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The shift from 4G to 5G allows for revolutionized connectivity and a new wave of opportunities. Let's learn how autonomy will benefit from 5G networks.
By Melanie Stone
The transition from 4G to 5G allows for revolutionized connectivity and improved mobile networking that will create an entirely new wave of opportunities. While 5G allows consumers to get more data out of their mobile phone or obtain faster downloads, for enterprise use cases, it brings far more than just speed. More significantly, it brings increased value across industries, including autonomy.
Jacon Kenagy, Cyngn’s developer of new business and a Qualcomm veteran, walks us through how companies will benefit from private 5G networks.
The fifth-generation wireless network has allowed private cellular to become accessible across industrial use cases. Unlike 5G, the 4G network isn’t realistically available for these deployments or other enterprise services, more broadly.
Previously, traditional mobile network operators (MNOs), which include companies like Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T, have been a part of a consumer-focused ecosystem. This cellular ecosystem has been a mobile-network operator focused, particularly towards consumer applications for previous G’s. As we know, these MNOs have historically been in constant competition with each other for growth and share of the public consumer cellular market. MNO’s consumer focus has shifted in relation to greater accessibility of 5G, as they now have increased abilities to bring this capability to enterprises through the concept of private networks.
It’s all about access. First, we can see that today, there is an overall greater desire for 5G networks, both from businesses and providers. For example, several years ago, many businesses did not fully understand the capabilities of cellular wireless, such as its ability to provide enhanced performance and consistency that allows for the connectivity of a vast number of devices at once.
Conversely, if a company actively tried to access it for their business, the network providers could not affordably provide it. However, now, MNOs readily have these services available. Today, these “services” are referred to as private networks. For the first time ever, it is feasible for an industrial enterprise to attain their own private 5G network.
A cellular private network is a network with services dedicated to a private entity’s own usage. School campuses or military bases are examples of entities that would require a network like this. More broadly, industrial warehouses with large autonomous vehicle or Iot deployments would also benefit from 5G. These large, busy, and complex environments would allow for greater connectivity through a dedicated business network. Other examples of domains that could benefit from such autonomous deployments are factories, ports, and mines.
Kenagy specifically identifies three main advantages that 5G brings to industrial domains: reliability, availability, and performance.
First, 5G allows businesses to gain access to internet reliability and availability that is equivalent to Ethernet wire standards. Ethernet was founded in 1973 and is a group of wired computer networking technologies that forms a local network. However, 5G is able to do this, but with the added benefit of not having any wires. Operations within an enterprise need very high and consistent reliability. Therefore, while WiFi has made great improvements over the years in home and office environments, it was never designed with the intent that cellular was designed for.
For instance, if you own a factory and want to connect your production systems to the internet, you would not use WiFi, because potential problems with connectivity would cost you a significant amount. Instead, you would use Ethernet, because WiFi, while reliable for connecting an Amazon Echo device for example, still has numerous “foundational design elements that make it too risky for broad adoption in industrial use cases”, says Kenagy.
Even the White House, emergency services, and other enterprises that involve public safety use cellular technology due to its reliability. But now, a 5G private network brings enterprises the same level of reliability and availability as wired Ethernet by providing and meeting mission-critical quality-of-service standards.
Along with providing reliability and availability similar to that of Ethernet, 5G additionally provides greater mobility and scalability. Ethernet can’t manage an unlimited number of wires because it will run out of space. By being wireless, 5G is not bound by any physical limit. This allows for new levels of performance in the capacity for devices on the network.
For example, a modern factory that aims to double automation month-over-month through expanded use of robots and autonomous vehicle deployments needs to be able to add hundreds of devices per month and manage thousands, overall. 5G is the only network that has the capacity to handle this through increased mobility. It will allow for thousands of devices to connect onto a 5G private network. Essentially, 5G is going to be replacing WiFi more so than 4G, yet they can all coexist with various functions for different environments.
