for building security, but also to reduce travel for food/work/recreation. People can stay within their building during a ‘local lockdown’, but still have all the amenities for a satisfying day-to-day life. However, New York has a high level of mixed use buildings and experienced a high level of CV19, probably due to the high population density and its global connections. So, there is a level of population management required, through both strategy and technology, to support safe environments.

Is regular air travel still viable?

Our airports are key to connecting global trade and a huge number of businesses. I hypothesise that with the expense and risk of air travel in the future, there could be two tiers of megacities: air connected (major hubs) with investment by multinational corporates in the land around them for industrial space, and non-air connected (perhaps regional towns). These can have separate pandemic strategies.

What other scenarios are there in a world that combines greater urbanisation with pandemics/crises?

We need to think about our own industries or area of expertise and reflect on how we can impact the future in a sustainable way that considers future crises.

Do crises create more safety issues in dense urban areas?

We are seeing weaker economies collapsing; youth unemployment in some countries scarily high (circa 45% in some Gulf countries for instance); China  currently losing 35% of its  manufacturing, along with mass Global migration. All these factors are adding to the levels of localised crime from poverty. It is suggested that Covid-19 may cause an additional 1.4billion people to move into extreme poverty.

Cyber security companies can deal with much of the online crime, but how do we make cities smarter and better able to eliminate the ability to commit crime, without compromising human rights, with more  security cameras or human tagging, for example?  Or is that just a given now that we need to make that human rights compromise for safety?  Historically, town planners have struggled with keeping residents safe.  A prime example is underpasses. While they ar  brilliant for pedestrians crossing roads safely, they are also notorious for assaults and other crime.  We need to  integrate security technology to focus on the suspected increase in future crime.

Accentuate the positives

It’s not all doom and gloom. Here are some examples of technology that exists today that can be used to keep  future populations safe and there will be many others.  They should give us faith that there are solutions and  provide inspiration for your own security technology projects.

  • People counting: In order to highlight and target passenger safety and security on public transport, this project was to develop non-camera, sensor-based technology; which was highly accurate, compact and unobtrusive and could be positioned in the doorway of buses, trains and trams to detect the numbers of passengers on board. More information here:https://www.plextek.com/case-study/sensors-for-automatic-passenger-counting/
  • Logistics support: As our cities get denser, we need more efficient ways to get tasks completed. Finding a parking space, for instance, in a busy city can be frustrating. It is also a leading contributor to traffic congestion and air pollution within urban environments. Gorizont Telecom launched a system to improve parking in smart cities.  Case study here: https://www.plextek.com/case-study/smart-city-parking-system/
  • It’s worse at night: Where there is light, there are less security threatsTelensa’s PLANet is a world leading street lighting control system, deployed 1.5 million street lights around the world. Centrally controlling light means environmental benefits, while  local sensors ensure the lights go on when the sun goes down: https://www.plextek.com/case-study/smart-city-street-lighting-infrastructure/
  • Drones for surveillance: When it is either not safe, or not physically possible to use humans for surveillance, drones are becoming more common. Above Surveying is a company that uses drones to inspect solar farms – potentially the life blood of our future megacities: https://www.plextek.com/case-study/drone-inspection-of-solar-farms/   

 

What can we do as a tech community?

We must continue to innovate and develop our technology to work harder for our Critical National Infrastructure. For more information and case studies specifically on safe cities, please visit our dedicated web page:  https://www.plextek.com/markets/security/government-and-public-safety/

We also have a useful booklet on Mission Critical IoT for Public Safety: https://www.plextek.com/wp-content/uploads/IOPS-Safety-Brochure_s.pdf

 

If you would like to discuss this topic further or if you have any questions, please email me at security@plextek.com to arrange a chat.  I hope you enjoyed my blog and I look forward to speaking with you.

It is no surprise that in times of crisis there is an increase in crime.  We are already seeing higher levels of criminality during the Covid19 pandemic, from high tech cyber-crime, down to basic fly tipping. Where people find financial pressure or greater opportunity, there will be security related issues. Yes we want smart cities, but we also want safe cities. In this blog, I give my opinions of the problems and some of the solutions to help keep densely populated areas safer as we move from the current crisis towards our ‘new-normal’.

Background to the urbanisation of the human population

The UN has forecast that 68% of the global population will live in cities by 2050 and in many countries that figure could be much higher. You can see the current rates on Wikipedia:  Urbanisation by Country. Our cities are growing and along with that should be a focus on safety planning and crime prevention.

