Smart factory, smart mining, and smart port; as technology leaps forward, so does the scale of new immersive experiences that continuously shape the world – and how we interact with it.
The digital economy is thriving due to the pace at which digital technology and services are being adopted by organizations, consumers, and government entities to fuel ambitious digital transformation programs. Underscored by the convergence of artificial intelligence (AI), cloud, and 5G, the digital economy has rapidly become a primary enabler of social progress.
Ronald van Loon is a Huawei partner and attended the exclusive Huawei Analyst Summit (HAS) event. He is applying his industry analyst expertise to explore how advancements in 5G-powered digital transformation initiatives are driving business innovation across sectors and contributing to global digital economy growth.
Per the World Bank, the digital economy contributes over 15% of global gross domestic product (GDP), and has increased at a rate of 2.5x faster than physical world GDP over the last ten years.
Economic growth revolves around the technologies that are fundamentally changing the way businesses and industries operate and provide innovative services, experiences and products to consumers. In industries like energy, transportation and manufacturing, 5G-driven digital transformation is demonstrating the economic value of industrial digitalization and influencing the fourth industrial revolution.
The Digital Economy Moves Forward with 5G
Firstly, the digital economy represents a shift in how organizations operate and interact with customers, partners, and stakeholders. Information and communication technology (ICT) is essential to the digital economy as it enables businesses and organizations to connect, communicate, innovate, and operate in a digital world. Without a robust ICT infrastructure, the digital economy wouldn’t function effectively.
5G is a primary component of the ICT infrastructure because it offers significantly faster data speeds, lower latency, and greater network capacity than previous generations. The deployment of 5G requires a substantial investment in ICT infrastructure and upgrades to the back-end network infrastructure, like services and switches, to support the growth in data traffic.
As the world moves closer to an intelligent world defined by connectivity, digitalisation is now impacting legacy industries, like oil and gas, manufacturing, and energy. Integrating ICT technology, like 5G, within industries helps speed up digitalization as it enables new applications and services that depend on faster, more stable connectivity for cloud computing, virtual reality (VR), and video streaming.
$960 billion, or 0.7%, of additional global GDP value is anticipated to result from 5G. 5G offers enhanced connectivity to enable organizations to operate more efficiently; leverage advanced automation such as robotics and AI; extend more immersive customer experiences via augmented reality or VR; and collaborate more effectively across different locations to improve decision making.
Over 20,000 5G use cases are flourishing across 50% of 97 top industries, such as mining, steel, chemical, power grid, manufacturing, and cement. 5G is the vehicle of change for Industry 4.0.
5G Transforms Industry 4.0 with Powerful Enterprise Use Cases
Robust 5G enterprise use cases are currently enabling Industry 4.0 goals, including better efficiency to minimize waste, improved automation to promote safe working environments, enhanced communication between people, devices and machines, and increased sustainability by reducing energy consumption.
During the HAS event, important 5G use cases were highlighted:
Automated production lines, 5G sensors, and AI are optimizing production processes in smart factories. Midea Group, a top electrical appliance manufacturer, developed the first completely 5G connected electrical appliance factory in Jingzhou, China. It features deployment of 5G throughout 15 scenarios and all production links, replacing complicated machine cabling and enabling automatic operations for better productivity. Uplink capacity of 1Gbit/s per 1,000 m2 also enhances the efficiency of AI quality inspections, improving defect detection by 10%. With these capabilities, a washing machine can be produced in only 15 seconds, cutting inventory by 50% and saving 30% in labor costs.
Mining has traditionally been characterized by dangerous conditions. But the industry is now becoming safer via integrated smart mining solutions in underground and open-pit mines. A smart coal mine in Shanxi, China for example, is able to reduce staffing for hazardous positions, like equipping miners to remotely control a boring machine via ICT technologies like wireless industrial control networks. In open-pit mines, remote operators can man 4 driverless trucks to convey ore from excavators to processing facilities for crushing. Smart mining solutions deployed underground can also ensure less people are assigned to dangerous tasks.
The Port of Tianjin in China is one of the country’s busiest ports, and is now the first smart, green port that has been operating reliably since 2021 thanks to 5G and cloud. Traditionally, port staff faced uncomfortable conditions, like being outside all day in crane cockpits that led to neck and back strain, and long-term health problems. Now 5G-connected, electric container trucks can circulate without any human drivers and loaded with containers from cargo ships by automatically operated quay cranes. The trucks then travel from automated workstations along optimized routes that are measured in real-time. The port is also the first port in the world to realize self-sufficient wind electricity, generating no carbon emissions.
Looking forward to the near-future, 5G enhancements will lead to 5.5G, providing a drastic improvement in network performance:
“Peng Song, Huawei’s President of ICT Strategy & Marketing, talked about how Huawei is working to build leading digital infrastructure. With a 10x increase in network performance compared to 5G, 5.5G will enable improved experiences in interactive services with mobile and home broadband users experiencing peak rates of 10 Gbit/s – up from 1 Gbit/s.”
Also, Passive IoT technology will create a surge in the amount of connected things, a rise from 10 billion to 100 billion. 5.5G will also lead to a reduction of CO2 emissions transmitted on mobile networks by 10x, resulting in greater energy efficiency. Additionally, autonomous driving networks will be improved from a level 3 to a level 4 autonomy to become 10x more intelligent.
All of the expanded capabilities delivered by 5.5G will generate exciting new business opportunities and use cases, including:
- Passive IoT tags with 235 meter ranges can improve warehouse inventory automation and livestock development and management via ultra-low-speed passive solutions.
- Urban infrastructures will become more intelligent via 5.5G networks that can automatically detect road obstacles in poor weather and notify drivers in advance to increase safety.
- Wide-area massive uplink capabilities will enable substantial data to upload to the cloud, driving advancements in holographic interaction experiences and intelligent robots.
- 24K VR gaming and 3D video without the need for glasses will become the norm. Constant advancement in device technologies and content is anticipated to result in over 1 billion online users of interactive services – a 100x increase.
The Next Wave of Digital Transformation
5G technology is driving a wave of digital transformation across industries, leading to momentous growth and development of the digital economy. With its potential to transform various industries and improve quality of life for people worldwide, 5G is positioned to be a key driver of the digital economy in the coming years, resulting in even greater social and environmental impact.
Be sure to visit Huawei to learn more about the evolution of 5G technologies and how they’re sparking the next generation of digital transformation across industries.
By Ronald van Loon