5G further provides lower latency and higher bandwidth than 4G, which greatly benefits industrial enterprises and contributes to better performances. 5G can achieve latencies as low as 1 millisecond, which is more than 10 times faster than 4G services, along with giving us beyond a gigabit per second of data transfer. These improvements to performance are crucial for high speed factory production systems that employ multiple production devices and HD video for safety and quality, for instance. It changes where essential computations happen and allows significant loads of data to arrive at a given device.
5G was introduced in 2019, but we are still at the early stages of private 5G for enterprise. Kenagy says, “there are hundreds of companies within the wireless industry that are now realigning or expanding themselves to supply private network products and services to enterprise markets.”
Specifically, MNOs are developing new B2B business units for private networks. For instance, in June of this year, Verizon came out with “On Site 5G”, their private 5G network for enterprises and public sectors in the U.S. These networks are managed directly by Verizon and bring 5G Ultra Wideband capabilities to facilities regardless of whether the given environment is within a public 5G coverage area.
However new types of alternative service providers are also emerging to provide these services, one of which is disruptive to the traditional MNOs. By contrast, the second type of provider instead attempts to bridge value between private networks for enterprises, while also interoperating with MNO networks. According to a recent article, examples of non-traditional MNOs that are targeting private networks are fixed and cable operators, TowerCo’s (infrastructure-focused companies), IT services firms, major cloud providers, specialist IoT providers, among others. One particularly successful provider is Aarna Networks, a software company that creates, manages, and automates a platform for private 5G networks for B2B use cases.
Kenagy further foresees that there will be many “showcases” on public networks that will “inspire creativity and innovation within industrial communities.” An example of a future showcase may be of a fleet of autonomous vehicles that are reacting and moving with each other in real-time. As these AV fleets get developed, so will implementations inside factories where dozens to thousands of robots, devices, and humans are “working in a collaborative orchestra of real-time precision.”
The rise of service provider companies offering private networks, in addition to new system integrators, allows enterprises to more easily gain access to 5G private networks. These providers are continuing to develop ways to create the network design for an enterprise, procure the equipment, configure and install the networks, and provide ongoing support and management. In addition, the availability of turnkey SaaS systems from which enterprises will be able to run and create their network design on their own, will expand the accessibility of private networks.
In upcoming years, 5G will result in an upsurge of connected devices being used in industrial enterprises. It will provide tangible connectivity of real-world industrial devices that provide reliability and security through an enterprise admin-controlled gateway. This, in turn, impacts autonomy by opening the door for autonomous machines to connect.
We have already seen this on a smaller scale. For instance, we can see how Amazon Echos have helped automate tasks in the home environment, or Twilio has automated online business transactions. Yet as 5G continues to become more readily available to enterprises, we will see new and more significant automation platforms and systems being developed.
This will drive the progression of autonomy, as 5G connected vehicles will be able to constantly have the most efficient, real-time maps and localization awareness. First, this will enable immediate and extremely accurate, on-the-spot changes to an AV’s functionality and tasks. Second, AV’s will then be able to learn and adapt to their surrounding environments and systems with no downtime, resulting in increased efficiency. Third, 5G enables AV deployments in scenarios where computation happens off-vehicle, without an internet connection. This, therefore, decreases power consumption. However, specified levels of in-vehicle redundancy will be needed for safety-critical systems.
Currently, Cyngn’s autonomous vehicle technology works at the edge, which is to say vehicles can run autonomously with all safety-critical computations occurring on the vehicle, regardless of whether they have a wireless connection. Nonetheless, 5G will bring additional opportunities to autonomous vehicle deployments. For example, it will allow companies to stream larger amounts of data more efficiently from practically anywhere that has a 5G connection. Today with 4G and WiFi, we have to take special measures to record data in the event that a vehicle loses its connection to the internet. With 5G, connectivity is stable enough that autonomous vehicles can depend on this reliability and reduce the redundancy required for data recording and processing.
There’s no doubt that 5G represents the next generation of connectivity. This goes beyond increased speed and latency, but instead opens the door for massive improvements in autonomy. 5G and private networks will allow autonomous devices and the entire connected systems in which they operate to become increasingly capable of autonomous operations.