Smart city planners internationally have been working on how to get a balance between a high density of people and healthy living spaces. Where there are healthy spaces and enough food for the population, there is resultingly less crime.  Vertical farming and sustainable design are becoming more commonplace and architects are becoming more practiced at integrating  ‘green architecture’. One of the latest examples is from Italian firm Luca Curci Architects’ ‘The Link’ project, which houses 20,000 people in four towers with two million plants. These kinds of initiatives are not possible without the use of technology to enable sustainable living and  healthy living spaces. Sustainable environments  with integrated security technology, I believe, is the key to safe, smart cities.

Which technologies underpin successful urban civilisations?

Technologies used to support humans in an urban environment fit into these main areas:

  1. Food and water security
  2. Healthcare
  3. Economy/business
  4. Recreation
  5. Security and Protection
  6. Transportation
  7. Education
  8. Physical Spaces

There is a huge amount of technology needed to underpin urban living, from IoT, data communications, telecoms and hardware devices. Incorporating  all of these makes a healthy ecosystem.

What changes may happen to the planning of smart cities due to the Covid-19 pandemic and future global recession?

Below are some areas that security and  IoT professionals need to consider to  support  future populations:

How do you manage a higher density of people in mega smart cities when physical connections are a vulnerability in the future?

We have more people needing more space between them, in a densely populated area. The use of sensors to detect and communicate pressure points could be useful.

How can you make supply chains more localised without impacting the global economy?

Balancing supply and demand with volatile supply chains is not easy. With easy access to food and other amenities, we alleviate pressures on security. The use of drones and other autonomous vehicles for ‘last mile supplies’ could be key to keeping large scale dense operations agile.

Will there be a move to more homeworking/flexi working and a desire for less distance in travelling for work/services?

Single use buildings with ‘dark’ times suffer from more break-ins, and office blocks that are underutilised while more people are homeworking are vulnerable. Perhaps more mixed-use buildings will be key not only for building security, but also to reduce travel for food/work/recreation. People can stay within their building during a ‘local lockdown’, but still have all the amenities for a satisfying day-to-day life. However, New York has a high level of mixed use buildings and experienced a high level of CV19, probably due to the high population density and its global connections. So, there is a level of population management required, through both strategy and technology, to support safe environments.

Is regular air travel still viable?

Our airports are key to connecting global trade and a huge number of businesses. I hypothesise that with the expense and risk of air travel in the future, there could be two tiers of megacities: air connected (major hubs) with investment by multinational corporates in the land around them for industrial space, and non-air connected (perhaps regional towns). These can have separate pandemic strategies.

What other scenarios are there in a world that combines greater urbanisation with pandemics/crises?

We need to think about our own industries or area of expertise and reflect on how we can impact the future in a sustainable way that considers future crises.

Do crises create more safety issues in dense urban areas?

We are seeing weaker economies collapsing; youth unemployment in some countries scarily high (circa 45% in some Gulf countries for instance); China  currently losing 35% of its  manufacturing, along with mass Global migration. All these factors are adding to the levels of localised crime from poverty. It is suggested that Covid-19 may cause an additional 1.4billion people to move into extreme poverty.

Cyber security companies can deal with much of the online crime, but how do we make cities smarter and better able to eliminate the ability to commit crime, without compromising human rights, with more  security cameras or human tagging, for example?  Or is that just a given now that we need to make that human rights compromise for safety?  Historically, town planners have struggled with keeping residents safe.  A prime example is underpasses. While they ar  brilliant for pedestrians crossing roads safely, they are also notorious for assaults and other crime.  We need to  integrate security technology to focus on the suspected increase in future crime.

Accentuate the positives

It’s not all doom and gloom. Here are some examples of technology that exists today that can be used to keep  future populations safe and there will be many others.  They should give us faith that there are solutions and  provide inspiration for your own security technology projects.

