Network technology for real-time remote control of smart factories

(Nanowerk News) A Korean research team has developed a technology which can remotely control a smart factory (Model factory) located hundreds of kilometers away using 5G and wired networks in real-time. It is expected to be quite helpful for building a 5G-based smart factory and strengthening the competitiveness of the manufacturing industry.
The ETRI has succeeded in demonstrating remote industrial IoT service based on ultra-low latency and high-reliability 5G wired/wireless network by connecting a laboratory in the Daejeon ETRI headquarters building 11 and the smart factory in the Korea Institute of Industrial Technology in Hayang-eup, Gyeongsan-si, Gyeongsangbuk-do.
remote control a smart factory by operating panel
Researchers from ETRI are giving on a demonstration that remotely control a smart factory by operating panel at ETRI headquater, Daejeon. (Image: ETRI)
A smart factory refers to an intelligent factory that automates tasks using robots instead of humans or controls various processes without human operation at the site. It is necessary to ensure short communication delays and no data loss as if the command is given on the spot to avoid damage due to process errors when giving a remote command.
Although there have been cases of using 5G to demonstrate a smart factory, they used foreign equipment or technology while their application was limited to controlling manufacturing facilities in real-time only in the factory.
ETRI has demonstrated that it is possible to control facilities in a factory through a remote control center hundreds of kilometers away as if it is controlled on the spot while connecting the facilities in the factory with the internally developed 5G wireless mobile communication technology and wired network technology.
The demonstrated services include: Remote real-time production management system; Remote real-time production robot control; Real-time production facilities control and management using a remote touch panel; Real-time monitoring of process status using remote VR equipment; Remote process monitoring through wireless sensors, etc.
The research team has installed the latest 5G standard-based Industrial IoT at the Gyeongsan Smart Factory and Daejeon ETRI Control Center to verify the technology. The world's first time-deterministic packet transport network technology developed by ETRI was used to interconnect the two sites 280km away with bounded latency and high reliability via KOREN (Hyper-connected intelligent R&D network) optical networks. The technology is based on DetNet (Deterministic Networking) architecture and TSN (Time-Sensitive Networking) mechanisms. Within the ETRI site, the ultra-low latency optical access network technology was used, which was also developed by ETRI.
Through this, ETRI proved that real-time remote smart manufacturing service is possible for the first time in Korea by successful two-way communication within 3 milliseconds in the Gyeongsan Smart Factory and within 10 milliseconds between 5G industrial terminals in Daejeon and Gyeongsan.
Compared to the previous cases of demonstration, which proved two-way communication within 10ms in a factory, this technology is expected to signal the beginning of a full-scale remote smart manufacturing service. Especially, it is expected to enhance the technologies of Korean telecommunication and manufacturing-related small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) significantly as the technology can improve the efficiency of the manufacturing industry ecosystem while meeting the needs of social non-face-to-face activities that have been more intense due to the COVID-19 virus.
Bang Seung-chan, head of ETRI's Communication and Media Research Center, said, "This technology is expected to be used as an innovative tool for vitalizing 5G smart factories throughout the manufacturing industry. In particular, we will do our best to localize and revitalize relevant technologies ASAP by cooperating with small and medium-sized enterprises."
ETRI announced that it had developed industrial IoT systems according to the 5G standards since 2017, such as terminals, base stations, core equipment, and mobile edge computing (MEC) platforms, in collaboration with KT, Korea Institute of Industrial Technology, OpenObject, QCell Networks, CleverLogic, and Soongsil University. ETRI also announced that this achievement was possible by verifying the applicability of the above service.
Through this, ETRI has demonstrated the control services, such as environmental monitoring for each process, the detection of abnormal situations, and figuring out the production volume, by connecting NarrowBand-IoT terminals and wireless sensors attached to various parts of production facilities for the first time in Korea.
In 2020, ETRI demonstrated that the wireless control services of real-time process and production facility in the factory would be possible by connecting 5G terminals to mobile production robots, portable control panels, VR equipment, and Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) of each process, which was challenging with an wired connection.
In the future, the research team plans to demonstrate that remote monitoring and control service will be possible by connecting University of Oulu in Finland and Gyeongsan Smart Factory beyond internal connections in 2022 through follow-up research.
Moreover, ETRI also promotes the commercialization of 5G industrial terminal chipsets, modules, base stations, etc., through technology transfer and cooperation with Korean SMEs to vitalize the 5G smart manufacturing ecosystem.
Source: Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI)
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