Monitoring the RF Spectrum in Smart Factories
Industry 4.0 is an overarching term used to describe the automation and computerization of industry, and in particular of manufacturing and production processes. Things that seemed like science fiction only a few years ago, like entirely automated factories and processing plants, have now become a reality. Smart warehouses include things like automated packing, automated stocktake, and automated vehicles.
By removing human elements from the structure entirely, processes can be made far more efficient than would otherwise be possible. And one of the key elements allowing this is constant (wireless) communication between the various components. The almost balletic interactions that can be seen in the video below, taken in one of Ocado’s smart warehouses, require synchronization of the movements of the individual units, governed by constantly updated calculations.
But, these systems are susceptible to interference, or even deliberate jamming.
Working in the unlicensed wireless bands means that the system potentially shares its operating frequency with a whole range of devices. Every one of these devices is a potential source of interference that could disrupt the operation of the system – a drone flying over the building, a Bluetooth headset – and these sources of interference could appear at any time of day or night.
The solution? Constant 24/7 spectrum monitoring and interference detection. An RFeye Node network can provide continuous automated surveillance of the RF spectrum, and will alert the operator to any unexpected signals. Given the enormous cost of any downtime in these settings, investment in a 24/7 interference monitoring system is likely to pay for itself the first time it detects a problem in real-time.
Interference in 5G Private Networks
Industry 4.0 is already a reality, but the introduction of 5G across the world is likely to lead to a step change in its prevalence. Instead of relying on wireless networks in the unlicensed bands, companies will be able to operate private 5G networks, which will have the capacity for almost unlimited numbers of connected devices.
Of course, 5G private networks will be operating in licensed frequency bands, so the chances of accidental interference will be much lower. But the possibility of deliberate disruption/jamming of the network will still remain. National regulators or the private network provider will take steps to deal with any unauthorized transmissions within these frequency ranges, but it could be a matter of days before they are able to do so, during which time the resultant losses from manufacturing shutdown could be substantial. By incorporating their own spectrum monitoring and geolocation system within the smart warehouse itself, companies can take immediate steps to trace and shut down any interference affecting their processes. In fact, over the course of the next decade, having a security team protecting the RF spectrum that the company depends on is likely to become as standard as having a security guard at the front desk.
If you would like to find out more about how RFeye can protect your manufacturing processes, then get in touch with our technical team, who will be happy to guide you through the options in more detail.