  • People counting: In order to highlight and target passenger safety and security on public transport, this project was to develop non-camera, sensor-based technology; which was highly accurate, compact and unobtrusive and could be positioned in the doorway of buses, trains and trams to detect the numbers of passengers on board. More information here:https://www.plextek.com/case-study/sensors-for-automatic-passenger-counting/
  • Logistics support: As our cities get denser, we need more efficient ways to get tasks completed. Finding a parking space, for instance, in a busy city can be frustrating. It is also a leading contributor to traffic congestion and air pollution within urban environments. Gorizont Telecom launched a system to improve parking in smart cities.  Case study here: https://www.plextek.com/case-study/smart-city-parking-system/
  • It’s worse at night: Where there is light, there are less security threatsTelensa’s PLANet is a world leading street lighting control system, deployed 1.5 million street lights around the world. Centrally controlling light means environmental benefits, while  local sensors ensure the lights go on when the sun goes down: https://www.plextek.com/case-study/smart-city-street-lighting-infrastructure/
  • Drones for surveillance: When it is either not safe, or not physically possible to use humans for surveillance, drones are becoming more common. Above Surveying is a company that uses drones to inspect solar farms – potentially the life blood of our future megacities: https://www.plextek.com/case-study/drone-inspection-of-solar-farms/   

 

What can we do as a tech community?

We must continue to innovate and develop our technology to work harder for our Critical National Infrastructure. For more information and case studies specifically on safe cities, please visit our dedicated web page:  https://www.plextek.com/markets/security/government-and-public-safety/

We also have a useful booklet on Mission Critical IoT for Public Safety: https://www.plextek.com/wp-content/uploads/IOPS-Safety-Brochure_s.pdf

 

If you would like to discuss this topic further or if you have any questions, please email me at security@plextek.com to arrange a chat.  I hope you enjoyed my blog and I look forward to speaking with you.

Why is 5G Technology key for Smarter Cities?

By: Shahzad Nadeem

Head of Smart Cities

19th June 2020

5 minute read

Home » sensors

As cities become bigger and more densely populated, technology is seen as the key to growing our urban landscape successfully. Technologies can support our work, our living spaces, our supply chains and much more. In this blog, I will introduce 5G technology and briefly explain its applications for future smarter city living.

Background: why is 5G the real breakthrough?

Mobile communications technology has come a long way from the times of Analog tetra band and voice-based GSM cellular systems. Gradual advancements brought new dimensions to communication technologies. 2G, 3G and 4G focused on improvements in throughput to enable faster applications. However, the incremental advances in communication technologies along with Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality, Edge Computing, Cloud Computing, Software-Defined Networking and Network Function Virtualisation have led to the development of super-fast, ultra-reliable, very high capacity and highly secure technology called 5G. This is the technology that ‘understands reality’ on the go. The opportunities and use cases of 5G are unlimited and we can only expect a better experience in all walks of life.

While the earlier technologies concentrated solely on improving speed, 5G caters for speed, low latency and high connection density. The three dimensions of 5G applications are eMBB – Enhanced Mobile Broadband, uRLLC – Ultra-Reliable and Low Latency Communications and mMTC – Massive Machine Type Communications. These dimensions cater to applications that need very high bandwidth or are very sensitive to latency or need large numbers of low-speed connections.

5G will enable applications like fast wireless broadband, virtual reality, augmented reality, self-driving vehicles, machine to machine communications, industrial automation, and many other smart city applications.

What is 5G?

5G is a cellular technology using the new kind of radio called 5G NR (New Radio). 5G NR brings together OFDM (Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing), advanced channel coding, massive MIMO and mm-Wave to deliver the advanced 5G features.

5G NR will be mainly used in three frequency bands:
• 700MHz will give marginal improvement on speeds of 250Mbps max compared to LTE
• 3.5GHz will give a max speed of 900Mbps
• 26/28GH called the mmWave band will get us up to 3Gbps.

As we go higher in frequency, the coverage area will decrease so much so that the mmWave band will hardly cover a mile in dense urban areas.

Which applications need 5G?

eMBB demands 20Gbps DL /10 Gbps UL, 4ms user plane latency and mobility of 500km/hour. It caters for applications like VR, AR, Virtual meetings, Fixed Wireless Access, UHD video and Video monitoring. These applications need high throughput to deliver the high-quality user experience. These applications are already in use but mainly use cable broadband rather than mobile broadband. 5G adds the wireless mobility factor that enables all of these applications on the go.

mMTC require 1 million devices / sq km and 10 years+ battery life. It enables applications like wearables, social networking, Smart Homes, Smart Cities, Health care monitoring, Vehicle to infrastructure communications and specific industrial applications. These applications need long battery life and high connection density to cater to millions of devices in a small area.

uRLCC needs 1ms user plane latency, high availability and high security. It supports applications like remote surgery, public safety, vehicle to pedestrian applications and mission-critical specialised industrial applications. These applications demand quick decision time, precision and high levels of security.

