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Smart Services – 5G & Edge

Charles Cote
April 22, 2021

Capgemini  is  pioneering the Intelligent Industry to evolve and expand Industry 4.0. With the advent of key technology developments in 5G, edge computing, artificial intelligence (AI), and the internet of things (IoT), business and IT leaders across sectors are poised to accelerate their digital transformation. Companies are now focused on how to digitize key industrial parts of their businesses and use embedded software, data, and new generation wireless connectivity to rethink what they do and how they do it. Capgemini has already delivered many successful, large-scale assignments across industries that prove our combined capabilities to deliver Intelligent Industry use cases. This article will discuss edge computing and 5G and the use cases born out of these new capabilities.

Edge computing describes a computing topology in which data acquisition, information processing, intelligence, and delivery are placed close to the sources and consumers of information. Edge computing draws from concepts of distributed processing, intended to keep traffic and processing local to reduce latency, exploit intelligent capabilities at the edge, and enable greater autonomy from centralized control. Edge computing is empowered with increasingly more sophisticated and specialized compute, memory, and storage resources such as multi-core, multi-thread chipsets, and processors (i.e., Intel® Xeon®), persistent memory, computer vision (VPUs), and data storage that support machine learning, AI analytics, deep learning, and inference at faster rates. Increasingly complex edge devices such as robots, drones, autonomous vehicles and operational systems are accelerating this shift in focus.

Edge-oriented IoT architectures and communication networks connect the whole system. Today, these architectures are primarily hierarchic, with information flowing through well-defined layers of endpoints. In the future, this set of endpoint layers will dissolve to create a more fluid architecture consisting of a wide range of “things” and services interconnected in a dynamic flexible mesh linked by a set of distributed cloud services and edge compute nodes. Terms such as “near edge” and “far edge” will be used to identify topology domains. In a likely scenario, a smart “thing,” such as an autonomous vehicle, might communicate with hyperscale back-end services, a telematics platform, local sensors in a smart city, and private cloud services – and then conduct peer-to-peer exchanges with nearby vehicles for orchestration purposes. Standards for high-speed mesh-based edge architectures are currently under development.

The new combined technology platforms need to deliver against several dimensions – flexibility (e.g., adaptable configurations and QoS), performance (e.g., in terms of speed), distributed intelligence (closer to the data source), and improved cost efficiency. 5G and edge are the only solutions to combine low latency, high throughput, massive IoT, network slicing and tailoring, and local computation to deliver on multiple Intelligent Industry use cases. The table below illustrates the benefits of 5G technology aligned to business benefits. Notice that 5G delivers one to two orders of magnitude (x10 to x100) improvement on throughput, device density and latency compared to 4G.

5G technology benefitsTypical business benefits
Versatility and reliabilitySlicing, virtualized functions, containers, API/microservicesBuild multi-purpose networks tailored to specific service-level agreements
Throughput10 Gb/s: -> x10-x100 vs 4GSend and receive very large amounts of data – high throughput up/down
Device densityUp to 1M device/ km²: -> x100 vs 4GDeploy IoT and connectivity at scale, managing a very high number of devices and end points
Low latency1-10 ms -> 1/10th of 4GGather, share information, and controlling items with minimal latency
Edge computing enablerFor distributed applications and local data processingReduce cost of data transport and computation time, increase security and reliability
High accuracy 3D positioning<30 cmIndoor/outdoor precise geo-localization, implement high-precision positioning services
Convergent core networkManaging multiple access technologies (WiFi, 4G, 5G NR, etc.)Use one single, interoperable network for all wireless access technologies and performance requirements

The Capgemini Research Institute report “5G in Industrial Operations” revealed that 75% of industry clients believe 5G is an enabler for the digital transformation of their businesses, 65% are willing to implement 5G for operations within two years of availability, and 33% will consider applying for a local 5G license to build a private 5G network when regulation allows.

The report also asked executives to estimate where 5G adds most value to the strategic objectives of shop floor and supply chain operation use cases on two dimensions:

  • Standard KPIs (such as productivity)
  • Longer-term business objectives (such as enabling end-to end automation).

The table below lists the top use cases resulting from this analysis:

Shop floor operations use casesSupply chain operations use cases
Real-time analytics leveraging edge computingSelf-triggered order placement based on inventory level
Video surveillance of remote production linesVirtual testing of parts and packing from suppliers
Remote control of distributed production lineRemote monitoring of en-route shipment conditions (e g., temperature and humidity)
AI-enabled and remote-controlled motion e.g., collaborative robots, self-driven cars, drones
Real-time service and breakdown alerts
Remote operations/maintenance/training solutions through AR/VR
Predictive/preventive maintenance

The ecosystem for connectivity solutions today is extremely complex – many solution elements (network equipment, connectivity, SW platform, modules and chipsets, cloud) and different types of stakeholders (tier 1 solution providers, startups, IT vs telco vs cloud). Guidance is needed to address the critical questions.

This journey is an evolutionary path – some key topics already can and need to be addressed today such as the 5G and edge business case, use-case identification, network requirements and first edge trials, initial service lab tests, legacy handling and consolidation. Other items are mid-/long-term issues such as end-to-end 5G implementation and scaling of use cases.

Capgemini architects play a crucial role in working with our clients to shape their Intelligent Industry strategy, asking the right questions, simplifying the technology conversations, developing evolving architectural layers and views for key stakeholders, and becoming the innovation leaders. This is an exciting time for all of us, reach out to me if you would like to discuss.