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5G wireless technology from Austria for flexible production lines

20 March 2018

The AIT Austrian Institute of Technology has launched a co-operation with Siemens Austria on an internationally cutting-edge technological development project.

In the era of Industry 4.0, industrial production lines demand fast, reliable and, most importantly, mobile communication systems so that robots, for example, can work safely and effectively alongside people in the future. The upcoming generation of 5G mobile communications is expected to make this possible. Against this background, the AIT Austrian Institute of Technology has launched a co-operation with Siemens Austria on an internationally cutting-edge technological development project. The UNWIRE research project explores radio wave propagation in industrial settings, new simulation models, and wireless systems for 5G and beyond.
In the future it will be absolutely essential that industrial production lines can be dynamically reconfigured, allowing production equipment to be quickly adjusted to product and process changes. However, current production systems are severely restricted by the fixed wiring of their control systems. In order to achieve a high level of reliability and adaptability, future flexible production systems require new wireless transmission methods with shorter reaction (latency) times. Replacing cable connections with highly reliable wireless communication systems such as 5G would significantly increase the scope of reconfiguration in production facilities. This would pave the way for completely new and extremely efficient production processes. 

In tomorrow's production systems communication between sensors, actuators (motors, steering) and processing units (control systems, computers) needs to be supplemented by wireless communication with minimum latency. Fast and reliable control procedures require cycle times of approximately 0.1 milliseconds (ms): this amounts to a reduction by a factor of 100 from the current technological level.

Around the world manufacturers are working at high speed to develop the new 5G technologies which are primarily intended for future application in the Internet of Things (IoT). AIT enjoys extensive high-tech expertise in the field of intelligent antennae and radio wave propagation in challenging dynamic settings. AIT is now developing so-called low-latency key technologies together with Siemens Austria as part of the UNWIRE research project. The project is funded by the Production of the Future programme run by the Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG) on behalf of the Federal Ministry for Transport, Innovation and Technology (bmvit).

Thomas Zemen, a leading expert in 5G systems and project manager at AIT, explains: "We measure the properties of radio waves in complex and large-scale industrial settings. This data is used to assess the performance of future industrial wireless systems. This allows us to examine and validate the most effective signal processing algorithms and diversity mechanisms for the robust operation of a wireless communications system in real-world industrial scenarios. In doing so we can pave the way for flexible production processes, which allow for increased capacity utilisation and minimise conversion costs.

"The demands placed on the wireless links which replace cables in an industrial setting are particularly challenging. Safety requirements and production efficiency necessitate an extremely high level of availability, as well as minimal latencies for highly dynamic control operations," says Martin Schiefer, Head of the Radio Frequency Research Group at Siemens Corporate Technology in Vienna. The UNWIRE research project allows Siemens to develop an optimum wireless solution for future industrial use, based on 5G and beyond.

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