Who is winning in 5G?

TIM Italia took the lead in deploying the first 5G network in Europe but several mobile operators across the world almost simultaneously claimed to be the first in 5G launch. Oreedo Qatar, STC Saudi Arabia and Etisalat UAE announced the deployments of their 5G network at around the same time. In Europe, Vodafone, Telefonica O2, EE and Three mobile have limited 5G deployments in place. AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-mobile seem to be leading the market in America. In the Asia Pacific, China mobile, NTT Docomo and Telstra announced their 5G launch at around the end of 2019. The race is on and the operators across the world are trying to take a lead in offering 5G services.

If you have any questions about how 5G can enhance your technology roadmap, please get in touch for an initial chat.

As cities become bigger and more densely populated, technology is seen as the key to growing our urban landscape successfully. Technologies can support our work, our living spaces, our supply chains and much more. In this blog, I will introduce 5G technology and briefly explain its applications for future smarter city living.

Background: why is 5G the real breakthrough?

Mobile communications technology has come a long way from the times of Analog tetra band and voice-based GSM cellular systems. Gradual advancements brought new dimensions to communication technologies. 2G, 3G and 4G focused on improvements in throughput to enable faster applications. However, the incremental advances in communication technologies along with Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality, Edge Computing, Cloud Computing, Software-Defined Networking and Network Function Virtualisation have led to the development of super-fast, ultra-reliable, very high capacity and highly secure technology called 5G. This is the technology that ‘understands reality’ on the go. The opportunities and use cases of 5G are unlimited and we can only expect a better experience in all walks of life.

While the earlier technologies concentrated solely on improving speed, 5G caters for speed, low latency and high connection density. The three dimensions of 5G applications are eMBB – Enhanced Mobile Broadband, uRLLC – Ultra-Reliable and Low Latency Communications and mMTC – Massive Machine Type Communications. These dimensions cater to applications that need very high bandwidth or are very sensitive to latency or need large numbers of low-speed connections.

 

5G will enable applications like fast wireless broadband, virtual reality, augmented reality, self-driving vehicles, machine to machine communications, industrial automation, and many other smart city applications.

What is 5G?

5G is a cellular technology using the new kind of radio called 5G NR (New Radio). 5G NR brings together OFDM (Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing), advanced channel coding, massive MIMO and mm-Wave to deliver the advanced 5G features.

5G NR will be mainly used in three frequency bands:
• 700MHz will give marginal improvement on speeds of 250Mbps max compared to LTE
• 3.5GHz will give a max speed of 900Mbps
• 26/28GH called the mmWave band will get us up to 3Gbps.

As we go higher in frequency, the coverage area will decrease so much so that the mmWave band will hardly cover a mile in dense urban areas.

Which applications need 5G?

eMBB demands 20Gbps DL /10 Gbps UL, 4ms user plane latency and mobility of 500km/hour. It caters for applications like VR, AR, Virtual meetings, Fixed Wireless Access, UHD video and Video monitoring. These applications need high throughput to deliver the high quality user experience. These applications are already in use but mainly use cable broadband rather than mobile broadband. 5G adds the wireless mobility factor that enables all of these applications on the go.

mMTC require 1 million devices / sq km and 10 years+ battery life. It enables applications like wearables, social networking, Smart Homes, Smart Cities, Health care monitoring, Vehicle to infrastructure communications and specific industrial applications. These applications need long battery life and high connection density to cater to millions of devices in a small area.

uRLCC needs 1ms user plane latency, high availability and high security. It supports applications like remote surgery, public safety, vehicle to pedestrian applications and mission-critical specialised industrial applications. These applications demand quick decision time, precision and high levels of security.

Who is winning in 5G?

TIM Italia took the lead in deploying the first 5G network in Europe but several mobile operators across the world almost simultaneously claimed to be the first in 5G launch. Oreedo Qatar, STC Saudi Arabia and Etisalat UAE announced the deployments of their 5G network at around the same time. In Europe, Vodafone, Telefonica O2, EE and Three mobile have limited 5G deployments in place. AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-mobile seem to be leading the market in America. In the Asia Pacific, China mobile, NTT Docomo and Telstra announced their 5G launch at around the end of 2019. The race is on and the operators across the world are trying to take a lead in offering 5G services.

If you have any questions about how 5G can enhance your technology roadmap, please get in touch for an initial chat.