At 2021 MWC-LA, IBM CTO for networking and edge computing Rob High suggested that connecting maintenance robots (one named Spot is pictured below) as the so-called killer application for 5G. citing wide potential benefits for industry. In a keynote presentation made alongside robotics company Boston Dynamics, the IBM CTO (pictured left) highlighted the benefits of systems employing edge computing (more below) technology together with private 5G in industrial scenarios. The two companies highlighted Spot’s role to assess the performance of analog machinery still in use.
“For all my network operator friends in the audience who keep asking what’s the killer app for 5G? This is it,” High said. “It’s around production processes valuable to industries that are needed, and need 5G to accomplish their tasks to maintain operational readiness and efficiencies,” he added.
“That’s where 5G is going to have its biggest benefit,” he added, noting although the maintenance robot did a lot of local processing it needed to be on a communications network as it was programmed to raise urgent issues. However, High did not state what benefits/features 5G has that makes robot connectivity the killer app. In particular, ultra high reliability is required but neither ITU-R M.2150 or 3GPP Release 16 supports that in the 5G RIT/RAN.
Boston Dynamics’ chief sales officer Mike Pollitt highlighted Spot’s ability to assess machinery and other assets across industrial sites in difficult-to-reach areas and those dangerous for humans. Potential applications include taking readings from analog machines, proactive maintenance and general site investigation.
High added with a long asset life on much industrial machinery, these types of technological solutions could fill the “data gap” by assessing sites without the need to retrofit connectivity hardware into every piece of equipment.
The robotics company has been working with IBM on industrial deployments with Spot relying on the latter’s application management system.
IBM says that edge computing with 5G (requires 5G SA core network) creates tremendous opportunities in every industry. It brings computation and data storage closer to where data is generated, enabling better data control, reduced costs, faster insights and actions, and continuous operations. By 2025, 75% of enterprise data will be processed at the edge, compared to only 10% today.
IBM provides an autonomous management offering that addresses the scale, variability and rate of change in edge environments. IBM also offers solutions to help communications companies modernize their networks and deliver new services at the edge.