The impact of this connectivity isn’t that different from the universal human need for connection. All humans aim to maintain and increase their connectivity to other humans. Connecting with others expands network, possibilities, and outcomes. This is the same for autonomous devices. Similarly, deployments of 5G will allow autonomous vehicles to connect and enable systems to find ways to become more productive. Through this comes a future where autonomy is more efficient through system-wide streamlining, in addition to having greater opportunity for experimentation, invention, and the realization of new benefits.
Podcast Episode Transcript:
The transcript of this conversation has been edited for clarity.
Luke Renner: This is Advanced Autonomy, I’m Luke Renner. My guest today is Jason Kenagy. He’s recently joined the Cyngn team, focusing on strategic business development. Jason has decades of experience in tech and enterprise business, with hundreds of patents and dozens of product successes in the mobile computing space.
Jason has spent a lot of time working from 2G to 5G, and led the business’s strategy in creating Qualcomm’s 5G patent portfolio. His knowledge of 5G applies to connecting all types of devices into increasing autonomous technologies. In this conversation, we’ll discuss the intersection of 5G and autonomous vehicle deployments.
Hi Jason, welcome to the show.
Jason Kenagy: Great thanks Luke, it’s great to be here.
Luke Renner: Yeah, i’d like to start by asking you what are the differences between 4G and 5G as it relates to industrial use cases?
Jason Kenagy:: Right yeah, so the main factor that people need to understand is it’s all about access. Prior to 5G, cellular wireless networks were, for the most part, just not available to enterprises. And so, that’s a big function that has changed with 5G. There’s now the capability for enterprises to get cellular technology.
There’s several things that came into play to make this happen. The key word that I think people need to understand here for this access topic is a term called private networks. And private networks, it’s pretty descriptive of what it is. It is an implementation of cellular wireless technology for an enterprise or for any type of entity, let’s call it to use. And entities can be things like schools, military bases, hospitals, things like that. But as it relates to enterprise, they’re things like ports, factories, warehouses, those sorts of type things.
And so it’s been a long time coming, there’s been this desire to have this. The cellular ecosystem has been very mobile network operator focused towards kind of consumer applications for previous G’s. But there’s been this kind of even in 4G it started, the motion started going back a couple G’s, 3G’s into 4G to bring this capability for enterprises to use it and through the development of the standards, it’s finally here essentially with 5G, through this concept of private networks.
Luke Renner: That makes sense. So the use case for 5G is relatively clear for a consumer, right? Trying to get more data out of their mobile phone, faster downloads, faster streaming. What makes 5G attractive for these enterprises that you’re talking about? Is it just faster data speeds, lower latency?
Jason Kenagy:: The keywords I'll say here are our reliability, availability, and performance. And what I mean about reliability and availability, it’s if you work within operations within an enterprise you know you need extreme reliability, you know, very high reliability and availability. Five-nines of availability, available 99.999 percent of the time you need your systems online.
And again back to, you know, these features that existed in home networks and consumer private, consumer cellular and WiFi networks, to some extent it’s not as important for enterprise, it’s critically important. And WiFi, although it’s made a lot of great improvements over the years that make it more available to things like office environments, things like that, it’s just, it wasn’t ever designed with the intent that cellular was designed for.
And cellular, as I think folks know, it’s a very reliable technology. The white house uses cellular technology, you know, public safety, emergency services use cellular technology as well, right? So it is known in non-private networks if you will, to have a very high quality service and very high reliability, that’s now available through this private network concept with 5G for enterprise as well.
So that reliability, that availability, that’s a key kind of game changer here through again, the implementation of private networks and those performance things matter as well. You mentioned two of them, one of them was latency and another one in the industry terms, enhanced mobile broadband, more data, more bandwidth.
The third that is worth mentioning here in terms of you know the performance board that I referenced earlier, the scalability. And there’s something called the massive internet of things within the 5G and wireless industry. And that basically just means you can have dozens, hundreds, thousands of devices connect onto a 5G private network. And for large enterprises, even medium-sized enterprises that are, you know, pursuing autonomy, in some cases doubling autonomy month over month, having that ability to add dozens of devices, it’s something you can’t do on other wireless technologies. You can do it using Ethernet wires, right? You know, but obviously there gets to be a point when you can’t have, you know, any more wires and wires literally get in the way, and maintaining all those wires.
