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CeBIT 2015: Industry 4.0 requires infrastructure overhaul, says Huawei

Standards-based technologies and near-zero latency required for IoT-driven concept, says Huawei Enterprise president

CeBIT 2015: Industry 4.0 requires infrastructure overhaul, says Huawei
Lida: Industry 3.0 and 4.0 are essentially different in nature
ICT infrastructures need to be reorganised if corporations want to be a part of Industry 4.0 - the vision of a smart factory or production line based on the internet of things - according to Yan Lida, Enterprise Business Group president, Huawei.  

Speaking today at a keynote session at the CeBIT trade fair in Germany, Lida laid out what Huawei's vision is for smart industry, and the challenges that the ICT industry faces in realising this vision. He said that, when Industry 4.0 comes around, there will be hundreds of billions of connections between devices, meaning that network architectures need be re-designed. 

"Connectivity is the key - the first challenge is the scale of the number of connections," he said. 

"What kind of network can we make to accommodate so many devices? The second challenge is latency. In the context of Industry 4.0, the devices talk to each other, and they react in real time. What kind of network can offer latency as low as 1 millisecond?"
Lida admitted that there were some forward-thinking organisations trying to get around these problems. As an example, he said that one mine in China had constructed a 60-km-long railway line, with a 2.5-km-long train transporting materials from one end to the other. To power the train, there are locomotives at the  front and middle of the train, though because there is such a large mass, the sychronisation between these two locomotives is critical. 

To ensure the synchronisation, he said that Huawei had provided an eLTE solution to connect the two locomotives - something he claimed that could not be done with traditional Wi-Fi techniques. However, he said that examples such as this did not constitute a shift to Industry 4.0 - simply because the two concepts are different in nature. 

"I'd rather call this Industry 3.5. The internet of things and the internet-based system and service platforms are the basis for Industry 4.0," he said.

"Industry 3.0 and 4.0 are essentially different in nature. For today's Industry 3.0, most data and information is transmitted and stored on a private network. But in the future, this information and data will be connected to the cloud, and may even be transmitted on a public network."

Lida said that organisations needed to come to terms with this if they were going to embrace the Industry 4.0 way of thinking. He added that technology vendors have a responsibility to address the problem of fragmentation - indeed, he described fragmentation as one of the most critical barriers to Industry 4.0 adoption. 

"The infrastructure is driven by applications and software. For each vertical, there is a unique infrastructure. There are no common standards, it's difficult to connect to each other, so it's very difficult to exchange information," he explained.

"To combat this challenge, we need cross-country collaborations. We are happy to see that many standards organisations are involved. Huawei takes an open stance to collaborate with our partners, to innovate together."
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