13 Apr 2024

Talking Industry: Development funding for tentative small steps in IIOT

5G network slicing services

On 15 February, Talking Industry covered a range of topics around the general umbrella of IIOT, Communications & 5G. Talking Industry’s Andy Pye reports.

Talking Industry’s five-man international panel comprised some regular panellists, along with some appearing for the first time. Speakers dialled in from the US, Israel, France, Scotland…and Essex.

First-time panellist Jonathan Orr from R&D Advisors, is a Chartered Engineer and innovation specialist with over 25 years in specialist engineering, holding senior positions in GE, Ametek and Oxford Instruments. Before covering his specialist subject of financial incentives and tax credits for research and development towards the end of the event, he provided a short general overview. He commented: “I was excited to join this panel was because the Internet of Things and 5G are clearly at the cutting edge of both industrial and domestic innovation. R&D Advisors help businesses gain access to the funding options, whether you’re a start-up or whether you’re a small business or a large business – funding to help accelerate innovation in these particular areas.

“The UK Government has injected £10 billion into UK industry since 2004. R&D tax credits is not the only source of funding – there are a number of grant funds available for innovation.

“The legislation remains identical to European legislation – European governments all want to encourage innovation and provide incentives to help them with their R&D efforts.

“Similar legislation also extends into the US and elsewhere. Whilst my company does not practice in these countries, we can certainly advise international companies where they can go and seek out their options.”

Our second first-timer was from a most interesting company based in Israel, called ASOCS, which enables industrial enterprises to connect their production lines to edge applications via a cloud-based private 5G network and a scalable Software as a Service (SaaS) model.

Gilad Garon co-founded ASOCS in 2003 and has been spearheading the company as Chief Executive Officer ever since. He explained how ASOCS’ software-based private 5G network is the enabler of applications such as video and imaging AI processing, autonomous vehicle mobility, synchronised production line robotics and real-time big data analysis. He commented: “Factories are typically set in areas where the cellular infrastructure sucks, especially when it comes to providing mission critical communications, and certainly in rural areas. Sometimes it’s so horrible that they can’t even call their homes! That’s where 5G private networks come in: And it comes with a completely different business model from what the big carriers or the big vendors are offering.

“During the pre-CoVID era, the UK’s OFCOM, by defining a specific spectrum that everyone can use, enabled the control of 5G to move from the traditional carriers to business owners. By doing so, the UK has aligned with Germany and Taiwan, the first three countries on the planet to enable 5G private networks to be established without involving the large Telcos.

“Most business owners have tons of information, but barely know what to do with it. What we’re trying to achieve with 5G is not to collect information, but to act on it in real-time.

“Everybody is talking about 5G being able to support a million devices, but most of you are going to support 50 or 100 devices. You do not need to build a monster private network coming from a large vendor for millions of pounds – even if you can get some of that back from the UK Government! What you actually need is a good enough “Pay-as-you-Grow” network that meets your business expectations.”

The middle segment of the event involved two of our experienced panellists: Michael Lefeuvre from Red Lion Controls and Chris McComb from Itech, representing the Profibus community. On this occasion, Lefeuvre focused on the oft-forgotten importance of people and cultures in implementing IIOT projects. He explained: People just get lost in the technology and changed processes. They don’t really understand why they get so much data or what to do with it. And because it’s so fast, they are bewildered by going from nothing to something too big in one step. And that’s one reason why around 70% of IoT projects fail.

But if you can invest in a small application, even with a normal maintenance team, and without advanced IT skills, you can you already can put in place a good IoT application. It’s better to invest successfully in a small IoT project, then you will be able to capitalise on and improve it year after year.

McComb then provided an update on Profibus and related technologies – he explained: “Profibus is a standardised, open digital communications system commonly used in manufacturing and process automation. We also cover IO-Link, used for connecting digital sensors and actuators over short distances, using wired or wireless industrial communications, using the networking standard IEC 61131-9.

“Having the right mix of network technology is the right way to do it, not just picking one. I agree with the comments about small steps and limited projects. At its simplest level it is about how you get the data out of the system, how you connect that those points of data together. And really, that is the backbone of IoT.

“We are starting to see a big move on the shop floor to an Ethernet base for everything. It’s a flatter structure and we need to look at the network security implications, but it does give us a more robust structured network.”

Finally, delegates heard how the electric motors company Nidec is utilising IOTT methods. Prakash Shahi, Director Software Engineering & Technology, Nidec Motor Corporation manages the development and production of smart motor electronics globally. Shahi explained: “Nidec is the biggest manufacturer of motors and drives, including the very tiny motors that fit into smartphones. But the way we use them now is changing, thanks to, IoT and 5G. Now, we can sell value-added services: one simple example is that we have a product called Select Tech Pro, which is a selection system designed to identify the lowest cost motor that provides the specific feature set a customer needs. Currently, when an installer goes to install a new motor, they have to carry as many as 20 motors for a service call. Select Tech Pro uses IoT to be able to connect via their phone to the database and download the right profiles, so they only need to carry one or two motors and avoid making more, very expensive service calls.”

The full session is available on-demand by clicking here

Company info: Smart Industry Expo