And so again, that reliability, that availability, and that performance along with that reliability, availability, makes 5G and private networks kind of provide the ability to have wireless wires. Like wireless Ethernet wires essentially.
Luke Renner: Got it. So it sounds like really 5G isn’t coming to replace 4G as much as it’s coming to replace WiFi.
Jason Kenagy: It’s a debate, there’s all kinds of opinions on this, you know, within the various industries. And I don’t know whether it would be, I mean it’s not going to replace WiFi or Ethernet, it’s not like a zero-sum game or a binary sort of type switch here.
WiFi existing on the current spectrum that it’s existed on, like 2.4 gigahertz and 5 gigahertz, that’s not going anywhere. There’s a lot of utility for cellular data offload, you know for people to be able to check their email on their smartphones, those sorts of type things, very useful. You know there’s other uses for it as well.
Ethernet is also very useful. I mean frankly the access points, whether they be WiFi access points or 5G access points in a private network, those access points are connected by Ethernet of course, right? So Ethernet is not going away as well.
Luke Renner: Okay.
Jason Kenagy: And there's cases in which it makes sense. But for the types of uses that enterprises, industrial grade enterprises need, yeah cellular is an inherently superior and very sensible technology for them, right. So these things can all coexist, they can all get along, right? And they have their very different purposes. For machines that need,just for example, high-speed manufacturing, high-speed production in which the front end of a manufacturing line is communicating with all points down to the quality assurance, you know the final steps of a manufacturing line. Those things all connected together using AI, as well, to make adaptations to the production process, you need that sort of ultra low latency and you need the reliability. There can’t be dropouts.
Luke Renner: I want to go back to something that you said a little earlier. So the wired internet connection is what connects to 5G. So does that imply that 5G only works in places where there’s an internet connection?
Jason Kenagy: No. Actually that’s a great question by the way. There’s the ability to have these things function in a stand-alone way. I’ll go ahead and say kind of like Cyngn, as well right? And to get Cyngn autonomous systems to run entirely, and run great, entirely disconnected, right? And so with a 5G private network there are some benefits to having connectivity back to a back end, if you will, for remote administration and things like that. But really it’s once you get the network set up, once you get it provisioned locally, that you can have all of the equipment be on premises and at that point, it just runs as long as it has power. You know, like electricity, then it can run without any connection back to the internet or to a back end. That is completely feasible with 5G private networks.
Luke Renner: Okay so we’ve talked about the connectivity capabilities, we’ve talked about the security features. I’d like to ask if you’re, you know, an enterprise listening to the show right now, what are some signs that they may see in their business that they’re ready for 5G or should explore 5G?
Jason Kenagy: Yeah that’s an interesting one. I feel like there’s all kinds of analogies, from the enterprise world to the home world that can be made, that are maybe helpful in this case. So folks have seen and people are pretty used to Amazon Echo devices being added onto their network in their home and attaching light bulbs and in some cases, even door locks and things like that as well, right? And so the genie’s out of the bottle a little bit in this regard, you know on an individual, consumer level.
And up until now, up until 5G, that really wasn’t quite as safe and possible because back to some of your previous questions, security and now, as well as just the very first question here, access.
So now access is becoming available through these private networks. It’s secure and these concepts in terms of the value that you get by adding all these things onto your network and allowing these things to be connected and wirelessly connected, not to just oversimplify it and dumb it down too much, but just that concept applying to enterprises is a natural, organic realization that I think enterprises will have.
Another factor that i’ll say here is just, everybody, all enterprises, need to increase productivity and efficiency. They must. They must constantly do that, right? And there are a certain amount of maybe cutting edge, maybe bleeding edge, but there’s a bunch of enterprises that are pursuing autonomy that are ahead of the pack right in some ways. And sometimes they’re doing it privately and not telling anybody about it, but there’s enough out there as well, that the genie is a bit out of the bottle on this one, that autonomy matters.
