By Paul Savill, Global Practice Leader for Network and Edge at Kyndryl

The need for connectivity, automation and advanced manufacturing technologies and analytics has characterized the new era known as Industry 4.0. At Kyndryl, we are already seeing the value of large-scale deployments of private LTE/5G wireless networks, particularly in heavy industrial environments, with customers like Dow and Chevron Phillips Chemical.

Private 5G networks are quickly replacing legacy network technology or large, multistory steel and concrete environments where Wi-Fi performs poorly. The technology provides higher bandwidth, lower latency and better reliability than traditional connections. What’s more, it also offers companies the connectivity required to implement operational technology (OT) network transformations through advanced technologies like machine learning (ML), artificial intelligence (AI) and automation. These are the building blocks for realizing the potential of Industry 4.0 initiatives. 

The use of private 5G (P5G) networks will continue to grow exponentially as companies across verticals like healthcare, transportation and logistics look to accelerate digital transformation to drive innovation and new technological capabilities. In fact, according to Analysys Mason, spending on private networks will increase to $9 billion in 2028, from $1 billion in 2022. It is estimated that by 2027, manufacturing will account for 35% of all private network spending.

But connectivity is only the first part of the equation for fueling innovation. Collaboration across industries and working with a trustworthy advisor for every step of the technology implementation is crucial for everything to fall into place.

IT and OT convergence is key

For all the device connectivity and intelligent data processing to happen, the convergence of information technology (IT) and OT with edge computing is critical. In traditional manufacturing, the factory is divided by the systems that govern its parts. OT rules the plant floor, while the IT network runs the business. Bridging IT and OT efficiently and effectively requires a robust and reliable communications infrastructure. When IT and OT network infrastructures converge, manufacturers can realize cost efficiencies and enhanced security. They also can achieve scalability and operational efficiencies by prioritizing critical applications and micro segmenting traffic.

Kyndryl’s deep networking and security expertise coupled with our ecosystem of 5G, security and OT solutions partners enables customers in manufacturing and other industries to capitalize on new technologies, such as automation via generative AI, improve operations and worker safety, and transform industrial operations.

Integrated connectivity will become a reality

Ubiquitous wireless has been a trending topic in the networking space for years. But seamless, integrated mobility across different wireless technologies has been far from successful. This is often the result of a lack of device support and consolidated authentication.

For frontline workers that rely on private LTE/5G networks to manage mission-critical infrastructure, having the ability to connect between public and private 5G networks will be key to accessing IoT devices, machines and other digitalized procedures regardless of location.

This new frontier of connectivity will provide ultra-secure capabilities, seamless connectivity regardless of location and improve the employee experience. Another advantage of wireless network integration is the operational efficiency improvements realized by connecting large numbers of IoT data devices that require global tracking.

Private 5G networks will unlock edge computing and generative AI potential

With its low latency and high bandwidth capabilities, private 5G networks can help to reduce the time it takes for IoT devices and edge servers to communicate with each other, enabling real-time processing of data at the edge. By deploying edge on a factory or manufacturing floor, operators can use network data to identify assembly line problems, initiate predictive maintenance or enable robotics.

By 2026, generative AI technology will account for 20% of initial network configuration, according to Gartner. As companies across the board look to implement generative AI to improve productivity and processes, edge computing will be key for deploying AI and other technologies. AI can drive operational efficiencies and improve worker safety and health — but this all starts with gathering good data, often from the edge.

Manufacturers want to use AI both locally and across their global networks to help run basic or repetitive operations. That’s because enabling AI to access local data allows enterprises to run their operations better, anticipate and address problems, and control costs. With the right data strategy, in one example, a manufacturing company can use computer vision to detect defects in their production line, greatly improving efficiency, while workers can leverage AI-enabled wearables to drive better mobility and worker safety. In another example, service providers can deploy AI to enable customers to gain real-time visibility and insights that connect their business operations to their bottom line. 

Private 5G networks allow companies to have full control over their network infrastructure, leading to better security, data privacy outcomes and flexibility if done right. But to fully harness Industry 4.0 potential, companies must look beyond to ubiquitous connectivity, IT and OT convergence, and adopting edge computing, generative AI and AIOps to sharpen their competitive edge.

Join Kyndryl at Mobile World Congress 2024, Barcelona, the largest event for the connectivity ecosystem. See how Kyndryl and alliance partner Palo Alto Networks are helping drive IT/OT convergence to accelerate Industry 4.0 potential with 5G private networks secured with Zero Trust principles at Hall 4, booth #4D55 (Palo Alto booth).

Paul Savill

Global Practice Leader for Network and Edge

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