Image: Schneider Electric

Two 5G use cases featuring augmented reality and robotics are being trialled by Schneider Electric and Orange.

The trials in Schneider Electric’s Le Vaudreuil factory outside Paris in partnership with telco provider Orange have been under way since March. They are believed to be the first deployment of an indoor private 5G network in an industrial environment and are aimed towards building reliable and scalable connectivity solutions for such settings.

5G is still in its infancy as a technology for the energy sector as indeed for others. However, with its low latency and high throughput, and over time network slicing, 5G is expected to bring noticeable improvement in industrial processes and working methods, particularly through augmented and virtual reality. 5G is also expected to help manage in real time the growing amounts of data that are emerging with large scale digitalisation.

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Augmented reality: Transformation in utility operations

In the first use case tested, the teams have connected tablets to 5G using the Schneider Electric augmented reality application EcoStruxure Augmented Operator Advisor. With the application operators can superimpose real-time data and virtual objects onto a cabinet, machine or entire plant. Potential use cases include checking or signalling the status of equipment and streamlining maintenance procedures.

The second use case under test concerns driving a mobile telepresence robot using 5G to eventually arrange remote visits to the Le Vaudreuil site. The performance of 5G makes it possible for very high quality video to be used with minimal lag time in the virtual interactions between the visitor and the guide that accompanies the robot throughout the site.

“The pilot conducted with Orange validates many 5G use cases: augmented reality, remote everywhere, real-time access to data,” comments Jean-Pascal Tricoire, chairman and CEO of Schneider Electric. “5G’s reliability, scalability and durability make it a connectivity solution well adapted to industry 4.0.”

The trial is being conducted on experimental frequencies allocated by the French regulatory authority. Five indoor 5G antennas are installed inside a part of the factory covering close to 2,000m2 of production space with download speeds beyond 1 Gbps.

The two companies plan further trials to test technologies with strong potential such as artificial intelligence and that build on hardware and software updates to the network equipment.