And so if you want to increase autonomy and you need your machines to connect to each other, or some level of connectivity, if not constant connectivity, even in intermittent connectivity, and you want to double autonomy month over month as I referred to before, you’re going to need a method to do that in a scalable way.
Luke Renner: Reading between the lines here, it sort of sounds like that enterprise organizations will not be able to realize kind of the full vision of the fully connected, internet of things warehouse or internet of things factory, fully automated, fully autonomous, without making an investment in connectivity solutions like 5G. Is that overstating it, or?
Jason Kenagy: I don’t think it is overstating it. I think there’s great things that you can do today. You know, utilizing digital modernizing and utilizing great stand alone, even unconnected implementations. Cyngn offers some great ones there, for example. But longer term and when I say longer term I mean a low number of years, I mean you really do need to plan for this.
Luke Renner: So I'd like to shift the conversation. I want to talk about how 5G is going to impact the deployment and development of autonomous vehicle technology. So, you know, one of the things about Cyngn’s AV tech is that they work at the edge, which is to say that companies don’t necessarily need to be connected and online in order to deploy an autonomous vehicle. That being said, connectivity does mean that companies get access to data pipelines and the system will automatically integrate new insights from our AI models. 5G represents the next generation of connectivity, as we’ve discussed. So I'm wondering, how are you imagining autonomous vehicle deployments will shift once 5G becomes more widely available?
Jason Kenagy: The first I would just say would be more connectivity. Even for discrete focused type tasks, more connectivity is better. And so in an environment in which an autonomous vehicle is operating, layouts change, buildings change, the insides of buildings change, meaning that new workers come online, racks and shelving moves to a particular area, and modifications to various processes, frankly outside of the realm of an existing track for an autonomous vehicle, change.
So having that more regular connectivity in contact just simply brings you the massive value of being able to make updates and make adjustments more real time essentially. To have these things happen kind of like semi automatically as opposed to having the autonomous vehicle be updated nightly or relearn on itself in some downtime mode, they will be able to be updated somewhat continuously by having such connectivity. Because change does happen. The workplace environment does happen both in terms of the physical layout of stuff as well as processes all around in that stuff. And by having that connectivity or constant connectivity that will just happen, and it’s a huge deal, just brings much more real time. And that’s a big benefit when time matters.
The second i’ll say will be interaction. And whether it’s autonomous vehicles interacting with each other, or whether it’s autonomous vehicles interacting with other elements within the system. And that may be a robot arm picker or something that itself has been updated or its task that it’s doing has been updated, and that can change the cadence or the approach of the autonomous vehicle that goes to have a pickup or drop off at that robot arm, for example. So having connectivity amongst devices, again it can be autonomous vehicles connectivity from a fleet orchestration standpoint, or it can be so many other things such as again, automated picking arms or even just new pickup drop-off stations, to humans as well.
And so those are the two things. I think real-time connectivity for real-time changes and then an expansion of being able to work more efficiently by being able to orchestrate and connect with other devices for efficiency as well.
Luke Renner: Yeah it sounds like 5G is going to create a lot more opportunities for these assets to talk to one another and sort of coordinate their efforts system-wide.
Jason Kenagy: That's right.
Luke Renner: That’s very interesting.
Jason Kenagy: Connectivity is really like, no human wants to decrease their connections to other people generally, I mean other than you know, your odd hermit or something perhaps. But it’s pretty well known that once you know what you’re doing and once you’re comfortable with an environment, when you make more connections in that environment, good things will do, more interactions will happen, more innovation, more invention, and more positive outcomes will happen. I think that kind of applies to autonomy as well. Cyngn systems support great offline capabilities for specific tasks but as you start to add that connectivity on the possibilities, still preserving the performance of that existing task of course, it allows more opportunities to develop as well. And that’s the promise and that’s the future, and it’s pretty straightforward really and we’re on a good track to achieve it.
Luke Renner: Well Jason, I really appreciate this. This has been a super interesting conversation, thanks for coming.
Jason Kenagy: Yeah thanks, my pleasure.
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