Smart factories and smart production can operate efficiently and more independently than their standard counterparts, thanks to advanced digital and automated technologies. These “smart factories” operate at increased speed and productivity and can be monitored and controlled remotely. According to research by Deloitte, smart factories help manufacturing businesses increase asset efficiency by 20%, improve product quality by 30%, reduce costs by 30%, and improve safety and resilience by 10%.
The ETRI research team has shown a technology that can remotely control one smart factory at the same time from the office and from abroad using 5G technology developed through joint international research and an intercontinental wired network.
The Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI) announced that it has been able to demonstrate an industrial Internet of Things service that manages and controls Smart Factories and robots in real-time from the office and remotely from abroad.
The key to a successful technology demonstration is ultra-low latency communications technology. Communication latency over 10,000 km is less than 0.3 seconds. It has been demonstrated that factory facilities in Gyeongsan and Gyeongsangbuk-do can be controlled in real-time from the University of Oulu in Finland.
“It’s a very responsive, adaptive, and connected system,” the company’s website says. “A smart factory can independently optimize performance across a wider network, independently adapt to and learn from new conditions in real or near real-time, and autonomously run all production processes. By pursuing a smart factory initiative, businesses often see multiple benefits.”
Overly complex communications networks are difficult to manage remotely over long distances, often resulting in long delays and data loss. To operate, these plants and factories depend on networks capable of processing large amounts of data with minimal latency. While such networks do not currently exist, new research suggests that they are possible.
The Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI) recently announced that it has successfully demonstrated for the first time a new remote manufacturing diversification service capable of independently controlling a factory at home and abroad.
A smart factory is an intelligent factory that improves productivity and reduces scrap to increase industrial competitiveness by applying information and communication technology (ICT) to the entire manufacturing process. The bottom line is the remote control of various processes when automating tasks with the help of robots.
To prevent damage due to communication errors, communication latency and data loss must be minimized, although data rate is also important. The longer the communication distance and the more complex the communication network, the higher the delay and data loss. In this case, a communication technology with low latency and high reliability is required.
Based on this technology, ETRI connected the Smart Factory of the Korea Institute of Industrial Technology, located in Hayang-up, Gyeongsang-si, Gyeongsangbuk-do, with the University of Oulu using the 5G test network of the University of Oulu in Finland and the domestic test network (KOREN2).
This demo introduced a new remote manufacturing diversification service that controls one factory at home and abroad independently. This is the world’s first attempt to expand the scope of services and the availability of “smart factories.”
The ETRI Control Center introduced the operation of the remote production control system and its order, real-time facility management, and condition monitoring service using the Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition remote control console.
Oulu Control Center demonstrated remote control and condition monitoring of mobile production robots, remote production process control using virtual reality equipment, and monitoring a remote manufacturing process through the collection of wireless sensor data based on the narrowband Internet of things.
Using this unique Industrial Internet of Things service, the team was able to simultaneously control a smart factory in South Korea from the University of Oulu in Finland seamlessly and in real-time.
From the Finnish control center that hosted the 5G test network, they demonstrated that it was possible to:
- remotely control and monitor the status of mobile production robots;
- remotely control the production process using virtual reality equipment;
- monitor a remote manufacturing process by collecting wireless sensor data based on the narrowband Internet of Things.
The trials successfully demonstrated real-time remote control and monitoring with round-trip latency of fewer than 0.01 seconds in South Korea and less than 0.3 seconds in Finland.
These results indicate not only that remotely controlled smart factories with reliable communications over long distances are possible but also that many of the challenges that currently plague today’s logistics and supply chains can soon be overcome.
“Because it has become possible to remotely control smart factories even from abroad, as well as from Korea, we can now meet the demand for non-personal activity in the industry caused by the pandemic. This is expected to revive a stagnant industry,” said Il-gyu Kim, head of ETRI’s mobile communications research division.
The team plans to continue its research with evaluations that examine connectivity and mobility, expand the technology with hyperspace services, and develop future 6G-enabled factories through ongoing collaboration with the University of Oulu’s flagship 6G program.