Industry 4.0 Adoption Will Lag Without a Strong Connectivity Foundation

Resilient, application-aware connectivity are critical factors for the success of industrial network infrastructure.

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Industry has rapidly accelerated its digitization efforts over the past 18 months, moving towards the implementation of Industry 4.0 technologies. However, before these solutions and tools can be deployed, organizations need a solid foundation of critical industrial infrastructure, and that begins with a modernized network.

Industry 4.0 depends on having a modern, mission-critical network with the low-latency needed to perform split-second actions. In these environments, a network outage of a few minutes or even a few seconds in some cases could have severe consequences for the business and society at large. It could even result in loss of life.  

“Mission-critical networks must be reliable and perform at their planned thresholds 24/7. When there is a problem in these networks, the effect can go beyond the walls of the company into potentially life threatening and macro-economic events.” — Flavio Caracas, Senior Director of Industry-North America for Nokia’s Network Infrastructure Group

Case in point: Reducing the danger from downed lines

To illustrate, consider a use case from mission-critical electric utility networks. Utilities need to determine when there’s a fallen cable so they can cut off electricity to it before it hits the ground. After all, some of the most devastating forest fires of the last few years in the Western United States have been caused by broken yet still live power lines that ignite dry grass when they hit the ground. In many cases, protection applications may have less than a second to detect the broken line and send a signal to the line switch to “de-energize” that part of the grid. 

If latency is too high or if the network goes down, the line will hit the ground before power can be cut and a fire could occur. Events and actions must be recorded and acted on within milliseconds, which is not possible with manual human-based processes. The network must have very low latency along with enough redundancy to ensure it can still provide communication even in the face of multiple subsystem failures.

Modernized mission-critical networks must also provide high bandwidth to transmit large amounts of data quickly, such as in the case of transmitting large video or image files for industrial inspections, public safety surveillance, and road traffic monitoring.

Depending on the situation, industrial organizations typically modernize their networks based on three transmission technologies for connectivity:

  • Optical fiber provides enormous bandwidth and low latency to the industrial infrastructure (e.g., power substations and railway signaling systems).
  • Point-to-point microwave is fast, and often used in environments where installing fiber is impractical.
  • Private wireless using LTE and 5G provides fast, reliable, high-bandwidth IoT connectivity over large geographic areas and in device-dense facilities.

A well-designed industrial mission-critical network using Internet Protocol/Multiprotocol Label Switching (IP/MPLS) will flexibly leverage all three technologies to bring reliable connectivity everywhere.

The right partner can help industrial organizations meet their most critical network connectivity requirements with a foundational network that performs at Industry 4.0 levels and beyond. Nokia is at the forefront of enabling Industry 4.0. The company has for decades provided mission-critical industrial networking solutions — helping utilities, transportation, mining operations, manufacturers and organizations in dozens of other industries lay the network foundation for automation that improves efficiency, cuts costs, strengthens safety and increases productivity.

Ensure your organization is ready for Industry 4.0 connectivity. Read more here.

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