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Digitalization in production and logistics - new market potential thanks to 5G?

Industry 4.0, digitization and IoT (Internet of Things) have long been on everyone's lips in industry and beyond - but what forms the cornerstone of this digital transformation of companies in the 21st century? Wherever mobile devices are used, digital data transfer is inevitable. The 5G mobile communications standard represents a technology that promises immense technological progress in this area.

5G technology, the fifth generation of data transmission and successor to 4G or LTE technology, can not only transmit significantly larger volumes of data, but also allows transmission around 100 times faster, almost in real time. Furthermore, up to one million devices can be active simultaneously in the same network, where previously a maximum of around 200 devices was reached in 4G networks. So far, industrial companies in particular have benefited from the new technology, as it offers a way of networking machines and sensors in a wireless manner.

But also future-oriented developments such as autonomous vehicles will need the innovative 5G technology to be able to transmit relevant data in real time. Nevertheless, not only "big players" can benefit from 5G, but it also offers small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) the opportunity to digitize their factory premises and drive innovation. Especially in production and logistics, digital machines and devices are becoming more and more commonplace, so stable data transmission must be ensured to enable a smooth daily work routine.

Since all cell towers must be connected to fiber optic lines and special frequencies must be free in order to develop a 5G network, nationwide availability in Germany is not expected until 2025. The innovation forum "5GrT - 5G-ready test field in northern Rhineland-Palatinate", founded in September 2020, is intended to enable companies and universities in the area around Koblenz and beyond to have a functioning 5G test field available earlier. The goal of the nine-month project is to develop an open network between companies and research institutions in order to build understanding around 5G and the associated applications and technologies and to anchor know-how in the region.

The forum is supported by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and supervised by Koblenz University of Applied Sciences and Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Kiess. In addition, the network includes well-known companies in the region, such as Schottel, Laserline and, as of recently, HAHN Automation. "5G technology is very interesting for our company on three levels at the same time, because on the one hand it offers us as an employer the opportunity to make workplaces more flexible, but on the other hand it can also generate business directly," explains CEO Frank Konrad. "With increasing development of nationwide 5G networks, the global demand for 5G-capable devices will increase rapidly, creating new opportunities for us in automation technology in a wide range of industries. The third and non-negligible factor is machine communication as well as digital data processing, which is becoming more and more valuable in industry. A 5G production network will certainly create the ideal conditions for valuable analyses and process optimization in the future."