4IR and Wireless Networks

4IR and Wireless Networks

Each Industrial Revolution builds off the earlier one, and hopefully, the companies leading the charge are building in a way that benefits industry, the local communities, and the environment. The theme for each revolution is to use technology in a configuration that most efficiently uses time and resources. In this developing fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), dichotomies fight to find a balance as technological advancements bring forth new efficiencies and challenges —considerations for innovative technology contrast with mature and reliable older technology. Efficiencies in reducing human interactions, time, and communication open opportunities for bad actors to take advantage of those same efficiencies. Automation streamlines production but also emphasizes the critical need to support reliable power and stable platforms. Let’s examine wireless network considerations in 4IR and some related challenges.

A common misconception in designing a network for 4IR is that it must be 5G. The reality is that a 4IR network needs to be designed based on what devices are to be connected. Devices or network loads that require 5G throughput, speed, latency, or any 5G-specific applications will need a 5G network, but in many cases, a 4G network will provide the desired network benefits on a more mature platform at a lower cost. Arguments for futureproofing with a 5G network can be valid, but only if the five-to-ten-year outlook requires 5G technology. Once 5G hardware, software, and devices become more mature and available, the cost will become more comparable to 4G. A similar misconception is that a 4IR network must be LTE or Wi-Fi. The reality is that although LTE and Wi-Fi can compete for some use cases, they are complementary technologies. Device requirements for mobility, spectrum, interference potential, and other considerations will help determine what technology best suits the network demand.

Due to the unified physical and virtual ecosystem that forms a 4IR design, the term cyberphysical describes the symbiotic relationship between the physical machines and the software that controls them. The benefit of well-developed and user-friendly software that controls and monitors machines is that minimal intervention is necessary. The drawback is that cybersecurity threats are constantly challenging networks and looking for weaknesses, and those threats are counting on minimal human intervention in the process. The 4IR cyberphysical security considerations really do manifest in cooperative physical and virtual security measures. A closed network is more difficult to breach than one connected to a public network. Routine data backups minimize risks from ransomware attacks. Multiple authentication protocols increase the complexity of breaching security to enable or disable critical commands. Ensuring the wireless network has software security enabled and configured correctly is as vital as the physical security necessary to safeguard individual user passwords.

Implementing 4IR involves connecting many technologies into a single purpose, resulting in a chain of technological dependencies. All devices and applications must work in harmony for a successful process, so highly stable and reliable products are essential. Designing backups and or investing in quality products to build the infrastructure determine what plans need to be in place when an unforeseen failure occurs. Losing power to the facility, inferior materials, weak signals, and many other risks require backup plans and mitigation contingencies to ensure all systems are restored, and production can continue as quickly as possible. Using quality products to build the network and implementing safeguards such as integrated UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) to the equipment will improve network reliability and restoration times.

The possibilities that 4IR brings are as exciting as they are vast. Building a wireless infrastructure to support the necessary communications for successful implementation is vital to production success. Ventev’s antennas and passive accessories portfolio brings high-quality and performance products to networks that require rugged and flexible capabilities across multiple operators, bands, and technologies.

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